The Secret Tale of Eris Morn

The Secret Tale of Eris Morn –

Prologue –

Ah, come in, come in! Have a seat Guardian, make yourself comfortable. Hmmm, you’ve certainly earned your title – the Quiet One!”

You are the latest hero among the Guardians, the soldiers of the Traveler, warriors blessed with Light. We’ve fought for centuries but it felt like a losing battle until your Ghost found you.”

You found Rasputin and woke him. You defeated the Hive in their own Halls and killed their leader on Luna. You beat back the Fallen Houses when Skolas tried to gather them into a new force. You brought the Guardians to the Reef. And now, you’ve defeated Oryx, the Taken King.”

You’ve inspired us all and I think you’ve earned the right to hear this tale. Eris Morn was not always so…dark. She was once a bright star among us. So much has changed but Eris more than most.”

She’s given me permission to share this with you, so have some tea, and listen while I tell you about one of our own that gave so much to return. I’ll begin with some background since you were only recently recovered and resurrected.”

Part 1 – Who She Was –

Our story begins in the twenty first century when the Traveler arrived in our solar system. It began terraforming Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and finally Mars. It was there that Earth sent the team, Ares One, to see the Traveler for themselves. We learned that the Traveler was ancient, far older than our own planet.

That began a long relationship with the enigmatic Traveler. The Fallen call it the Great Machine but we don’t really know what it is, or perhaps we did, but that information was lost during the Collapse.

The Traveler’s arrival and eventual move to Earth began a period we call the Golden Age, a time of miracles, when science seemed like magic. We learned about engrams, encoded crystals that hold information, we learned about glimmer, a programmable form of matter that we use in hundreds of ways.

The jungles of Venus became a scientific academy, Clovis Bray was built on Mars, and the Warminds were created to protect the Earth and its people. Human lives tripled in length.

The Exo race was created, machine bodies with human consciousness. They are as human as the rest of us and although we’ve lost why they were created, they fight alongside us now – and perhaps in the future.

The Golden Age lasted until the twenty fourth century. Something happened then that we still can’t explain. The benevolent Traveler had an enemy called the Darkness. We still don’t know what it is but we know its forces want the Traveler.

The Warmind Rasputin was the first to discover the coming Darkness. His protocols had been to defend humanity but when he couldn’t find a way to stop the what was coming, a super massive force moving at super speeds, he implemented a new protocol for long term survival.

We believe that when the Traveler tried to escape, as it had done many times before, Rasputin stopped it. The Darkness was a wave of literal darkness but also something more, something terrible, something evil.

Many humans tried to escape, they took off from Earth in hundreds of ships but they were hit by the Darkness and it changed them. Many of them still survived and became the Awoken, the third race of people trying to push back the armies of the Darkness.

The Traveler spent its power defending Earth. We call this period The Collapse. We lost almost everything. Cities were devastated leaving humans and Exos to simply survive as bets they could for many, many years.

In the Traveler’s dying breath, it created the Ghosts, small machines empowered with the Traveler’s Light that has the power to bring men, women and Exos back to life from the past to become Guardians. It also granted them powers using fundamental forces of the Universe.

It was Guardians that found the Traveler hovering above the Earth and they helped the survivors build the Last City. The years between the Collapse and the City Age was named the Dark Age, a time of strife and struggle.

Eris Morn was born in the Last City to Tarris and Cintha Morn. Her father was a weapons smith and her mother was a historian who worked with the Cryptarchs. There were a surprising number of births once people had a stable living situation and Eris was one of many children born within its walls.

The Last City is vast, as large as some of the biggest cities of Earth. Eris Morn was just one child born but she quickly became a favorite. She was a gloriously happy child, and favored in her neighborhood.

She lived with her parents right at the edge on the city, near the walls the Titans had been building for defense. Tarris worked for Omolon, one of the weapon foundries in this city that worked with the fundamental forces that humanity had discovered since the Golden Age, solar, arc and void Light.

Above the City hovered the Traveler, seemingly inert with only the mysterious Speaker communicating on its behalf. Even as a small child, Eris would stand in her tiny backyard where her parents grew their small, required garden to stare up at the huge gray orb.

As soon as she was old enough to ask questions, she asked about the City, the Traveler and the Guardians. Tarris worked with many Guardians and he shared his experiences with her.

There are three classes of Guardians – the Titans, walking tank warriors that could erect shields to defend others or strike a blow with arc forces that would shatter enemy forces in every direction.

Warlocks are the scholars of the Guardians that used solar and void energy to enhance their abilities or to throw energy bombs that would explode and disintegrate their foes.

Eris was most interested in the third class, the Hunters. Divided into Gunslingers who could enhance their hand cannons to fire solar bullets and Bladedancers who electrify their blades with arc energy to shatter defenses.

It wasn’t until just recently we rediscovered the new powers for each class – the Warlock Stormcallers, the Titan Sunbreakers and the Hunter Nightstalkers. In Eris’s days, they hadn’t been prominent.

Hunters were the nomads of the Guardians. They fought in fireteams, working in groups of three or six, to complete missions and the dangerous strikes, but Hunters also explored the savage Earth and other planets alone, searching for Golden Age tech or engrams, or scouting out new places.

Eris’s mother told her stories about ancient warriors, Spartans, Alexander the Great, the Celts and Vikings, Romans, Gladiators, Samurai and other past fighters. Her father told her the stories of her own time, the heroes that lived in the Last City.

The Hunter group, Six Coyotes, led by Shinobu, who first started exploring the Frontier outside the City were some of her favorites. They were the first to scout out the Cosmodrome in Old Russia, where many of the spaceships launched to escape the Collpase. She loved Ayane Takanome, the Ranger who wasn’t a Guardian but guarded the refugee roads as the City was formed.

Eris, like any curious child, asked questions all day about the Guardian’s Tower, the tallest structure that stood above the City, built against the wall at the edge with only the snow covered mountains standing taller.

Titans wore heavy armor and a piece of varied cloth from their waists that depicted their experience and history. Warlocks wore long robes and a band around their left arms that claimed what Order or Faction they belonged to.

Eris, when she played with her friends, always dressed as a Hunter, with light armor and a hooded cloak with a wooden knife on her hip. She was often the leader of her group of friends with a full imagination about the world around them.

She had questions about the other races as well. The Awoken are human in appearance, with only the outward changes of blue or gray skin and glowing irises. Many live in the Reef, out on the edge of the system, where the Darkness and Light meet.

The Exos were also similar in appearance, both male and female, except their bodies were machines. Their behavior, personalities, and demeanor were entirely human and over the hundreds of years, they had become a normal part of society.

She was just as interested in the enemies of the City – The Fallen, a race of humanoid insectoid, beings, who claimed to be followers of the Traveler from another part of the universe.

They had called themselves the Eliksni and remember a time like humanity’s Golden Age when the Traveler, which they called the Great Machine, hovered above their world and gave its gifts to them.

They recalled an event called the Whirlwind in which something like the Collapse occurred but the Traveler left their world and their culture fell apart. Now they are the Houses of the Fallen, scavengers and pirates who fight to gain possession of the Traveler.

The Fallen were different creatures, possessing four arms and multiple eyes. Their culture was as alien as their forms as well; the lower status Dregs had two of their arms removed until they could prove themselves as better warriors like Vandals and Captains.

Some of the he most powerful Fallen, the Archons or Kells, were sometimes three times as large as any human or Exo. They were giant warriors and priests, the fierce leaders of the fallen Houses.

The House of Devils foraged and fought on the Earth, especially in the Cosmodrome. The secretive House of Kings were also found at home while the House of Winter prowled on Venus. An unknown House had been seen on Luna, the Moon.

Eris showed interest in the Fallen and the other forces arrayed against the Guardians. The Cabal, a reptilian race of militant fighters from a distant Empire, had taken over part of Mars.

The Cabal were humanoid but eight hundred pounds of muscle and wore heavy armor. They were the elite forces of their army, highly militarized and organized into a serious threat. Their leaders were even larger than Archons, massive walking walls of weaponry.

The third force that posed a threat to humanity was the strangest of all. When Venus was populated and explored, researchers found ancient structures from a mechanical race called the Vex.

They had seemingly been in the universe for centuries but had never been seen on Earth or the Moon. The only experience humanity had with them was being trapped in a Vex simulation in a Venus research station.

Scientists had created a simulation to learn more about the Vex, but even the simulated machine race could turn the tables & trap their creators. Later, when the Vex returned they turned Mercury into a machine world in just days.

As Eris grew older and her parents gave her more details about the Guardians, she learned that they were given new life by the Traveler’s Light and the Light gave them powers over the fundamental forces of the universe.

She openly wished to be a Guardian one day but no one had ever volunteered to be a Guardian and no one knew what the Ghosts looked for when searching for new warriors. When she was six, she found a wounded hawk and named her Ghost, her way of joining them even as a child.

Before her eighth birthday, she had convinced her father to bring her to the Tower, where the Guardian Vanguard and the Speaker could be found. The largest jumpship hanger was in the tower’s peak. She was elated to go, to see for herself some of her heroes and their ships that could take them to the stars.

A week after she convinced her father to take her, she came home after school and told Cintha she was tired. It was the first of many days that she took long naps and slowly felt weaker every day.

Six months later she was bedridden, her body often sore, her veins sometimes swollen and she had none of the energy that made her such a vital part of her local community.

In the beginning of the strange illness, her friends brought her school work and spent afternoons in her bedroom to keep her company. She visited all the best City doctors but despite the advancements since the Collapse, none could find a reason for her weakness.

As the days turned into months and her condition didn’t improve, she lost some of her bounty of energy but she never lost a sense of hope and her parents continued to give her news from the City and its Guardians. Her hawk would perch in a large cage with an open door, the bird having the freedom she didn’t.

Her father and a another gunsmith built her a chair that hovered and allowed her to move so she could sit out in the garden. She spent long hours looking at the Tower and the silent Traveler. Her interest only grew and her father arranged for her to visit the Tower as he had promised.

Tarris woke up early to get Eris ready, and Cintha chose her favorite clothes, including her Hunter’s cloak. Her parents were happy to see her joy and bright life returned as her father wheeled her to the local shuttle.

The ride across the City took less time then the journey from the Tower’s base to the upper decks and when they arrived, Tarris brought his daughter to the open air plaza where Guardians met, received bounties, turned in engrams and could use the Vaults as storage.

The Traveler was over the center of the City but the Tower was tall enough that Eris could look directly at it from the top. Clouds drifted past as jumpships hovered a few feet away and Guardians emerged from transmat. The air would shimmer and a Guardian would land on the plaza.

Tarris stood patiently as Eris looked at the sights as the heroes she’d loved so long were all around her. She didn’t say anything as she watched happily but when a Ghost zipped past her, then stopped and turned back, she gasped excitedly.

The red and gray Ghost hovered a few feet away from her and its eye lens glowed as it scanned her. Tarris didn’t know why it would be interested in her but Eris reached out slowly with one hand and put her fingers into the light.

Interesting,” the Ghost said before it spun away and disappeared over the edge of the plaza.

Father!” Eris said excitedly. “Did you see?”

I did, love,” Tarris said cheerfully. “Would you like to meet an Exo?”

Really?” Eris asked with clear joy in her voice.

Yes dear,” her father confirmed. “Banshee-44 is right over there. He’s one of the arms dealers for the Tower.”

Exos always have a number in their names, don’t they?” Eris asked.

Usually, yes,” Tarris answered. “Some believe its the number of times they’ve been reset. No one really knows how they gained consciousness but they all have the same dream about war and a tower. Banshee-44 talks about it sometimes.”

Tarris wheeled her past an Awoken man he named as Cryptarch Master Rahool. He smiled at her as they passed, then her father guided her up the steps and towards the right corner past a twisted tree.

Behind a shop counter, in the center of guns on display and machines, was an Exo with a gold and blue head with multiple antenna. Eris saw right away that Exo’s couldn’t make any facial expressions and she wondered how that changed their ability to interact with the more expressive base line humans and Awoken.

Hey, how are you?” Banshee-44 said in his mechanical voice. “What can I do for you?”

Nice to see you Banshee,” Tarris said congenially.

Do I know you?” Banshee-44 asked. A moment later he continued. “Just kidding, have you brought me anything Mr. Morn?”

Just my best work!” Tarris chuckled. “This is my daughter, Eris. She’s very interested in Guardians.”

Nice to meet you,” the Exo said, his glowing eyes glancing towards her. Tarris and the Guardian discussed guns for a few moments, work Tarris was anticipating and Eris just listened happily.

Afterwards, Tarris introduced Eris to the mechanical Frame named Xander 99-40 who assembled bounties for the Guardians and Kadi 55-30 who was the Postmaster. Eris was amazed that although the robots didn’t have consciousness, they did have personalities. Xander was very professional and Kadi was anxious. There was even a Frame that tried to whistle.

Can we meet the Speaker too father?” Eris asked as they moved around the Vault boxes for Guardian use.

Oh, I don’t think so love,” Tarris said gently. “He’s in another part of the Tower and a busy man.”

Did I hear you say you’d like to see the Speaker?” a woman’s voice asked from behind them. They turned to see a bald black woman dressed in a Warlock’s robes and wearing the silver band of her Order.

Hello,” she said as she crouched down to greet Eris. “I’m Ikora Rey. Who are you?”

Tarris and Eris Morn introduced themselves and explained why they were visiting the Tower. “The Speaker needs to meet citizens sometimes,” Ikora said in a clear voice. “Would you like to meet the Vanguard as well?”

Yes please!” Eris said with a wide smile.

Let them know we’re coming Ghost,” Ikora commanded and her Ghost, a gray machine that had points like a metal star with a blue lens, that agreed and zipped away to the center of the Tower.

Behind the bounty Frame was a closed off area but before him was a stairway that led into a lower area. Tarris brought Eris down into the Vanguard’s Hall. Eris was leaning forward to see things as soon as possible.

Ikora led the way to a long chamber surrounded by computer systems had at work watching the world and the solar system. Frames monitored them and ignored the new visitors.

Standing around a long table were three men, a Warlock, a Titan and a Hunter. Eris was speechless to be in the company of the leaders of the Guardians. Ikora took them to each Guardian in turn.

Lord Saladin was an imposing and massive man in brass and silver armor with depictions of snarling wolves on his chest piece. His voice was deep and he wasn’t used to speaking to little girls but he was friendly.

Osiris was an older human man with a wrinkled but friendly face. He seemed intent on a series of papers and files on the table before him and Eris saw the word Vex at the top.

Andal Brask was a human Hunter dressed in mostly black and had his favorite sniper rifle leaning against the desk next to him. He was friendly and happy to stop working for a moment to meet the young girl.

Eris peppered them with questions about the deserts of Mars, the jungles of Venus, their anti gravity jumps and what it was like to ride a Sparrow bike across the Earth or Luna.

As the child of a gunsmith, she had a long conversation with Andal Brask about the guns and knives favored by Hunters. “Most of us make our own blades to carry in patrols and strikes.”

Eris’s face turned to her father and he knew she wanted to forge her own knife. She was still looking very eager and excited but he could see the exhaustion in the way she sat back in her chair.

Let’s go see the Speaker,” Ikora offered as she noticed as well. She escorted the pair back to the plaza, then to the left part of the Tower.

They walked down the angled halls, then down more steps and eventually to a unique area. Eris got her first view of the Speaker’s private machinery and library. A large, constantly moving machine was in motion with the Traveler seen beyond it through the open walls and ceiling.

All around the circular tiled and wooden floor below the machine, which was brass and copper, moving around a hologram of the Traveler, with additional small globes with views of parts of the solar system.

The Speaker was at the top of a curved staircase with high shelves filled with books and scrolls, built with working machinery in the same curved wall. He was a tall man, with white and gray robes with a black and white mask that showed no facial features.

Ikora waved as the Speaker’s mask turned to face them and his Ghost opened and the star points swirled around a ball of blue energy. The Speaker flipped a few switches, adjusted the machinery and then slowly came down to meet them.

Speaker, this is Tarris Morn and his daughter, Eris,” Ikora Rey introduced. “Her father is a gunsmith for Omolon and she’s interested in the Guardians.”

I’m pleased to meet you,” the Speaker said gently. He extended his hand to Tarris and then to Eris.

I can’t believe you’re in front of me,” Eris said breathlessly.

You…” the Speaker said as her touched her hand. “You’re ill, aren’t you?”

How do you know?” Eris asked.

The Traveler’s Light begins with the Traveler and goes out to the Reef,” the Speaker said stoically. “It allows Guardians to live again and again but it enhances our lives, our senses and I am more acclimated to its Light than any other. I can sense that you’re ill in some way.”

She’s tired quickly and there’s some swelling,” Tarris explained.

Can the Traveler heal me?” Eris asked suddenly.

The Speaker’s face couldn’t be seen but his body language showed that he was startled by the sudden question but he considered it for a moment before finally answering.

Eris, I will consider the question and give you an answer soon,” the Speaker said warmly, his deep voice sure and clear.

Eris smiled and her father saw renewed hope in her face. He was unsure about such a promise but Ikora and he thanked the Speaker and the Warlock escorted them back out to the Tower plaza.

Do you know what makes Warlocks different from Hunters and Titans?” Ikora asked Eris before she left them to return home. Eris shook her head. She had always focused on the Hunters.

Warlocks were some of the first Guardians to use the Light to change reality, to push boundaries, to explore the universe,” Ikora explained. “We search for answers to our questions – what is the Light, the Traveler, and the Darkness?”

Guardians are found by their Ghosts and brought back to life to fight. They can be dead for years and somehow the Light revives them to full life, to immortality as long as the Light can reach them.”

Ikora crouched down again and extended her right hand with her palm up. Arc energy formed just above her palm and crackled with power with blue and white light rotating in a small ball.

We don’t know what the Light is – is it another one of the fundamental forces like arc, solar and void energy? Or is it the force that binds those forces to our biology? Your case is interesting Eris and I’m going to look into it.”

Eris left feeling renewed and hopeful again.

Part 2 – Illness and Time –

After her trip to the Tower, Eris had high spirits again. She seemed to feel better and even got out of bed more than once. But after a month, she was weary again and as the months became a year and then another, she was bedridden more often than not.

In the first year, her friends and neighbors came to her often to keep her entertained and to help her with schoolwork. As the years passed and her friends grew older, they slowly became preoccupied with other things.

Her hawk, Ghost, was her only constant companion besides her parents. Her indomitable joy was slowly effected but as she got older, she studied what was known about the Exo’s consciousness and the Traveler’s Light.

Ikora Rey was the only regular visitor when her friends grew older. Through those conversations and lessons, Eris learned a great deal about the history of Exos. They were created in the lost period of the Golden Age.

It was assumed they had been created for a purpose, something that would require a tireless body with a human mind. Many of them dreamed about their origins, an experience they referred to as Deep Stone Crypt.

Cayde-6, a good friend of Andal Brask and a fellow Hunter, was an Exo who had reported that he could remember being human once and somehow he became an Exo. Eris latched onto that detail, wondering if her consciousness could be transferred into a machine body.

Despite medical advancements, or perhaps because of the loss of the Collapse, Eris’s condition didn’t improve and the doctors couldn’t find a solution. Her father eventually designed an entire Frame that could be built around her body that would allow her to move about on her own.

Eris talked to her parents and the engineers that helped Tarris plan the construction but when she learned she would be extremely heavy and slow, she balked. She hadn’t admitted it to anyone but her hawk, but she wanted to defend the City.

Her admiration of the Guardians and the scouts that came before them and the few fighters that came after them, had led her to dream of becoming a warrior for the Last City. She didn’t want to be a historian, teacher or gunsmith.

Eris wanted to defend her family and the City, she wanted to scout the world and escort survivors and refugees back to the City or help create a second city. She was still fierce and strong and refused to cry but she was becoming weary of disappointment.

Years continued to go by and her life became small and lonely. She became an adult dependent on her family to help care for her. Her boudless joy started to fade as no solution could be found.

When the Exo Titan, Saint-14, left the City to begin his crusade against the Fallen, she wanted to go with him. When the rumors of a new enemy on Luna circulated the City, she eagerly talked with anyone who knew any details.

Ikora Rey brought news that another Warlock named Toland was already researching the new foe. They had been seen attacking the unknown Fallen based along the ruins of the Moon bases.

The scouts say they appear to be unlike any of our other enemies,” Ikora said during her visit. “There’s something especially horrifying about them.”

What do they look like?” Eris asked.

There are several different variations, much like the Fallen, the Cabla and the history we have of the Vex,” Ikora informed her. “So far we’ve seen thin, eyeless, screaming creatures Toland is calling Thralls.”

With them are Acolytes, a short humanoid with bony armor and three small eyes. They use void weaponry but unlike anything we’ve seen before, seemingly also made from bones or something calcified.”

Their own Titans we’re calling Knights,” she continued. “They are taller than us, stronger and they fire arc weaponry we’re calling boomers. They seem insane with rage. Last, we’ve seen some creatures that seem to fly or float. Toland says they are Wizards and we’ve seen them use solar fire as a shield.”

Wizards?” Eris repeated. “Knights, Acolytes and Thralls. All medieval titles, especially the Wizards! Does he mean they use magic like the ancients were thought to?”

Toland has…” Ikora started to say, then stopped before starting again. “Toland seems to have a feel for things and he says he’s seen runes on their strange ships. The Fallen called them the Hive.”

But even in our long lost histories of man, things we thought were magic, were solved with science and even now, using fundamental elements from the universe would seem like miraculous wonders to our ancestors.”

Ikora watched Eris thinking as she looked out her window and saw her interest suddenly wane and her face grew saddened. “What is it dear?” she asked.

I can see the moon sometimes from my window at night,” Eris told her in a quiet voice. “My father told me the surface is almost blue. I want to see it, I want to see the Earth from Luna. I want to run, I want…”

Ikora reached out and took her hand. “I spoke to the Speaker about this,” the Warlock said gently. “Ghosts only revive the dead and its the Light that animates and rejuvenates them. But you have the soul of a Guardian, perhaps more so than I’ve ever seen.”

I would…” Eris began. “I would choose that life if I could. I would love to…to be one of you.”

Do you understand what that would mean Eris?” Ikora asked. “You’d outlive your parents, your friends, your neighbors. You’d face dangers and struggles, enemies that want to see us burn and die off or that want the Traveler.”

I do understand!” Eris said passionately. “I would give anything to fight for the City, to fight for humanity.”

The Speaker tells me its never been done,” Ikora said firmly. “But the Traveler doesn’t seem opposed to it and we spoke to one of the unattached Ghosts that come and go. It would like to meet you.”

Eris nodded eagerly but with apprehension. Ikora spoke and a new Ghost appeared beside her own. It was red and gray and she was almost sure it was the same one that had scanned her at the Tower plaza years ago. It hovered, then darted around her and scanned her with its blue light as its spikes circled the blue energy that held it together.

It can be done,” the Ghost said in a surprisingly comforting voice. “But you’ll have to die Eris Morn. Best by electricity. A powerful shock would kill and the Light could bring you back.”

What is this?” Tarris asked suddenly from the doorway to the room.

Father, I want to live!” Eris said quickly. “I want to walk and if I can walk, I want to jump! I want to stand on my own and I want to dance. I want to fight for the City. I want to be a Guardian.”

Cintha Morn had followed her husband into the room and she took Tarris’s hand. “We have to let her try,” she said almost too quietly.

Tarris looked down at her and that back at Eris. The two women in his life hoping for his understanding and support. He sighed and nodded his head. “What do we have to do?”

Ikora Rey gave the family a plan. Eris would be brought to the Tower where the Speaker and the various Warlock Orders would supervise her death and revival. The Ghost would both end her life and then give it back.

It took some time to plan and two days later Tarris brought Eris back to the Tower. The Speaker met her at the plaza and then took her to a room that had been set aside for Eris’s passing.

She met the Warlocks waiting for her. Eriana-3, an Exo Warlock from the Praxic Order. Pujari, the Awoken Warlock who wanted to explore the ability of death and revival that only Guardians could accomplish to see what could be learned.

There was Fenchurch Everis, who had been revived in the wastelands of Mars and revived with only a silver coin with a digital signature that related him to Tess Everis, who sold items to Guardians in the Tower.

Ulan-Tan was a Warlock who had a philosophy called Symmetry, that the Darkness was directly related to the Traveler and its Light, an opposite force in the universe and perhaps a necessary force.

And last, Eris met Toland, an older human man who looked like an old wise man with bushy eyebrows and a gray beard. She liked him best because of his warm smile and friendly demeanor.

She liked Eriana-3 as well because she was forward and passionate. Fenchurch was an odd man, wearing an outfit from a long gone century with an oiled beard and handlebar mustache.

Ulan-Tan and Pujari were distracted by a conversation about the Darkness and Light and Toland was slowly being drawn in. Eris listened closely as the other Warlocks set up the table she would be lying on for the event.

Pujari thought the Darkness was both a physical and moral presence, a tangible evil. His evidence was the reaction of the Warmind Rasputin and the effect of the Collapse. It seemed that something perceptible did hit the solar system, its planets and the Earth itself.

Ulan-Tan believed the Darkness was a necessary part of the universe, the polar opposite of the Traveler and good. He thought there was a cosmic balance that would push back and forth through the ages.

Toland was suggesting that perhaps the Darkness was from another universe, a different dimension and it mimicked ours in some ways. He already argued that the new race on the Moon, he called the Hive, were not true life as they understood it.

That notion got all the Warlocks talking about the Traveler’s Light and the ability of Guardians to die repeatedly as long as their Ghost survived and could revive them. Eris listened fervently, tying to get more insight into the world she was about to join.

All right friends!” the Speaker interjected in a commanding voice. All the Guardians turned back with slight embarrassment. “Let’s get this young woman ready.”

Yes, we should be set up now,” Eriana-3 agreed firmly. “Eris, let’s get you changed into better clothing.”

The Exo woman brought Eris into a small changing room outside the medical chamber. “Are you afraid?” Eriana-3 asked, her mechanical voice expressing concern that her face couldn’t.

I was,” Eris said as she stood up shakily and started undressing. “But I’ve lived with this for more than twenty years. I’m ready for it to be over.”

We are thankful as well,” the Exo told her. “Pujari has been talking about Guardian’s experiences during the time they fall and are revived again. He wants to explore that further.”

Once Eris was changed into a special suit that would monitor her body during the death and revival, Eriana-3 took her back into the operating room. Toland was lighting scented candles and murmuring prayers to the Traveler while the others maintained the machinery.

Eris was helped onto the padded chair, then leaned back until she was prone and facing the ceiling. The Speaker stood beside her and held her hand. “I’ll stay right here until you’re back.”

Are you ready Eris?” Toland asked.

She nodded and the waiting Ghost moved in closer to hover above her. Ikora Rey arrived a moment later and stood on Eris’s opposite side. Eris smiled to her and then took a deep breath and then spoke.

I’m ready,” she started firmly.

The Ghost opened, its red and gray points spiraled around its blue energy and a beam of blue light scanned Eris’s body. The cone of light flared and Eris’s body arched up as electricity went through her body.

Her vital signs lit up and the sound of her heartbeat faltered and then flat lined. The Warlocks held their collective breath as the Ghost brought its edges back in and a different sort of light appeared.

There was a pulse of white, like an old flash bulb that blinded everyone for a moment. The humans and Awoken felt a brush of warmth and smelled the scent of a deep forest while Eriana-3 saw a vibrant screen of rainbow hexagrams like a kaleidoscope that shut down her lenses for a moment.

Eris’s body jerked again and her gasped with a sudden intake of new breath. The sensors sparked and her heartbeat returned, stronger than ever. Ikora watched her carefully as her eyes fluttered and opened.

I…that was so strange,” Eris said hesitantly. “I saw…the Traveler, I think, but as a man. But not a man, as if it communicated to me in a way I could understand and showed me something familiar.”

Go on,” Ikora urged. “What did you feel?”

He didn’t speak and he looked sad,” Eris shared. “He put out his hand and placed it on my shoulder and smiled gently. He spoke, without speaking, and said I was ready.”

And that was it,” she finished. “I felt warmth and now…”

Eris reached for the chair controls and pressed the button that returned her to a seated position. She raised both hands and clenched her fists, testing for pain. When she felt nothing, she looked at Ikora with renewed hope.

I can feel strength!” she said with wavering joy and excitement. “I want to stand!”

She slid out of the chair and wobbled up on her legs and almost fell but held herself up. Ikora and the Speaker stayed close and she slowly started walking, becoming more confident as she moved.

I can walk!” she said joyously, her eyes watering a little but she still wouldn’t cry, not even for her success. “I can move, I can run!”

The rest of the day was spent in testing. Her strange illness was gone entirely and she was as healthy as any other Guardian. She returned to see her parents and spent the evening there with them.

The following day Eris joined the Guardians in the Tower and began her training. She would become a Hunter, specifically a Bladedancer although she would also train as a Gunslinger, training with every gun and with a knife she forged with her father.

She learned to use the various grenades she would be armed with and she developed a feel for the guns she was most comfortable with. She liked sniper rifles, scout rifles and the occasional hand cannon.

She learned to use the anti gravity jumps to cross gaps, gain new heights and escape trouble spots. She learned how to fly a jumpship that she would eventually earn unless she could find one in any of the space stations on Earth that survived the Collapse.

She was taught how to work in a fireteam with other Guardians, whether it was a team of three Hunters or a six person team, working with Titans and Warlocks as well. She discovered her new abilities, using arc energy to electrify her blade, solar energy to power her guns and the ability to make small teleportions in the blink of an eye or seem to vanish with stealth tech.

She discovered the joys of riding a Sparrow antigrav bike across the Earth. She found the leaps from up high and the drops before activating her antigrav jump to land safely just as exciting.

She learned about the excitement of hand to hand fighting with a Fallen Vandal or hearing the sound of another Guardian on his way while she fought to secure a location or how to stop the Fallen from invading a protected base. She discovered both sides of war, the joy of success and the sorrow of loss.

She searched out and spoke to every Guardian that would talk with her. She spoke to Arach Jalal of Dead Orbit about his belief that mankind should abandon the Traveler and search for a new home. Dead Orbit was one of three major factions that survived the Faction Wars.

Arach was one of the Earth born Awoken and was eager to journey to the stars, to search for new worlds. He had been building a fleet for the Vanguard and spent a lot of time decoding transmissions from outside the solar system.

Eris loved the Earth and argued that they should fight to defend it. She turned to the other two Factions to learn more. Executor Hideo, an Asian man who had been well known in the Last City for his philanthropy, led the Faction of New Monarchy.

The New Monarchy wanted a new leader, a kingly figure, and the person would be supported by several tenants. The New Monarchy would secure the walls and the rights of all citizens. They would sponsor the sciences in hopes of returning the Golden Age.

They believed the City had a natural harmony and that all people would work together to bring about a new Age of creativity and success. Eris agreed with the direction of the Faction but as a student of history, she wasn’t sure a new king would be the best leader.

The Consensus was the New Monarchy, Dead Orbit and the Future War Cult, along with the Vanguard. The FWC had been around for hundreds of years and its current leader, an Exo named Lakshmi-2, was a strong and experienced but secretive leader.

The FWC had replaced the Concordant, who had attempted to overthrow the Consensus in the Tower at Bannerfall. New Monarchy defeated them and their leader Lysander. The FWC joined the Consensus instead.

Eris enjoyed talking to Lakshmi-2 where she could be found in the Tower’s hanger, in a small room above the music room. The Exo Faction leader believed that war was a constant and the only way to succeed was to fight.

Part 3 – the Great Disaster –

Eris was brought on small missions first, learning to scout and fight, learning how to scan Golden Age equipment or watch the battles between other foes when they fought each other.

She heard the talk about the Hive on Luna and when the report came that something they did on the Moon broke off huge sections of the surface, the Vanguard decided it was time to face the enemy.

Eris was linked with Eriana-3, who she had become close with over the course of her training and missions. Eriana-3 would lead a fireteam to one area to gain intel while a massive force of Guardians attacked the area in the Ocean of Storms, now called the Hellmouth.

Long range scans had shown the area had three entrances into the Moon, all near an old Moon base where an accelerator had once connected all Moon bases. An unknown Fallen House had also taken that area, making it twice as dangerous.

Guardians had come together to defeat a Fallen army but had never gathered in such numbers to take on a foe off the Earth. Guardians worked best in small groups historically but they believed that numbering in the thousands, they should be able to wipe out this new enemy quickly.

Eris wasn’t as sure since she learned the Hive had dug into the surface of the moon. There was at least six hundred miles of Moon rock between the surface and the inner core.

The Hive had been active for a lot longer than anyone wanted to admit and no one really had any idea what they had been doing beneath the surface of the Moon. The Moon’s shape was changed and the scars were so big they could be seen from Earth.

The Hellmouth was a massive hole in the surface of the Moon but long range scans became distorted when passed over the opening and even Hunters who got close said a yellow smoke obscured any sign of a bottom.

Eris met Eriana-3 and her team in the Hanger. “Ah, you’re here!” she said eagerly. “We’re going ahead of the main force to scout the the entrance Toland has called the Temple of Crota.”

Where does he get his information?” Eris asked.

The Vanguard is starting to ask that very question. Lord Shaxx says the Knights use ascendant swords and he’s warned us away from this strike. Wei Ning plans to face them at Mare Imbrium.”

Where are we going?” Eris asked as the Exo woman as they walked towards their jumpships.

To Archer’s Line,” Eriana-3 answered. “Near the Hellmouth.”

Why is called the Hellmouth,” Eris asked as they neared the ships.

Its in reference to ancient Christian texts,” Eriana-3 told her. “Openings to Hell were usually depicted as monstrous mouths where souls were damned. We don’t know what’s at the bottom. It could be some hell we’ve never imagined.”

Each Guardian transported themselves into their own ship and left the Tower and Earth behind. A trip that once took humans to the Moon in three days, now took just a few minutes.

The ships hovered over a location near Archer’s Line and the Guardians were moved from ship to the ground by transmat. Eris appeared near the others and took a quick look around. The Moon’s surface was dusty, a blue gray color, with hills and huge jagged cliffs in the distance.

The Earth was off to the left, a blue marble covered in clouds. Eris realized she’d never thought it was more beautiful until that moment, when she saw it as a whole, a living planet worthy of their love and defense.

Eriana-3 led the small fireteam with a Titan named Havis and another Warlock named Yaz, with Eris as their scout. She led them up the hill to the top where they could see a large area of old Moon base. The accelerator ran overhead from left to right with half buried buildings in the Moon dust beneath.

Eris could see Fallen Dregs within the shadows of the building a few hundred feet away. According to their intel, they needed to go to the right, over the hill and down a side track to one of the three openings to the Hive tunnels.

Let’s keep our heads down and get over that next hill,” Eriana-3 commanded.

I wish we could get the Fallen to fight with us instead of against us,” Eris said wistfully.

Those pirates and scavengers?” Havis scoffed. “If they were worth anything, they’d have taken the City from us!”

They were once children of the Traveler too,” Eris began to argue. She had always wondered if the Fallen could be redeemed.

We don’t have time for a philosophical debate about the Fallen,” Eriana-3 quickly stopped the conversation. “Eris, find us a path to the location we marked.”

Eris called for her Ghost, who she named Hawk in honor of her first flying friend, and the Ghost summoned a view of the surrounding land. Their destination was marked with a small red light on the light blue landscape hologram.

The hologram showed another hill with old roads leading up and over, then along a curve and down another hill before the land widened out between hills. In the center was a tall structure with a center post holding a circular top.

Beyond that was another large A shaped building and the track that led to the Temple of Crota went right past the building. Eris knew there would be Fallen in and around those various buildings.

She looked up and across the valley before them and saw a group of Dregs with a Vandal and a Shank. The Dregs were the lowest rank of the fallen, humanoid insects with only two of their four arms. If they could rise in the ranks, they would receive two more arms.

The Vandal had its four arms and command of the group. The Shank was a floating machine, the size of a small dog that kept watch and had its own gun. The warriors carried shock pistols and rifles and they often had knives and swords that used arc energy as well.

They may not have always been fighters but they had become a fierce people. Eris pulled her sniper rifle out of the interdimensional space the Ghost carried all weaponry in and settled into a prone position.

She favored the Pompeii LR3 sniper rifle because it had great range and stability. It was said it had been named after a volcano because it also took many lives. She looked down the scope and looked for signs of the Fallen around the buried buildings.

The Vandal and Shank were moving together while four Dregs wandered around the base structure. They moved around in between the different sections of building. It would be hard to get them all without alerting some of them.

Eriana!” she called and the Exo laid down next to her. “Two would be better than one. You’ve been sniping before, right?”

Yes I have,” the Warlock said with a eager tone to her mechanical voice.

The two women aimed their rifles at the Fallen. “Let’s divide them,” Eris added. “I should be able to take all four Dregs quickly.”

Done,” Eriana-3 said. “Tell me when you’re ready.”

Eris watched the Dreg’s movements until she saw their pattern of movement. She chose the right moment before giving Eriana-3 the command. Then she fired as she heard the Warlock’s gun going off.

Her first shot took a Dreg’s head off and her second hit one in the throat, just below its ether breathing apparatus. She heard Eriana’s second shot, then heard her curse.

Eris killed the third Dreg just as it started to bolt for cover. She had the fourth in her sight when a sound came from nearby and the dirt exploded in front of her.

Dammit!” Eriana-3 shouted. “I’ll get it this time!”

Eris had slid back as she moved her gun away and saw the Shank was flying towards them from where the Vandal had died. The Exo dropped her sniper rifle and summoned a fusion rifle.

She aimed, then fired and a line of void energy hit the Shank and it vanished as it was consumed. Eris aimed her rifle again and saw the last Dreg was hidden behind a circular object attached to the building.

It would stay hidden but just beyond its hiding spot was a gas lamp that would explode if she hit it. If the explosion wasn’t strong enough to kill the Fallen fighter, it would make him move.

Eris fired and the low thump of the gun blew away some of the Moon dust in front of her. The lamp exploded and a yellow blast shot gray dust everywhere and the Dreg staggered forward into the open. Eris took him down in the next moment.

Well done Eris!” Eriana-3 complimented.

I’ll move ahead to the next location and scout,” Eris told her as she got to her feet. “Hawk – give them a location beacon near that circular building on the post.”

Eris summoned her Sparrow, a floating bike that could carry her quickly across long distances. She hopped on the machine and set off down the first valley and up the next hill below the accelerator.

The Sparrow was a pretty quiet machine but she couldn’t get past the next areas without being seen. She followed the old road, with ancient tracks from old buggies, until she reached the next open area.

To the left was a ramp connecting the ground and the roof of another small building. Across a wide road was another larger structure. Beyond that was the post building and a few hundred feet away was the A shaped construction.

At the top of the ramp was a Vandal keeping watch. Near the base of the second building were Dregs and through her sniper sight she could see additional Fallen forces including a Servitor and a Fallen Captain.

Servitors were massive globes, big machines reportedly built to be like the Traveler, that were often leaders of Fallen forces. Captains were another leader, humanoids larger than humans by a few feet, with all four arms who wielded long swords as well as shock rifles.

Eris had several available guns with as well as several different kinds of grenades and abilities that made Guardians powerful soldiers. She formulated a plan and then went into action.

She switched to her hand cannon, the Future War Cult pistol called The Chance and darted up the ramp as her Sparrow faded away back into hiding. The Vandal heard her coming and he turned to shoot his rifle while she activated her blink strike ability.

She jumped at him, then vanished and reappeared behind him, then stabbed him with her knife from behind, severing his spinal cord and ending his life. Then she took a running jump and her anti-gravity boost sent her a few more meters higher as she sailed up and over the next building.

She threw an arcbolt grenade right into the center of the pack of Fallen. It hit the dusty ground and exploded into arcs of electricity that hit each of the Fallen Dregs and dropped them all before she landed on the far side of them.

She ran and jumped again, then used the double jump ability to go even higher and into a small opening in the tower’s structure. Inside she found two more Dregs poking around the open machinery inside the tower. Her hand cannon thundered twice and their heads snapped back as their bodies fell.

The echo of the gunshots were dulled inside the chamber and she moved to another opening on the far side giving her a better view of the area. She saw the Captain below guarding the path to the Hive entrance with a few Dregs.

The A shaped building had two levels above the ground with a ramp leading up from the ground in the front and a second ramp from the middle level to the top in the back. The Servitor was hovering at the top corner watching the whole area with Dregs and Shanks moving around on the ramps.

To take down all of them, including the Captain and the Servitor, she would need all her skills and abilities. She started with the sniper rifle again, kneeling in the opening and shooting Dregs one after the other.

She killed four before they figured out where she was firing from. The Captain roared its commands at pointed its sword to her location. Shanks buzzed around the ramps and Dregs picked firing positions. The Servitor started blasting void bursts that exploded when they hit the side of the structure.

Eris attached the hand cannon to her hip, put the sniper rifle away and summoned a rocket launcher called the Harbinger, a Vanguard issue weapon. She looked through the sight and chose the Servitor as her first target.

The first missile sped away, trailing smoke behind it. The Servitor made an alarmed noise as it tried to float behind a half wall barrier but the rocket struck it in the center of its giant eye lens.

The Servitor rocked back with the explosion as the rocket hit it, then Eris saw cracks shatter its hill just before it exploded itself. Eris moved her sight to where the Captain had been and saw it looking out from behind an obstacle and commanding Dregs to fire on her.

She launched the second rocket at the ground near the Captain and as it flew she switched guns to a heavy shotgun used by New Monarchy called Judgment VI. She leaped down to land near the Captain, just after the rocket exploded and Moon dust blew up in a cloud.

The Captain staggered and cried out in pain and Eris blasted him in the face with the shotgun. As a half a dozen Dregs began to surround her, she activated her super ability that empowered her with arc energy and made her knife crackle with electricity.

The ability made her faster, stronger and gave her some defense. She leaped and spun, slashing with her blade that shocked the Dregs and killed them instantly. When the power ended in exactly twelve seconds, she used her shotgun to kill the last two Shanks.

Hawk, tell Eriana the path is clear,” Eris instructed her Ghost.

I will Guardian,” the Ghost answered.

Eris switched weapons again to a fusion rifle that could disintegrate its target and she moved up the road at a run. She went over the small hill, then around a turn that passed a large drop that emitted the yellow gas from deep within the Moon.

The path ended at a small cliff that was less than ten feet high. She jumped and used the anti-grav boost to send herself up high enough to get over the cliff, leaping past a strange lamp made of iron and glowing with a yellow light.

The path continued in a valley of two more jutting rocks but quickly opened to reveal a deeper valley surrounded by cliffs. Eris stood at the top of a slope that was littered with boulders and small half walls.

On the right was a shelf that seemed like it had always been there, seamlessly joined to the Moon rock but its appearance was unlike anything the Fallen had ever built. At the base of the slope was an archway that had been created by the Hive.

Eris saw Thralls, Acolytes and a Knight all milling around among the boulders. Eris saw two additional Acolytes on the patio shelf on the right and a cave just beyond it where they seemed to have come from.

She used her sniper scope to look within the gateway and could see more Acolytes in a low area within. She started counting enemies as Eriana-3 and the others joined her.

Nice work clearing the path,” the Exo Warlock complimented. “What do we have here?”

There’s at least a dozen Thrall, a few less Acolytes and a Knight,” Eris reported. “There’s more inside that area but I can’t see much from here.”

That’s alright,” Eriana-3 assured her. “The four of us can send them all to whatever hell the Hive come from.”

As they discussed their potential approaches, Eris thought about what they did know about the Hive forces. Thralls were the lowest in the hierarchy. They appeared so thin as to be skeletal, they had no eyes, just a solid bone plate but they had a great sense of smell and screamed from fanged mouths as they swarmed.

Acolytes, like Thralls, were usually smaller than humans, Awoken and Exos. They appeared to wear some bony or chitinous armor and rags but it was hard to tell where armor, clothes and their skin ended or began.

They had three eyes the glowed green with an inner light. Knights had similar armor or bony protrusions and stood taller than any man or woman. They were bulky but still pretty quick on their feet.

Acolytes used void weapons the Guardians called shredders. The Knights used arc weapons called boomers. Lord Shaxx had reported that there were other, different Knights that used strange swords that seemed like a mix of bone and iron.

Other Guardians had left behind Ghosts that reported other, stranger enemies, Thralls that glowed and exploded violently or massive monsters that somehow fired void energy from their heads like a Servitor.

Eriana-3 instructed Eris to fire the first shot so she would appear alone. Thralls typically rushed any target to swarm them and drag them down. The Acolytes would be more methodical and the Knight would likely guard the entrance to their tunnels.

Eris chose her favored weapon, the scout rifle known as The Calling, another Future War Cult weapon. She loved scout rifles despite needing to pull the trigger for every shot, because they were the best for marksmanship and she could place every shot perfectly.

She moved out of hiding to the top of the slope, chose one of the Thralls and fired. The creature exploded into ash, making Eris believe Toland was right and the Hive were not alive in the same way even the undead Guardians were.

The Thralls started screaming as their heads darted around and they listened and smelled for their quarry. Eris fired again, destroying another one and the rest caught the scent of gunpowder. They began charging up the hill towards her.

She aimed carefully and started popping off shots, a staccato of death as screaming Thralls disappeared one after the other. Acolytes started moving around towards cover while firing their shredders, loosing start shaped void bursts.

After the initial attack, the scene was the usual chaos of war just as it had always been and always would be. The other Guardians moved up to stand with Eris and they unloaded their various guns on the Hive creatures, destroying them as they rushed the hill.

The Knight roared and fired its boomer, sending bright bursts of fire into high arcs that landed and exploded among the Guardians, causing them to scatter. Eris ran to the right but saw a Wizard come flying out of the Hive entrance.

Eris yelled the warning to the others then focused on staying alive and killing the additional Acolytes and Thralls that swarmed out of the tunnels. Her focus was immediate but her mind was on the danger of the hissing Wizard that floated nearby.

Wizards had the ability to guard themselves with a solar shield, a wall of fire that melted everything that was fired at them. Eris couldn’t understand its speech but the Acolytes clearly understood the sibilant sounds of the hovering creature.

By the time she’d eliminated the threats she could see, she found that Eriana-3 had used her Voidwalker abilities to capture the Wizard and the other Guardians dragged it to the upper shelf.

Watch that tunnel!” Eriana-3 commanded Eris. At that moment the Exo’s Ghost started reporting news from the battle at Mare Imbrium. The mass battle had begun and the Guardians exchanged worried looks.

What are we doing with this thing?” Havis asked with serious concern in his voice.

We’re going to get some information,” Eriana-3 said, her voice sounding dark. “Ghost, record this.”

Yaz and the Titan held the Wizard down, who strangely didn’t struggle. It was impossible to see any facial expressions on the creature because its strange head gear covered everything except its mouth.

My name is Eriana-3, disciple of the Praxic Warlocks, marked by the Cormorant Seal. We came here under one banner, united in a host of thousands, to claim the Moon. But the battle goes against us. I have taken a prisoner and this is the record of its interrogation. If I transgress in your eyes I ask for your forgiveness.”

Eris wondered what she planned if she was asking for forgiveness right away.

Eriana-3 directed the Ghost to shock the creature. “Eriana,” the Ghost reported. “It responds to pain.”

It responds to the Light,” Eriana-3 corrected. “Hurt it again. Monster, heed me. Who is your master with the sword?”

The Ghost shocked it again. “I can hear it!” Eriana-3 said with surprise. “In my head. The sword bearer’s name is Crota. Record that.”

Should I burn it again?” the Ghost asked.

No,” the Warlock said with some thought. “I think you’re only feeding it. I will touch its mind. Ghost – help.”

They call you Wizard,” Eriana-3 said aloud. “You must be ancient. I think you value power very much. Will you still be powerful without this piece of your mind? Tell me how to kill Crota.”

She motioned for the Ghost to shock it again. “It showed me the battle,” she reported. “It showed me Wei Ning dead on Crota’s blade. It showed me how Crota killed a Guardian with a screaming knife hammered out of his own Ghost. So I will take a piece of its mind, and ask again. Tell me how to kill Crota.”

Eris heard her friend’s voice growing darker and her hands were clenching. The Ghost shocked the Wizard again. “Incredible,” she said quietly. “Where? Where is his throne? Where is the twilight world under the dead star eye?”

Eriana there’s word from the company in Mare Imbrium,” the Ghost said with urgency. “Crota is upon them. Half a hundred dead. They need us.”

Tell me where!” the Exo shouted angrily. “Tell me how! TELL ME!” She jabbed her hand down, and the Ghost shocked it again.

Eriana, what did it say?” her Ghost asked with the sound of concern in its voice.

It showed me how it did this, just exactly this, to an Awoken man, the knives arranged by its will, like little silver ships, like Ghosts,” Eriana-3 said with a growing anger. “It laughed at me. It said we were the same.”

Crota marches with a thousand Knights and they say the sky above Mare Imbrium has turned into green fire,” the Ghost added. “They are dying in numbers I cannot bear to repeat. He kills them one by one with a sword that eats their Light. Eriana, we have to do something!”

Kill the Wizard,” Eriana- 3 commanded. “Scatter the ash. It has nothing but lies to offer. Get your Sparrows. We have Light and fury. That will be enough.”

Eris watched as Havis and Yaz executed the Wizard. She was concerned about her friend and it appeared that the others were too. But there was no time to talk, there was a major battle to join and their mission was over.

The Guardians ran back up the slope, testing their ability to summon their Sparrows. When they reached the little cliff and dropped down they each produced their Sparrows and sped off away.

It seemed like it took forever to reach the battle and by the time them reached the Mare, they were only in time to see the survivors retreating. Eris helped staggering Guardians away as the massive Hive monster that led his endless armies roared in his bizarre tongue and shook his glowing, flaming sword.

He was standing in a layer of ash that showed the Guardians had killed hundreds of Thrall and Acolytes but he was surrounded by some kind of powerful Knights who were all armed with swords that decimated the Guardian fighters.

Crota’s sword seemed to suck away the Light of its victims and the Vanguard had ordered a full retreat. In the time after the battle, which would eventually be called the Great Disaster, and the Vanguard made the Moon forbidden to all of their forces.

It was the first great defeat they had ever had and it destroyed moral. Eris saw her friends feeling many of the same things she felt when she was ill and bed ridden. The whole City felt the loss and a new fear that the Hive would come for Earth.

Part 4 – Loss & Recruitment –

In the years following the Great Disaster, Eris started learning what it meant to live indefinitely. The first experience was the deaths of her parents. Her mother lived until she was two hundred and forty years old and died peacefully in her bed.

Her father quickly followed, knowing his daughter would live on, he followed his wife to the grave soon after. Several events marked the Guardians and City afterwards, which Eris was sometimes involved in.

The hunt of the Ahamkara to extinction was something she wasn’t supportive of. Toland had reported through his research that the Hive had some connection to Worms of some kind and the dragon/wyrm Ahamkara had been giving power or secrets in trade and the Vanguard decided it was too similar.

Then Kabr the Legionless formed a Fireteam with Praedyth & Pahinin and tried to invade the rumored Vex Vault of Glass on Venus and they never returned. The Guardians were saddened by the second loss.

Perhaps it was because of the mounting losses that made the decision to exile Toland easier. He’d been named Toland the Shattered because he’d taken to talking to himself often and would disappear for weeks at a time without reporting in or explaining what he had been doing.

Eris could understand some of the rumors but she still saw Toland as her friend and although he had been acting strangely, she still found him full of knowledge and wisdom. He also seemed to know more about the Hive than anyone else but that was part of why the Vanguard and Concordant wanted him exiled.

The next event didn’t involve the Guardians but did involve humanity. The Awoken were born, or perhaps created, off the Earth in the attempted escape during the Collapse. Some returned to their natural home and lived in the City and some even became Guardians.

The Awoken that didn’t return to Earth created a home in the Reef, in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the same place all the dead ships still orbited the Sun, now a part of the solar system.

Over the years, the Awoken had developed their own society and culture. Their culture was more medieval than modern, they were ruled by their Queen, Mara Sov and her brother, Prince Uldren, the Lord of Crows.

Unbeknownst to the Vanguard, the Fallen Houses had been forming alliances to take the Traveler away from the City. The House of Kings allied with the House of Devils on Earth, the House of Winter from Venus and they contacted the House of Wolves out on the asteroid belt.

Virixas, the Kell of Wolves, amassed a fleet of millions to descend on Earth with the other Fallen Houses. The Guardians wouldn’t learn the details until much later but Queen Mara Sov and her spy network of Crows stepped in and stopped the alliance in what would later be called the Reef Wars.

Eris only witnessed the attack in the Battle of Twilight Gap. Vanguard Commander Saladin Forge led the Guardian defense. The spider-like Fallen Walkers, tanks with legs and multiple guns, fought against the City.

The machine gun named the Thunderlord was distinguished in the battle and left an mass of dead Fallen. Eventually the fort was taken by the fallen but Lord Shaxx led the counterattack and succeeded in routing the Fallen again. Feizal Crux created the rocket launcher Gjallarhorn out of the armor of the defeated Guardians.

After the battle was decided and the City saved, the Crucible was started, allowing Guardians to fight other Guardians, including to the death, to make them better fighters. Some Warlocks became Thanatonauts, exploring the vision that come to them when dead.

Eris felt a sense of hope again then, after such a hard fought win but when Osiris, another Warlock present at her birth as a Guardian, was exiled like Toland, she felt continued sadness.

When Dredgen Yor became corrupted by Darkness, the first Guardian to turn, it was another Guardian named Shin Malphur who took up the hand cannon called The Last Word and he killed Yor at Dwindler’s Ridge.

Eriana-3 had grown steadily more upset since the battle where so many Guardians died, including her friend Wei Ning, who was killed by Crota himself. Eris had been meeting her once a week at the Bannerfall tree to talk about the Guardians and their missions.

Eris got there early and stood by the rail near the red leafed tree. The mark of the New Monarchy still decorated some of the walls and the tree was twisted just like the tree near Banshee’s area at the Tower Plaza.

She looked out over the City as she had when she was still young and she wondered how the Light preserved her mind and feelings when she died and was brought back to life. It was still wonderful and strange.

Good, you’re already here,” Eriana’s mechanical voice said from behind her. “I need to talk to you.”

Eris turned and leaned against the railing as Eriana-3 reached her. “Is everything alright?” Eris asked with concern.

Sure,” the Exo answered. “As long as you don’t mind that we’re under constant threat, we’ve been banned from the Moon, we can’t reach Clovis Bray on Mars, we can’t reach the ruins on Venus. This list of what we can’t do goes on and on!”

We may have won at Twilight Gap,” the Warlock continued, her hands showing manic expressions. “But our relationship with the Reef isn’t secure and we barely protected the City. We need a real win!”

I agree with you Eriana,” Eris said seriously. “You sound like you have an idea.”

I want you to go find Toland,” Eriana-3 declared. Eris’s head whipped around to look at her.

Why?” Eris asked. “He’s not allowed to come back.”

Because he knows more about the Hive than anyone else,” Eriana-3 stated. “We’re going to need him.”

Need him?” Eris repeated. “What for?”

“The Vanguard has started a new pattern of attack,” the Exo explained with determination in her tone. “Small Fireteams of three and six to do strikes and raids. Our major attack against the Hive failed but smaller teams can accomplish much.”

“The Vanguard wants Toland back?” Eris assumed.

“No, quite the opposite,” Eriana-3 shook her head. “I want to form our own Fireteam, return to Luna and kill that bastard Crota once and for all.”

“You want to take on the leader of the Hive?” Eris asked with surprise. “Toland does know more than anyone else but he’s become…different. Odd even.”

“He knows more than anyone else about the Hive,” Eriana-3 reminded her. “And I think you know where he is. You’ve stayed in touch, haven’t you?”

Eris couldn’t pretend she hadn’t. “He’s on the Moon,” she agreed. “Where else would he be?”

“Then go see him,” Eriana-3 demanded. “And tell him we’re forming a Fireteam to strike.”

“Who else have you convinced to come?” Eris asked with interest.

Eriana-3 gave her the information and they agreed to meet once Toland agreed to join them. Eris left without really knowing how she felt about the plan. If they could take down the leader of the Hive, it could make a difference. It could renew the spirit of the Guardians.

The Guardian’s major losses in the Great Disaster had destroyed moral among the Vanguard and with two Warlock leaders exiled had created a new feeling of failure. Eris wanted to help bring back the feeling of success to the Last City.

She made her way to the Hanger and approached Amanda Holliday, the Shipwright of the Guardians. She was an attractive woman with unruly blonde hair and her left shoulder was tattooed black with concentric rings that grew thinner as they ran down her arm.

“Cheers Eris,” she called when she saw the Hunter approach. “Headed out?”

“Yes, I need my ship for a while,” Eris confirmed.

“Where are you headed?” Amanda asked cheerfully. When Eris didn’t respond right away she cocked one eyebrow and folded her arms. “What are you up to Guardian?”

“Going to see an old friend,” Eris responded honestly.

“Whenever Cayde-6 doesn’t want to tell me where he’s going,” Amanda started to say, “Which is often mind you, we write down test flight in the log. I’ll do the same for you but don’t get me in trouble.”

“I won’t Amanda,” Eris promised.

Soon her ship was in dock and she transmitted herself aboard with Hawk, her Ghost. “Do we know where he is now?” she asked the floating machine.

“He’s at First Light,” Hawk answered. “I’ll take us there now.”

Eris knew the place, right at the edge of where the sun illuminated the Lunar surface during its almost month long days. It was in a low part of the Ocean of Storms and was an extensive Moon base with the broken accelerator overhead.

There were multiple domed buildings, the classic Lunar base structure along with the A shaped Lunar Light buildings. As Eris passed over the site she saw only one heat signature in one of the buildings. She also recognized the covering Guardians used to hide their ships from overhead view.

“Tell him we’re here Hawk,” she told her Ghost. As she landed, Toland emerged from his dome and quickly unfolded another cover to hide her own ship.

“Fallen patrols fly past here often,” he told her. “Cover this ship and let’s get back inside.”

Once they were back inside the dome, where Toland had clearly barricaded the building against any attack, he turned on the cooling machines that would hide his heat signature from any other passing ships.

“I’m glad to see you child,” Toland said as he started heating tea. “Not that you’re a child anymore.”

“I’m glad to see you as well, my friend,” Eris said sincerely.

“Probably the only friend I have left!” Toland chuckled sadly. “I know what they call me now.”

“I’m not your only friend Toland,” the Hunter corrected him. “Eriana sent me to find you.”

“And why would she want you to find me?” the Warlock asked curiously.

“She wants to form a Fireteam to hunt down Crota,” Eris told the old man. “We need your expertise.”

Toland poured the tea in two small cups for Eris and himself without comment. She knew him well enough to know he’d think carefully first and speak when he was ready. He sipped his tea slowly, and she enjoyed her own while she waited.

“I’m not really much of a warrior Eris,” he finally said. “I’m sure there are better fighters to bring.”

“She wants to bring some of the best,” Eris agreed. “And ones she trusts – including you. But we need your knowledge more. How else would we survive?”

“Who else does she want?” Toland wondered.

“The Titan Vell Tarlowe,” Eris started with.

“A fine warrior,” Toland said. “One of the first to join the Pilgrim Guard, the first Titan Order. Well known for his strength and courage as he helped refugees get to the city.”

“Omar Agah and Sai Mota,” Eris continued.

“Excellent Hunters!” Toland knew. “So a Titan, three Hunters, Eriana-3 and myself as the Warlocks? Interesting team. Mostly stealth with one heavy hitter.”

“Will you join us?” Eris asked plainly.

“The Hive is…well, they are unlike even we Guardians,” Toland said slowly. “They aren’t alive, not like humanity and not like ourselves, with the Traveler’s Light.”

“What are they then?” Eris questioned.

“I believe they come from or passed through another realm,” Toland said thoughtfully. “I think they are powered by the Darkness itself. I think the Darkness created the Hive in an attempt to create something like life but it doesn’t understand what life is. An unintentional mockery of life.”

“The Vanguard won’t allow anyone to go here, to the Moon,” Eris reminded him. “But if Eriana means to go, we’ll need your insight. And I’m sure your studies will continue during the mission.”

“Yes, there are plenty of reasons to enter the tunnels,” Toland had to admit. “Alright Eris, tell Eriana I’ll come. Meet me here in a week.”

Part 5 – Descent –

One week later, the Guardians had come up with false reasons to leave the City and left separately without rousing suspicion. They returned to the Moon, to the First Light base and gathered their equipment as they discussed their plans.

They checked their various guns and ammo sythns that would reload any weapon they used. All the excess weapons not carried would be held in a small pocket dimension accessed by their Ghosts, allowing them to carry many different weapons.

Toland took Eris aside while the others prepared and showed her a gun he had created. “I call it Bad Juju,” he declared.

It was an exotic pulse rifle that was dark blue and black with a small bird skull attached to the barrel. It had a spine attached to the back and had a small digital counter. “What are its perks?” Eris asked.

“Smooth and soft ballistics,” Toland told her. “Smart drift control, fires well from the hip, has armor piercing rounds, perfect balance and after each kill, it will reload instantly and increase damage as well as build up your super ability. I call it String of Curses.”

“Its amazing,” Eris responded. “Anything else I should know?”

“If you believe your weapon wants to end all existence,” Toland said cryptically. “Then so it will.”

Once the others were satisfied and prepared, Toland led them across the Moonscape on their Sparrows to Archer’s Line. Eris felt deja vu from their first time there as they came over the hill to look at the accelerator line and the half buried buildings.

“There are three entrances to the Hive fortress,” Toland told the others. “One at the Hellmouth, one we call Temple of Crota and one in the center that has the fewest guards.”

Eris used her sniper scope to scan the land around them. The Earth hung in the black sky to their left, a beautiful blue globe with clouds drifting around it. In the distance she could see the rifts in the Moon’s surface where the Hive had destroyed Luna.

Just as she had seen the last time she was there, Fallen occupied the area. She told the others what she saw as she ducked back down behind the hill. “We just need to cross the valley here, then go through the domed building on the opposite hill,” Toland told the others.

“And what defenses are there?” Sai asked.

“Two Hallowed Knights,” Toland warned. “Stronger than the Knights you’ve seen before.”

“We can take ’em!” Vell said loudly. The others turned to look at him but his helmet made it impossible to see his face. Like many Titans, he was ready to charge in shooting.

“Let’s use the Fallen against the Hive, at least here on the surface,” Omar suggested. “We’ll take out a couple Dregs, leave them near the Knights, and kill whoever survives.”

“That’s a good plan,” Eriana-3 decided. “Eris, go clear the way and keep watch. Toland can go with you and the rest of us will get the Dregs and leave a trail.”

Eris looked through her sniper scope again, a gun named the Final Boss. Each bullet would have the added damage of void energy that would be most effective against any void shield the enemy might use.

Through her site she saw a Vandal and a Shank moving around on top of a bunker with ramps on either side. Eris moved to the right along the edge of the hill until she could see past the structure to the dome beyond.

Dregs moved near the only entrance to the dome but didn’t walk out into the road. She saw Eriana-3 lead the others away to the left towards the accelerator base.

“Want to help me clear the Fallen?” Eris asked Toland.

“Having studied the Hive,” Toland said sadly, “I think we should work with the Fallen, like Queen Mara Sov has started to do.”

“I agree with you Toland,” Eris said surely. “But right now we have this mission.”

Toland nodded and indicated to proceed. Eris aimed the sniper once again and the Vandal’s head vanished with a spark. The Shank spun around to find the shooter but exploded with her second shot.

“Follow me in sixty seconds,” she advised as she disappeared.

Her ability to be invisible wouldn’t last long but it would get her close to the building. When she reached the top of the hill, she leaped into the air and at the peak of her height, she activated her Hunter ability to boost her again so she sailed up to the top of the dome and landed soundlessly on the roof.

She quickly ran across, jumped down and went inside through the open rear wall. She immediately saw the Dregs hiding inside, facing the front doorway. She materialized her hand cannon, the Chance, a gun given to her by the Future War Cult, and blasted the remaining Fallen.

She met Toland in the doorway as he ran up the hill. They explored the inside of the building, its roof made of interlocking triangles in small domes that made one large dome with multiple lumps.

The front doorway was small, only allowing one person at a time but the break in the rear wall was large enough to let a couple Sparrows through. Inside was a few old machines from the Golden Age but the left side had a large pile of Moon dust that almost went to the roof.

Using the hill, the two Guardians could reach an upper shelf that went most of the way around the building. From up there, hidden in the shadows, they could see the two Knights at the base of the slope outside.

There was a pit to one side of the track that went from the broken wall to halfway down the steep hill. At the bottom were a few small barriers about four feet high that seemed like calcified chitin or bone and would be good for defending the entrance to the Hive’s fortress.

Moving around in front of the entrance, a tall entryway with a sickly green rune carved above, were two Knights. Knights were strong and could move quickly despite their size.

They usually used a gun the Guardians called boomers but they also had the ability to create a shield. It manifested as a stone wall with fire around the edges. It remained hanging in the sir before them but it was possible to get around them and attack from the side or from behind.

“This is a good vantage for us,” Eris told Toland. He was entirely focused on the rune above the doorway. “What does it mean?”

“I am here, in this world,” Toland said in an odd voice. “In your world. Here to stay, here to conquer. My walls have always been here, and will always be here. There is nothing you can do.”

“Toland?” Eris asked. “What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure,” Toland admitted. “Sometimes I just get a sense of things, like a whisper of intuition. But sometimes I get nothing. It could be Crota’s sign, or the sign of the fortress. I’m not sure.”

“I’ll go make sure the others are ok and lead them here,” Eris said a moment later. She changed her gun to a powerful fusion rifle that would disintegrate anything she hit and hopped down to the ground.

She reached the doorway and quickly saw the evidence that one of the Hunters was coming up the road with his invisibility activated. Some Vandals could appear invisible too so all Guardians needed to know the signs. It appeared as a shimmering of the air, almost like heat rising above hot tar.

He was visible by the time he reached her and she stepped aside & pointed up so he’d see where to go. She turned back and saw Vell running up the hill with a Dreg on one shoulder and a Vandal on the other. Behind him was Eriana-3 and Sai, who was also invisible.

They filed through the door and Eriana-3 had Vell take the bodies partway down the hill. The Knights didn’t look up much and just wandered back and forth, almost aimlessly. The Titan tossed the bodies down and they rolled a few feet further.

He ran back up the hill quickly and got into cover on the upper shelf as the Knights noticed the dead Fallen. They moved around them but since they were no threat, they started back down the hill.

A cry sounded from beyond the building, the war cry of a Fallen Captain. The Fallen language was guttural and they often screeched as they fought. The Guardians watched as the first Shanks floated below them and out the far side.

The Shanks registered the bodies and the Knights quickly. They started firing arc bolts that made thin blue lines of electricity through the air. They were followed by Dregs and Vandals who also lined up on the slope and started shooting shock rifles.

The Knights roared and started shooting their boomers. Dregs and Shanks died and exploded as the Captain joined them. He was larger than the rest, his mouth covered with his breathing unit and his four blue eyes gleaming beneath his head gear.

The battle was fierce as the Fallen tried to flank the Hive when their shields manifested. The guns blasted back and forth and the Captain engaged with his shock rifle and swords.

When it was all over, the Knights and most of the Fallen were dead. The Captain was wounded and his upper shoulders sagged as the last Vandal tried to support him to go back up the hill. He looked up in time to see the red light of Sai’s sniper rifle and his last sound was dark laughter just before he died.

“Good work Sai,” Eriana-3 praised the Hunter. “Let’s get inside. Sai and Eris, lead the way, Vell follow them in case they need your power or defense and the rest of us will follow you three. Omar, keep watch behind us.”

The Guardians jumped down and got into formation. Once inside the arch, Eris saw that floors were tiled with six sided tiles but already half covered in lunar dust.

The entryway led right to a tunnel that had both the chitin walls and the rock of the inner Moon. Somehow it appeared as though the two different formations had been melded together for all time. The path spiraled down through the stone. On the ground on one side was a iron lamp glowing with a pale yellow light.

As they walked down the spiral ramp, Eris saw crystals that glowed with a blue light that illuminated the path and part of the walls but it was dark now that they were out of the sunlight of the surface.

Sai pointed out the weird growths or cocoons on the outer walls. Eris noticed other strange growths on the ground that looked like piles of barnacles. She tried to nudge it with her boot and found it was stiff but moved a little.

Sai gave her a sharp nudge to keep her eyes forward for danger. Eris cleared her mind of distraction and the reached the bottom of the spiral ramp where it led into a rocky tunnel. There was a pool at the bottom of stagnant water.

Sai took point and went slowly through the cramped tunnel, followed by Eris but when Sai Mota reached the other end, she quickly turned back. “Acolytes!” she said in an urgent whisper. “I think I saw a Knight too.”

Eris moved to the edge of the tunnel and looked beyond. The tiled floor extended further then curved around to a set of steps that led down and to the right past pillars that went to the stony ceiling.

The lower level went far out over a black pit and continued to the left into even larger chambers. She could see a stone in the floor with Acolytes near, a Knight and past them a small area with stones and pillars in a circle.

She couldn’t see much further than that but she did see a Wizard float past the pillars within the circle of stones. “There’s a lot of Hive in there,” she told the others as they gathered together. “Acolytes, a Knight and a Wizard that I can see.”

“Let me look,” Eriana-3 said as she moved past the others. Vell followed and took a look at well. They returned together with a plan.

Once decided and agreed upon, the Guardians went into action. The Hunters crouched down at the edge of the tunnel and went invisible. The Warlocks and Vell waited for their shimmering shapes to run off.

The Hunters ran to the edge of the path and leaped into the larger chamber, using their anti gravity jumps to propel them further in and landing at specificly chosen areas.

Vell, Eriana-3 and Toland followed with the Titan in the middle and the warlocks to either side. Acolytes screeched, the Knight roared and the chaos of battle began.

Vell threw a magnetic grenade at the closest Acolyte. It screamed and tried to crouch down just before it exploded in purple light. Toland threw a solar grenade that made a ball of fire when it killed another Acolyte. Eriana’s grenade created a vortex of void energy that seemed to swallow another Hive creature.

As the remaining Acolytes and the Knight turned to face the Guardians who had attacked, the Hunters appeared and made their own attacks. Omar threw an incendiary grenade that caught an Acolyte on fire and burned it to ash in seconds.

Sai Mota and Eris Morn both used flux grenades that attached to their target; the Hive Knight, even before it realized they had appeared behind it. They exploded and although the Knight was badly wounded, it started to glow a deep red as it was enraged.

Omar activated his super ability as it charged and solar energy surrounded his body and his hand cannon. He aimed quickly and fired a bullet made more powerful with solar energy.

The Knight exploded into ash and Omar used the next two solar bullets to quickly destroy the last two Acolytes. Another shriek sounded as the Wizard flew into view and began firing its own powerful attacks that blasted the ground as it got closer to the exposed Hunters.

“To me Guardians!” Vell Tarlowe roared. The Hunters raced towards him as he expanded his arms over his head and created a dome shaped shield of void energy that allowed the Guardians to enter but blocked the attacks of the Wizard and the gathering Acolytes from beyond the circle.

Toland activated his own super ability, a swirling flame that surrounded his body and empowered the others to use their own abilities that would also give him greater defense.

Eriana-3 stepped out of the void dome and pulled her right arm back as her own void power built within her. She punched the air and a huge ball of void energy blasted free from her and entirely destroyed several Acolytes.

The Wizard survived and still more Acolytes were coming but the other two Hunters had their own super abilities. They would be Bladedancers instead of Gunslingers like Omar and when they powered their blades, their whole bodies were filled with arc electricity.

They leaped free of the protective dome and practically flew through the air, as if sparking from one target to the next until the two of them attacked the Wizard at the same time and utterly burned it away as it screamed in pain and surprise.

As their power drained away for the moment, the Guardians saw they had killed all the enemies they could see. “Well done my friends!” Eriana-3 said cheerfully. “We will find Crota and send him to whatever Hell these Hive come from!”

“Let’s not get carried away,” Toland warned quickly. “Hunters, go see what’s beyond while I inspect this ritual area.”

Toland moved over the small wall that separated the open area from the circular location. Eris, followed by the other two Hunters, moved quickly to see past the diminutive area. Above the stones a chandelier hung with glowing yellow crystals.

There were two other large spaces, one straight past the circle of stones and one off to the left. Beyond was a thin, tiled bridge, that connected the first chamber to a second one, filled with more stones and short chitin barriers but a passageway could be seen on the far side.

To the left, the floor divided, one side going right and the other left to reach around another deep, dark pit. They reconnected and widened into two more levels that raised up to a massive open chamber with huge tubes and pipes that glowed with some unknown power as they ran down the circular tunnel that was not carved out of rock but built with the strange building materials of the Hive.

“Its almost crystalline,” Toland remarked about the walls and pillars. “Like chitin, grown and then calcified. They seem too…primitive…to construct those tubes and the complicated doorway.”

“We need to see what those tubes power,” Eriana-3 said. “We may be here to kill Crota but gathering intel is just as important. Eris and Sai, scout ahead, Omar guard the rear.”

Eris and Sai started forward, one going left and the other right on the divided path. The ground went up in a pair of wide, expansive platforms with steps leading to the circular opening.

Past the entryway was a circular tunnel surrounded by a yellow glow. A pulsing white light traveled down the tunnel, entirely constructed by some strange metal material. It curved more than once, then divided with a closed door to the right and continued down the left.

To the left, the tubes and lights led on and eventually opened out to a vast chamber. There was a gap between the exit of the tunnel and the interior where a huge globe revolved inside some structure with spidery arms that touched down on it repeatedly.

“What the hell is that?” Omar asked when the others reached the Hunters. They turned to Toland who stood still and gazed at the objects.

Life is pain, pain is power & power is life,” Toland said suddenly. “There’s truth in the edge of Light, and beneath that truth, a deeper truth, hidden from all but a few. That truth is this – monsters need not fear the night. Do not hunt the monster. Become the monster.”

“Ghost?” Eriana-3 said. “What can you tell us?”

“I need to get closer,” her Ghost answered.

The floor went to the right, where it was littered with glowing, cracked pillars and divided into a lower level and an upper shelf. Eris pointed out the Acolytes there and further in.

“We’ll have to fight through them to get there,” she warned.

“We need to know what that machine is,” Eriana-3 said clearly.

They began to move, with Eris and Sai heading to the upper shelf where they killed the pair of Acolytes there and set up with sniper rifles to cover the others.

Acolytes darted behind the pillars as they realized they were under attack. The Guardians fired on them and slowly advanced. Halfway across the first section a loud roar sounded from further ahead.

Eris moved her sniper scope to the far end of the tunnel and was alarmed when she saw a tall, robust creature advancing. Its skin was pale and had armored legs and shoulders like many of the Hive but it was larger than even the Knights.

Its head was almost too big, with a transparent view of its brain that pulsed as it roared. It was the Ogre Toland had described and it moved slowly until it somehow saw one of the Guardians even without eyes and then charged.

Dark purple void blasts erupted from its head, flying so fast they seemed like one constant line of power. The first blasts hit Vell and he staggered back as Eris and Sai began shooting.

They both hit the creature in the head, above the slavering jaws and it rocked backwards. A red haze glowed around it as it became enraged and it ran down the vast tunnel.

Vell powered his Striker super ability and ran forward, then leaped high into the air with arc electricity crackling around his fists. He slammed them on the ground when he landed, just a few feet away from a knot of Acolytes and the rampaging Ogre.

Arc energy blasted outward from his landing and disintegrated all the Hive monsters within a three meter circle around him. By the time he stood again, the Ogre and Acolytes were dust.

Eris and Sai joined the others in two long jumps and they moved as a group around the curve that brought them finally into the main chamber with the glowing globe and its spindly machine arms that tapped it repeatedly.

It was in the center of the chamber and beneath it was a construction that surrounded what appeared to be a power source, a complicated machine the equal of anything humanity had built. The Hive were not as primitive as they might have seemed.

All around the globe and its power source were black squares spaced a few meters apart. Outside of them Acolytes were on their knees praying or communing with the globe.

A huge door, standing well over a hundred feet tall, was closed against the far wall, opposite the structure that would allow the Guardians to approach the machine’s power source.

“I need to be near that machine,” Eriana’s Ghost informed them.

“There’s only a handful of Acolytes here,” Sai said confidently. “Let’s clear them and get your Ghost where it needs to go.”

The Guardians started shooting and the Acolytes tried to react in time but it was a brief battle. When it was over, the Guardians moved around the path that would take them into the center, beneath the globe. Eriana-3 watched her Ghost hover around the machine.

“This is the Shrine of Oryx,” the Ghost reported. Toland’s Ghost joined the other one to take the same information.

“That name again!” Toland exclaimed. “Is it a king or a God?”

“The Shrine is communing with something,” the Ghost continued. “Far beyond our system, something powerful. Wait! There’s an alarm, something guards this Shrine. Something called Sardok, the Eye of Oryx!”

A grating sound rumbled throughout the chamber and Eris looked to the massive door in time to see it opening. “There’s something coming!” she cried, forcing the others to look. “Something big!”

The creature that emerged was several times larger than the Guardians. It appeared to be a Knight by its bony armor on its legs and shoulders and it bony helm where its three green eyes set in an triangle gleamed from its small face.

It glowed a bright green from its eyes, chest and stomach. In its right hand was a massive gun, possibly a giant boomer. Eris looked to Eriana-3 for her command but the others seemed stunned.

“We can’t face this and Crota,” she said urgently. “We need to run! It can’t follow us down the conduit!”

“She’s right,” Toland said even as he watched the giant striding towards them. “We need to run!”

Eris switched weapons so she had her rocket launcher, Radegast’s Fury, a weapon forged by the Lords of the Iron Banner. “I’ll cover you and follow invisibly. Go!”

She looked through the targeting site and aimed at the ultra Knight’s chest just as it aimed at them and she fired a rocket that sailed through the air trailing smoke. It exploded when it hit and rocked the creature back. She quickly reloaded.

The Guardians bolted out from under the machine as Eris fired again. They ran out and across the open area while Eris fired a third rocket at the monster’s head. It roared and tried to step sideways but wasn’t quick enough.

Eris glanced after her Fireteam again and saw them using their anti gravity jumps to leap away towards the only exit. Eris opened the rocket launcher and inserted another rocket but the Knight was already shooting at her.

She started backing up as she aimed and fired without really choosing a target. The view through her weapon’s site was washed away in an explosion from the Knight’s attack but she avoided taking any damage.

She turned and ran through the tunnel to the upper rear of the machine where the Hive creature couldn’t see her. She crouched and switched weapons to a fusion rifle, went invisible and ran.

The Knight was stomping towards her last location as she ran and jumped away to follow her companions. She found them just inside the conduit tunnel waiting for her. “By the Light!” Omar exclaimed. “What in all the Hells was that thing?”

“Sardok, the Eye of Oryx,” Toland repeated the name and title his Ghost had given. “My Ghost has learned quite a bit from the Shrine. This tunnel for instance is called the Hall of Wisdom.”

“Where do we go next?” Vell asked, irritated to have been made to run instead of standing to fight.

“We continue past the stones and through the next doorway,” Eriana-3 said. “Hunters, lead the way.”

As they walked back through the other areas, Vell Tarlowe bent down and picked something up. “What do you want that loin cloth for?” Eriana-3 joked as she walked with him.

It’s not an Acolyte’s loin cloth, it’s the spoils of war,” Vell said as it tucked it in with his Titan mark.

Eris and Sai traveled down the tunnel until they had reached the end. The chamber beyond was still empty and they saw the area they had come to first was also clear.

They turned left and approached the skinny bridge that connected the far side to the side they had already crossed. They had only moved a few feet across when Sai spotted an object in the air high above the opposite side.

“What is that?” she asked as she extended her arm across Eris’s chest to prevent her from continuing.

The object was bigger than a human and shaped like a diamond with a top half and bottom half. Eris switched to her sniper rifle and took a closer look. “Its not attached to anything,” she said quietly. “I don’t know what it is. Do you think its dangerous?”

The others joined them and looked at the object themselves. Vell, brave and righteous, took a few more steps forward. A loud hum sounded and the two halves broke apart and moved away from each other to reveal a swirling purple ball.

“Watch out!” Omar warned as they all selected various guns.

The object, that could be alive or could be a weird otherworldly machine, fired a circle of void blasts at the group. They all used their guns and dodged while firing and eventually the strange object exploded.

Instead of turning to ash like most Hive creatures, the object blew apart, leaving excess void energy that started floating erratically towards the Guardians. They started moving back but the purple stars tracked them even as they moved away.

They had to move back several meters before the energy finally dissipated. “What was that?” Vell asked. “Is there no end to these creatures?”

“It is their fortress Vell,” Toland reminded the Titan. Vell grunted and shrugged his wide shoulders. “I think they are called Shriekers.”

“Let’s get into that next tunnel,” Eriana-3 commanded, pointing to the far side of the bridge and the small opening just behind one of the small chitin barriers.

Eris and Sai moved first and the others got into position behind them but once again, just as they started to cross the bridge a loud sound echoed throughout the cavern. Eris saw a strange light high above them and then saw a weird tear in the air.

A ship started through the tear, a ship that had been called a Hive Tomb Ship by the Vanguard. It flew slowly within a very confined space as it passed out of one tear in space and into another. As it crossed over, it teleported Hive creatures down to the far side of the bridge.

Thralls streamed towards the Guardians as Acolytes took cover at certain locations and started shooting their shredders. Vell pushed the two Hunters back and aimed his large machine gun, the BTRD 345, at the Thrall.

“I’ll take care of these vermin!” he shouted. His gun rattled and bullets tore through the charging, screaming Thralls and they burst into ashes.

The others used auto rifles and scout rifles to mow down or pin point head shots. They killed the Acolytes and the Thrall in just a few minutes and Eris saw the others gaining continued confidence in their ability.

“Let’s go before another ship ‘ports in!” Eriana-3 said quickly. Eris and Sai ran across the bridge with the others behind them. The tunnel beyond was carved out of the Lunar rock with the small blue crystals.

“How do they fly their ships inside such enclosed spaces?” Sai wondered as they moved forward.

“It seems they have technology that even surpasses our own,” Toland responded.

There was one closed door blocked by rubble but the rest of the tunnel curved up over a small hill and brought them to another place where the could see the inside of the Hellmouth.

The chamber was massive, with shelves and pillars to the right with additional closed doors and the wide open Hellmouth to the left. Further forward was even more space, all carved out of the inner Moon and built with the weird materials of the Hive.

Tomb Ships appeared from out in the Hellmouth and floated inward and more Hive dropped down from above. “They fly inside caverns!” Omar said with wonder.

“Toland says they come from another dimension,” Eris offered. “But I don’t know how they travel between them. It must be similar to how we store our weapons.”

The others looked to Toland again as he watched closely. “There are other worlds we know of but there is also other dimensions like the ones we’ve created,” Toland said carefully. “Just as we use them to store a dozen weapons when we go on a mission, I think the Hive can keep whole fleets of ships. In fact, I think they have whole worlds within them.”

“We can’t stay here,” Eriana-3 reminded him. “There’s a passage there, to the left. Perhaps that leads further down.”

Eris looked down her scope quickly before adding, “Two more Knights guarding the way.”

“Let’s go, better to fight two Knights than another pack of Acolytes, Knights and Wizards!” Sai decided.

Eris followed the woman as she darted from behind cover across the chamber towards the lip of the Hellmouth. They were several hundred feet below the surface of the Moon but she could see the shattered space station still in orbit above the massive hole that continued ever deeper.

“Knives,” Sai said roughly as she ran. Eris saw her use her Bladedancer ability as she ran. Eris used the Light’s mental trigger to use her own ability and her body felt energized and powerful as she ran and took her dagger out from her sheath.

It took several attacks by the two Hunters but they destroyed the two Hallowed Knights quickly. The assault was quiet without the roar of gunfire and the whole Fireteam dashed under the arched beams at the edge of the Hellmouth and ran into another rocky tunnel.

The path led them to another small doorway that was open. Beyond the door was the biggest cavern they’d seen so far, the far side of it vast with a bright light illuminating the horrific scene below the doorway.

The side of the cavern they were on was a wide expanse of floor with high upper platforms on either side with a mid-level platform above the wide bottom and below the upper ones.

Wizards that were very different from anything they’d seen before, hovered over the upper platforms. They had triangular helmets that covered their alien faces. Their sibilant chanting filled the cavern and made Eris’s teeth ache.

Toland pushed through the others to see the crowded throngs of Thralls on the lower floor. They filled the space, milling around for a few hundred feet to the end of the space where Knights guarded a second, lower shelf at the far end.

“Ghost,” Toland said quietly. “What is this place called?”

“The Summoning Pits,” the Ghost related.

“What are we witnessing Toland?” Eriana-3 asked with a certain fear in her mechanical voice.

“I think they use this dimension’s rules for their own purpose,” Toland answered. “Matter, energy, fundamental laws of the universe, can’t be broken but perhaps they can be adjusted, reworked, reformed.”

“What is he babbling about?” Vell asked impatiently. “Crota isn’t here, let’s move on!”

“I think they are using the Thrall,” Toland continued without noticing the Titan’s words. “I think they will exchange their mass, their strange life forces, their energy – to bring something else here, some monstrosity.”

His eyes seemed to roll back a little as he began to relate what he could feel. “Power, immense power,” he mumbled. “Transformative, a melding of life forces into a single being. Like the Deathsong, there is a Lifesong.”

“Vell’s right,” Omar said nervously. “We can’t kill all of them here and whatever they are summoning is going to be another horror. These tunnels are filled with evil but if we can cut off the head, maybe the rest will die. Or at least abandon plans for the Earth.”

When a God’s will is met with force, its might will be unleashed in the form of those raging beasts we call the Ogre,” Toland murmured more. “Monsters bred of pain, tormented by the Light, nothing but hatred for all who bring its suffering forth.”

“And how do you know this?” Eris asked quietly, nervous about his answer.

“It was told to me,” the older man answer simply.

“By the Speaker?” Eris said, knowing already that wasn’t right.

“By the Darkness itself.”

“Toland, we have to try somewhere else,” Eriana-3 said with command back in her voice. “Leave the Wizards to whatever terrible plot they plan.”

Eris physically turned the Warlock away but it was clear he was thinking about the possibilities. Once he was moving, he regained his focus and Eris joined Sai at the head of the Fireteam.

When they reached the Hellmouth again, Eriana-3 directed them along the lip instead of going back into the densely populated inner halls. They saw coffin shaped floating objects filled with rectangular dark purple blocks and more scattered stones.

Tomb ships dropped Acolytes and Knights in their path but they fought their way through. There was a larger Knight that Toland’s Ghost called Kranox the Graven.

“What kind of Knight is he?” Omar asked absently as they watched the creature patrol the area.

“They are the heralds of our destroyer. Ushers of this coming storm,” Toland said in a voice that sounded distant.

“They’re more than Knights,” Vell said, his perception built on having faced hundreds of opponents.

“They look like Knights,” Eriana-3 commented.

“That’s like calling you a tin can,” Vell said with a chuckle.

Eriana-3 turned on him quickly and her voice sounded angry. “Excuse me?”

Vell held up both hands and waved her down. “I’m saying calling them Knights is an understatement!”

“What are they then?” Omar asked, hoping to get back to topic.

“World carvers,” Toland said with a dark tone.

“Meaning?” Omar said with a little frustration.

“Those swords are neither bone nor steel,” Toland said without turning to face the others. “There’s a dark purpose to their edge.”

“Darker than death?” Eriana-3 asked, curious again.

“Death is peace compared to the shadows,” Toland offered cryptically.

“Those Blades cut down more Guardians than I can count,” Omar reminded them.

“Hundreds,” Vell replied.

Eriana-3 crossed her arms angrily. “Thousands,” she said. “The Vanguard should’ve known better.”

“I tried to warn them,” Toland said sadly, no longer watching the Knight.

“But we’re prepared?” Omar asked the group seriously.

“I am!” Vell said passionately.

“Not exactly the question,” Omar retorted.

“I have a feeling Light won’t be enough,” Eris added, her voice small and quiet.

“Then we’ll take their swords from their ashes, and cut them down one-by-one, blade by blade,” Eriana-3 announced like an oath.

“You would wield a weapon of the night?” Eris asked her, concerned again for the Exo’s growing animosity.

“For her?” Eriana-3 said without thinking. Eris knew she meant Wei Ning. “Them? I will butcher any who stand in my way with even the darkest blade.”

“Pray it doesn’t come to that,” Eris said hopefully.

Vell chuckled again before speaking, “To cleave our enemies with their own tools of destruction? We should be so lucky.”

“You’ve got a strange view on luck,” Omar said with a wry grin.

“When you’ve got your hand around the hilt and their ash under your boot, you might change your tune, Hunter,” Toland said with his own grin.

At the end of the Hellmouth, opposite the Summoning Pits, they raced into another tunnel with fallen lamps, tiled floors and glowing yellow doors. Continuing past closed doors, they ran into another rocky tunnel that led to area with a white lamp and arched passageways.

Beyond them was a set of steps to another open door where a Knight stood guard. They cautiously walked beneath the arches but saw Thrall coming down the steps towards them.

Four Thrall were racing towards them, screaming madly but behind them another Thrall creature stumbled after them with a glowing green-blue radiance from their eyeless heads and backs.

“I’ll take this bunch too!” Vell said cheerfully. He used his machine gun again but waited until the Thrall were close despite the growing numbers of them coming out of a door at the top of the stairs.

He started shooting when the first group had almost reached him, his gun blowing them apart. When the bullets hit the glowing Thrall, it exploded violently, blasting Vell back off his feet.

The next group of Thrall were almost on him when the others started shooting them. “Hit the glowing ones first!” Eriana-3 shouted. “Eris, take out that Knight, I want to see what’s up there.”

The other Hunters used scout rifles to pick off the exploding Thrall and their explosions often killed all other Thrall near them. Eris used her sniper rifle from behind them and killed the Knight.

When the Thrall were all dead, the Guardians climbed the steps and went through the open upper doorway. Inside was a small chamber with a half circle platform on the near side, a pool of water in the center and another half circle area on the far side.

There was a pillar there, wide at the base and thinner above with a strange machine attached to it. Acolytes were near it but none of the Guardians could tell what they were doing.

The pillar and the wall behind it were golden but still the weird chitin building material. “What’s this place?” Eriana-3 asked her Ghost.

“They call it the World’s Grave,” the Ghost reported. “Its their library, their records.”

“We need to take a look,” Toland said, his eyes fervent and a little wild.

“Not long,” Eriana-3 said, her hand firm on Toland’s shoulder. “Just a few minutes.”

Toland nodded and for the first time, leveled his fusion rifle at the Acolytes and started shooting. The gun hummed as the charge built up, then a beam of solar energy shot across the room and disintegrated the first Acolyte.

Eris had never seen Toland seem so eager to kill but he wiped out of the opposition quickly and then jumped across the pool and landed in front of the machine.

His Ghost hovered near the machine as its points expanded around its blue energy core and a beam of blue light shined on the machine. “They are the Hive, impossibly ancient,” the Ghost said. “They originally crashed into a gas planet called Fundament where their lives rarely exceeded ten years.”

“Fundament was almost inhospitable, its ocean was toxic, the skies always stormy with corrosive, acidic rain with lightening that could vaporize anything. Living clouds called Stormjoys preyed on the populace and the proto-Hive warred against each other.”

“Their king was thought to be mad, and his adviser invited another kingdom to take the Osmium throne but the king’s three daughters – Xi Ro, Sathona and Aurash – spoke to their father’s dead worm who invited them into the ocean depths to find power.”

“Toland, this is all very interesting, but we need to keep moving,” Eriana-3 decided. “The Ghost has the information. We’ll review it later.”

Toland turned to face her and looked scattered. “We can know their history!” he said excitedly. “We can learn everything about them. The more we know, the better we can fight!”

“Ask your Ghost what their plans are for Earth,” Eris interjected.

“They have brought their Seeders here,” the Ghost said. “Others will be dropped into the Earth and they will carve out a kingdom there, just as they have on millions of other planets. They will bring the Darkness here.”

“How do we stop them?” Eriana-3 asked the Ghost.

“The plan you have could have far reaching consequences,” the Ghost replied. “The Hive challenge each other as often as they challenge others. If you can disrupt their plans, perhaps you can prevent them from taking the Earth. For a time at least.”

“Toland, we need to find Crota and kill him,” the Exo Guardian said firmly. “We need to keep going.”

Toland acquiesced and they continued moving forward. They left the World’s Grave, went back down the stairs and turned left to see where the path would take them.

The next chamber had a rock littered floor with high platforms on either side with steps up the middle. A Wizard and Knights were there and fought hard to keep the Guardians from advancing but they killed them and moved on.

The walls were chitin with glowing blue crystals and as they walked, they exited the chamber and found themselves walking on a path along an inner wall. On the left side was a massive cavern with only Lunar pillars and strange light sources.

In the next chamber, Toland’s Ghost told them the object in the middle was one of the Seeders the Hive used. It was shaped like a diamond, similar to the object that fired void blasts at them they named a Shrieker. Wires and tubes hung from it and disappeared into the rock.

After walking through a few more rooms, they found themselves emerging from a ramp that curved and brought them into a final chamber with a lower pit filled with stones and an upper platform that the ramp continued around the middle to reach the other level.

They battled another Ogre, more Acolytes, a Knight and finally a Wizard. When they had defeated them all, they found a door to the Moon’s surface. Eris could see the others were partly relieved to have survived but when she looked at Eriana-3, she could see only frustration in her body language.

The Exo was staring back the way they came, then turned up to look at the Earth that seemed to hang in the sky above them. The moon was dark with the Earth blocking the sunlight but the Lunar ground still looked blue and gray.

“What do you want to do Eriana?” Eris asked softly.

“We need to go back down,” the Warlock said. Her hands were tight fists and her eyes seemed to glow intensely. “We are going back down.”

“Good,” Vell said with a grin. “We haven’t had a true fight yet.” He turned away to go back to the Temple of Crota entrance.

“Not that way,” Eriana-3 said darkly. “We go in through the front door this time. I’m sure word has spread of our infiltration and they will probably guard the tunnels we’ve already been through.”

“Now we’re talking!” Vell said excitedly.

Eriana-3 had Eris and Sai Mota take the lead again as they climbed the hill, crossed through Fallen territory and approached the Hellmouth entrance. Shattered stone and unfinished chitin formed the entrance with half walls and glowing pillars guarding the way.

Acolytes were moving around behind them but the Guardians took them down quickly. Once inside, they found three Knights moving back and forth between three levels of interior floors.

Eriana-3 jumped up and released a powerful void blast that separated into three dark purple energy explosives and destroyed the Knights, blasting their bodies back as they disintegrated.

At the lowest level, an open doorway let them into a long stairway that went down from one level to another for a few hundred feet until it opened with another view of the Hellmouth where the stone had been carved out.

Toland’s Ghost called the location the Gatehouse and they fought another group of Acolytes. On the far side of the open passageway was a tall arched hall and stairs going down with a handful of Thrall moving about at the bottom.

On the ground, along both sides of the hall was Lunar dust and piled bones, a sinister scattering of debris suggesting bodies had been picked clean under the surface.

The next chamber was typical of the Hive’s construction, with tiled floors covered in dust, upper platforms above wide expanses and filled with Acolytes. In the center of the chamber was a pair of thick iron chains that entered through the ceiling and continued on through the floor.

A large door filled up one wall on the right of the entrance and it was chained together with three strange locks. “These are runes,” Toland told them. “Its a lock, almost mystical in nature. Ghost, can you open them?”

“Its a tryptic but yes, I think I can open them,” the Ghost answered. “Give me some time.”

The Ghost shined its beam of light against the first lock and began deciphering the rune system. Doors on the far end opened and screaming Thrall emerged on the upper platforms. They rushed to the edge and leaped off to attack the Guardians.

Two Wizards floated across the air above the Fireteam, firing blasts at them as they dove for cover and returned fire. Acolytes shot their shredders and Vell made his Titan void dome for defense that would give their weapons a blessing of Light to make them more powerful.

“Break those locks Ghost!” Eriana-3 shouted. “All the Ghosts, work together!”

The locks began to open as Knights charged in wielding swords. “We need to go, now!” Omar yelled.

The Guardians used their heavy weapons, machine guns and rocket launchers to stop the Knights from rushing them. They turned and ran into the new tunnel, carved out of the rock.

It led to another chamber with another set of chains going from above to below. On the opposite side of the room was another opening that led them to a totally pitch black tunnel. Their Ghosts provided illumination so they could continue running.

That tunnel opened to another inner vista of the carved out Moon, with iron chains holding chitin platforms in place with a stretched chitin bridge between them and another view of the inner caverns of the moon.

Finally they found themselves back in the huge area near the Hellmouth, the same location where Tomb Ships had ripped through space to drop more Hive soldiers. The Guardians crouched behind the short barriers, watching to see where their enemies were located.

“Where do we go here?” Omar asked the others.

“Down,” Eriana- 3 said simply. “We go to the lowest levels. I vowed to avenge them all, and this curse I will carry to my final death.”

“Let head down that next tunnel, see where it leads,” Toland said. “I have a feeling.”

Eris and Sai led the way, through another glowing doorway. The tunnels continued, sometimes just dug out of the Lunar stone, other times like an old world Gothic cathedral.

There were a various crystalline light sources, sometimes crystals that grew on rocks or hung from thin iron chains. Tunnels had random boulders or stones cut in half with a sheer face that seemed to stand in many different arenas.

They found a cavern filled with the petrified skeletons of massive creatures, their ribs sticking up like building materials. Toland’s Ghost said they were the creatures used to carve the Hive tunnels, some beast brought from other worlds.

Massive iron blocks were stuck in the floor, others hung from the ceiling with chains. The construction must have had some significance but to the Guardians, it just looked ancient, as if it had been there longer than they had known about the Hive.

As they went deeper, they found piles of bones and the weird growths where Thralls could be found on their hands and knees, feeding. They were often so engrossed in the consumption of refuse, the Fireteam could walk right past them.

Toland said they were feeding on the essence of Crota. In another area they found another powerful Knight with another one of the dark swords that looked like a cleaver. The Ghost named him Sardon, Fist of Crota.

So this Sardon is one of these Swarm Princes?” Omar asked.

“In a stretch of the concept, sure,” Toland answered. “He is their lord and master. They are his generals.”

“Sounds like my kind of fight!” Vell said cheerfully.

“What isn’t?” Omar chuckled, trying to keep his spirits high.

“Eris and Eriana said the Blades rose first and slaughtered our brothers and sisters,” Vell reminded the others. “If the one who leads their charge is within reach, I mean to end him – to end them all.”

“We are here for Crota,” Eris said, trying to keep them from being distracted.

“I’m afraid each disciple is Crota,” Toland added.

“Then it must be done,” Vell decided. “Know that I have faith in your Light, as I do in my own.”

“This isn’t about faith,” Eris said firmly, still attempting to keep Vell from fighting every Hive creature they saw.

“It’s about vengeance,” Eriana-3 told them, commanded them.

“It’s about the only thing that matters — victory,” Vell said emphatically. He was itching for a battle, a real battle. “It’s about doing what we must to end this terror.”

“We will face them all, together,” Eris said, putting her hand against his chest plates. “We have no time to fight individual battles.”

“I have no doubt the Fist will welcome your challenge, Titan,” Toland said, his voice somehow calming the bold man. “When we face him, you will lead the charge. Come, Crota’s Temple lies ahead. If we can breach it, I’m sure another fight awaits.”

Part 6 – The Bottom –

The deeper they traveled, the darker the tunnels. They found massive caverns filled with crystals with shimmering images of Hive creatures. Toland’s Ghost said they housed the souls of powerful Hive, keeping them from being killed permanently.

A lower level, completely dark, was filled with core tubes that were fixed into platforms made for them with tubes running into the ceiling. The floor of that chamber, too big to fully explore was filled with large fat worms.

“This is disgusting!” Sai said with horror in her voice.

“We have to keep going,” Eriana-3 told her and the others without a pause. “Just walk through them.”

Eris took the first step, using the toe of her armored boot to nudge the first worms to the side. Her light, glowing from Hawk, who hovered at her shoulder, illuminated their sickly yellow bodies as they moved just like Earth maggots on a corpse.

As she lowered her foot, they shifted away and she saw there was a thick, milky fluid they were eating from. It was sticky and made footing treacherous but she went slowly and pushed the worms away, making a path for the others.

The worms didn’t seem to be bothered by the human figures passing through and wouldn’t move unless Eris and the others moved them. They would slowly reform into a writhing mass behind the Fireteam as they passed.

Even hardened warriors like Sai Mota and Vell Tarlowe were unnerved by the cavern. Their combined lights gave them a view of a couple dozen feet of the cavern around them, filled with movement like the rolling sea.

On either side of what appeared to be the center, the core tubes were in rigid lines just a few feet apart. The center was almost a path of a twenty foot wide area and in the center, they discovered a large stone that stood eight feet high.

It was flat on one side with hanging chains and glowing crystals at the ends. On the flat surface was a carved circle, just a few inches deep with a gold colored design like a sun’s rays around it.

Below the carving was three lines of gold Hive runes. Toland immediately moved to it and his hand traced the runes as he examined them. “What is this Ghost?” he asked.

The others stood around nervously, looking into the dark gloom all around them and the worms slowly regathered near them, covering the ground and even their boots.

“This seems to be a way to contact another location,” Toland’s Ghost informed them. “To contact something called the Taken King’s Horde.”

“The Taken King,” Toland repeated. “Kings, or Gods, the Hive has a series of leaders, Crota must be the leader here but in contact with other Kings elsewhere.”

“Something is happening here!” Omar suddenly shouted.

Eris looked back to see several strange wisps of light like ancient Will O Wisps from faery tales. They were small white lights that spiraled for a few moments and then exploded with concussive force.

A series of spiraling dark energy and white energy swirled around in the space above the floor and a strange howling sound roared as shapes began to form, at each glow, and three shapes appeared.

In four places, encircling the Fireteam, groups of three manifested before them, all of them seemingly colorless, their bodies in black and white but the shades of opposite colors were ever changing.

“Hive!” Eriana-3 called out as the shapes became familiar. “Knights and Acolytes!”

The Acolytes seemed to have one white eye and the Knights immediately roared and produced streams of solar fire that coated the ground, burning the worms, making them pop and sizzle as they burst.

The Acolytes, strange, almost twisted versions of them that seemed to skitter and fade in and out, started shooting but Eris couldn’t tell if they carried weapons or just fired energy from their bodies.

The Guardians tried to avoid the fire coming at them from four directions and their movements through a floor covered in worms was difficult and dangerous. Vell fell to one knee when one leg slid out from under him.

Sai and Eris managed to stay up but Toland fell completely and Eriana-3 slid to his side to pull him out of the growing fire. The worms’ bodies started to whistle before they popped and the Knights teleported when the Guardians shot back.

Eris and Sai managed to shoot several Acolytes as they stood back to back, firing heavy machine guns that sprayed bullets in the dim light from above and the Ghosts that soared over them trying to shine more light down.

The Acolytes that were shot down, seemed to get sucked in through a small hole and vanished in some other dimension. Another form started to appear near the remaining Hive creatures.

The new form was a floating eye, bigger than a human’s torso with white fire erupting near it and it fired blasts from its center. The Guardians scattered and the Ghosts tried to keep up with their own warriors.

The lights flashed back and forth and the fighters slid and almost fell. Guns roared and Knights bellowed, flickering back and forth across the central path.

When it was finally over and the Guardians had won, the Hive creatures had vanished and they stood tired and overwhelmed. Toland had returned to the stone, unheeding of the crushed worms on his Warlock robes.

“Toland!” Eriana-3 barked. “What in all the world’s Hells was that?”

“I just don’t know,” Toland mumbled. “There’s so much to learn, what are these worms, are they alive, are they dead, are they food, are they pre-forms that become other creatures? What are the Hive? What is the Darkness?”

“Damn it man!” Sai suddenly shouted. “We aren’t here for you to take notes! You are here to guide us as far as you can to Crota so we can kill him and go home!”

“We’re deeper than I ever imagined,” Toland said as he turned to face the Asian Hunter. Eris could see he was taking her seriously. “I don’t know how to help you destroy Crota but there are things I can learn, things that would help the Vanguard, the City – Humanity!”

“We are moving on Toland,” Eriana-3 said coldly. “I’ll leave you here if you wish but I won’t jeopardize the team so you can translate painted runes on a rock.”

“I don’t think this is paint,” Toland started to say as he turned back to the stone.

Eriana-3 made a strange noise that Eris had never heard before, like a mechanical growl. “Let’s move!” she said loudly and motioned for Sai to lead the way again.

Eris watched the others start moving, this time just stomping through the worms, crushing them underfoot. Strange rumblings rippled through the caves and distant roars echoed.

Eris took Toland’s arm and pulled him away from the stone as Hawk and his own Ghost hovered with them. “You understand, don’t you Eris?” he asked.

At that moment he seemed like a tired old man, haunted by his own mind’s questions, searching for answers that perhaps man was never meant to know. “I understand Toland,” she said gently. “But we have to stay together.”

Omar moved to the front with Sai and Eris stayed in the rear, keeping Toland moving and getting him refocused on defense of the team. She continually looked back along their path to watch for any Hive enemies. She was surprised that the whole fortress hadn’t descended on them.

They made their way through dark caverns, tunnels and cathedrals that seemed ancient. Finally they reached a tunnel that opened out to the Hellmouth once again. The Guardians looked up but they were so deep, they couldn’t see the sky above through the green yellow mist.

Below them, the tunnel opening was just darkness. There was no way to know how much deeper it went. Eriana-3 told her Ghost to go down to determine just how far it went.

“There is ground not far down,” the Ghost reported not long after.

“Then we go down, to the bottom of this Godforsaken hole,” Eriana-3 announced.

She was the first to jump and the others followed, Eris and Toland last. They couldn’t see the bottom but each of them used their anti gravity jump ability to slow their descent.

Immediately they felt a difference in their new environment. It was exactly the same as when Wizards cast a spell of Darkness during a battle. There was a feeling of heavy weight upon them and they knew, without any question that they could not jump there.

It made them feel both nervous, despite their training and skill, as well as ill, as if they were human again and could get the flu. Eris felt fuzzy headed and slowed.

The area was entirely dark, a complete void of light, almost a thick miasma of regret and evil. The Ghosts cast their own lights still but they appeared muted, dull and the Guardians could barely see there was a path of tiles that led away.

Eris saw the lamp first, a tall but dim light far enough away that it looked small. “Maybe near the light we will have more ability to move,” she suggested.

They started walking in that direction, nervous and concerned about being in the deepest lair of the Hive. When the first scream rang out, Eris jumped and saw some of the others startle as well. They started to run without discussion, headed for the light.

When Omar suddenly disappeared, Sai cried out a warning and Eris saw she stood at the edge of a hole, a pit dug in the dark as either a trap or for some other dark purpose. Sai revived Omar and he reappeared at the top again.

“Keep going for the light!” Vell shouted. “I’ll hold the thrall back. Just go!”

Eris could see the others didn’t want to run but a horde of Thrall were rushing at them from three sides. Vell put his missile launcher on his armored shoulder and fired at the ground in front of the screaming Thrall.

The explosion made seven of them turn to ash and he turned to fire again. The others ran for the tall light, avoiding the holes in the ground that seemed to appear suddenly. They still could not jump and they readied their guns.

They reached the light and stopped to look back. Omar moved to the other side of the pillar to look for another. He saw it off in the distance, glowing faintly. He didn’t notice the light behind him changing.

Eris watched with the others, aiming their weapons towards Vell to help him. When a Thrall was in sight, they’d shoot but Vell was doing a good job killing them in droves. A tall form hovered in the darkness just beyond his light.

He started running towards them but roars of Knights could be heard and the thundering rumbles of Ogres were somewhere behind them. Eris noticed the light near her started changing, going from the pale yellow glow to a red color.

“I think we should move,” she said urgently. Eriana-3 and Toland looked and saw the potential danger immediately.

“There’s another lamp down that way,” Omar told the others.

“Vell!” Eriana-3 called in a her voice that could broadcast far when she wanted it to. “Go to the next lamp! Follow us!”

They started to run again, as fast as they could under the debilitating Darkness. A few Thralls appeared ahead of them but they could be quickly shot down. Eris looked back to see Vell running just as the lamp exploded with a concussive thump.

Vell turned back and fired a few more shots. If he wanted to change guns, he’d need more time. He paused to switch to a heavy machine gun and the Thrall swarmed over him. If he had fired his missile launcher, he’d blow himself up.

He activated his super ability, jumping high into the air and coming down with a heavy arc attack, disintegrating all the Thrall in one attack. He tried to run again just as the others reached the second lamp. It was dormant for a few seconds, then started to turn red.

“We have to go!” Omar shouted.

“But Vell is still behind us!” Eriana-3 retorted.

“We’ll have to come back for him then!” Sai added. “If his Ghost hides, we can bring him back.”

Eris looked back but Eriana-3 was pulling at her. She was dragged back several feet and saw the Titan get pulled down by even more Thralls. She saw his Ghost hovering over him as Thralls tried to snatch it out of the air.

She saw the Ghost finally leave him, knowing its duty was to escape and try to return when the danger was past. The Light would recover Vell Tarlowe just it had done when the Ghost first found him somewhere on Earth.

The Guardians ran to the next lamp and continued running from lamp to lamp, staying only long enough to gather what freedom they could from the available light before they exploded. If they took too long, the weight of Darkness was so heavy, they couldn’t even run.

They reached a new lamp, one of many, surrounded by darkness and Darkness, almost palpable, as if it was driving them forward and to their doom. One of their number finally fallen and fear started to creep into their minds.

The last lamp had been erected near a plate on the ground that started to glow and a loud rumbling noise began just beyond it. The Guardians looked with apprehension and when they saw the Ogre walking inside the space where two massive doors opened.

“We go through there!” Eriana-3 commanded. “Kill anything in the way!”

Knights were with the Ogre as the doors opened and blinding white light gleamed from behind them. Eris and the others used their heavy weapons and fought hard to kill the Hive creatures as quickly as possible.

As they fought, standing on the plate that glowed with Hive runes, Toland stood in the center and called out that Thrall and more Knights were coming from where Vell had fallen.

The Darkness kept them from moving quickly but they were organized as a Fireteam, communicating well and each of them used their supers. Eris and Sai Bladedanced to kill dozens of Thrall.

Omar used his Gunslinger ability to shoot solar powered bullets that killed Knights and they exploded, taking enemies nearby with them. Eriana-3 launched a Nova Bomb at the Ogre, blowing it to purple colored ash and energy and their different grenades blasted from every angle.

Toland fought as well, using his Sunsinger ability to heighten the group’s abilities and when he died from a lucky attack, he was able to revive himself in a blaze of solar fire like the mystical phoenix.

A bridge formed behind them, leading through the now open doors, massive in scope, and inside was a brilliant white light, blinding them to what lay inside. “We go that way!” Eriana-3 commanded and they ran towards the light.

Inside was a walled path filled with stones that looked like tombstones. The light from ahead cast long shadows and they ran, knowing they couldn’t go back now. They were committed to making it as deep as Crota’s Temple.

The light was so bright that the closer they got, the less they could see. Toland was mumbling about light at the edge of darkness, and something about dimensions as they stepped past the border of something.

When their vision cleared, they found themselves on the edge of a platform looking out on a vista of strange Gothic architecture that was entirely otherworldly. When they looked up into a bizarre sky, they all fell silent.

They stood on a platform above a large area with three circular plates, two of them with hanging objects that looked a bit like Seeders and a bit like swords. On the far side of a huge gap was another construction, opposite but much the same.

There were immense towers with arching ribs like a cross between a spider and a king’s crown. Nearby were pillars erected for no purpose that they could see. In the center of the two locations were small extensions that suggested another bridge would form to connect the two sides. Flames seemed to float in the air where a bridge could be.

“We are not in the Moon anymore,” Omar said hesitantly. Above the strange structures was a cracked globe, that looked almost obsidian. It just hung there in a sky with no stars or Moon or sign of Earth.

“Ghost,” Toland said quickly, his voice trembling with excitement. “Is this another dimension?”

“I believe so Guardian,” the Ghost answered. “There are no stars to read to see where in the near universe we are. I assume we aren’t in our universe.”

“Do you see that runic marking above the archway on the far side?” Toland asked the others. They did, it was the same marking that had been on the Temple of Crota. “That’s Crota’s symbol. He’s somewhere beyond there.”

“I don’t think we can make that jump,” Omar said. “Maybe Vell could have made it.”

There was a dull silence after the Titan’s name was voiced. “I think the bridge will form with the right conditions,” Toland said.

“When we stood on the plates in the abyss, the bridge formed,” Sai Mota reminded them. “I see three of them down there on each side.”

“Then let’s get down there,” Eriana-3 commanded. “Two of us at each place except Sai, she can cover a plate alone. Toland I want you with me in the center. I’ll be the last Light they ever see.”

The Guardians leaped into space and landed on the wide open floor of the strange structure. Sai went to the right as Eriana-3 and Toland stepped on the center plate.

The objects above the two outer plates erupted in the strange fire like a small solar storm and Omar and Eris moved to theirs quickly. Hive creatures spawned in different locations and rushed the plates.

From a higher arched doorway, a huge Knight appeared that seemed to burning fire within its armor or body. It carried a wicked looking sword that appeared to be bone or stone or a mix of both.

“That sword!” Toland cried suddenly. “Its the most powerful Darkness here! Kill it and take the sword!”

Eriana-3 ran forward and threw a scatter grenade towards the Knight’s feet. It hit the ground and exploded into particle munitions, tiny purple balls that blew up into small concussive bombs that erupted all around the front of the creature.

The others were fighting the various Thrall and Acolytes near their own plates. Toland used his auto rifle to fire on the Knight as his fellow Warlock used her powerful super ability.

She jumped into the air and void energy surrounded her. She punched her right hand towards the Knight as it charged Toland below her. The nova bomb smashed into the monster and pushed it back as void energy ate away at its armor and undead flesh.

The Guardian Exo landed again and used a machine gun to send dozens of bullets into the Knight. It exploded into ash and chitin armor and she was surprised to see the sword just hang in the air before her after it was gone.

She pushed her gun into storage and grabbed the sword with one hand but found it so heavy, she needed both hands. She had a sudden feeling in her circuits, something she’d never felt before.

She tried to talk to humans about their senses, what touch felt like and the differences between touching a person’s skin, or a breeze on your own skin or what being nervous felt like.

There was a strange sense of weight in her system, as if the Darkness had coated her in something, or like the Darkness had invaded her frame. But there was no time to consider it.

Toland was shouting that the bridge had formed. The bridge was stone and arced across the gap, covered in green mist making it seem insubstantial. She ran for it and kept running until she had crossed to the far side.

As she arrived, a second Knight was charging her. Its glow was a sea green and blue like an underwater diamond or dark jade in sunlight. It also held a sword and swung it over its head at her.

She side stepped and the sword cracked the tile at her feet. Without thinking, she used her own sword to attack. Sword to sword they battled until she killed it and the sword just faded away in her hands. Then Thralls and Acolytes spawned and rushed her. The bridge behind her faded away again.

She managed to glance back to the others and saw another flaming Knight with the sword again. She mentally raised the volume of her voice and bellowed across the void. “Kill it, take the sword and come across!”

The Knight rushed at Omar and Eris and the two of them used both their supers to kill it. Eris used her Bladedancer knife and arc energy while Omar used Golden Gun with solar enhanced bullets that thundered when fired from his hand cannon.

Eris grabbed the sword and felt a sudden weight in her gut, the same feeling she had on the day her mother died. Her teeth hurt in the back of her mouth and she wanted nothing more than to throw the sword as far away as she could.

She could hear whispers in her mind, telling her to use the sword on Omar or Toland. She shouted with anger at it and ran for the bridge. She used her blink ability to teleport across quickly and once she killed the second Knight she was relieved to lose the sword.

“How will they get across?” Eris asked Eriana-3 as she ran to the opposite plate from the Warlock. Now that they stood there, their own flaming structures had gone silent again.

“The plates must be the same here as well,” Eriana-3 replied.

Toland, with the help of the others, killed the third Knight and ran across the gap, and the other Guardians already there helped him kill the blue Knight. Eris saw the look of disappointment on his face when the sword vanished.

Omar was next and although he struggled to kill the Knight alone, he managed and came across. Sai Mota was the last and she used her Bladedancer ability to cross the bridge in seconds.

When the opposing Knight was destroyed, two Ogres appeared and other Hive monsters spawned and attacked. It was a hard won battle again and they were using ammo synths and running low on supplies.

The path forward was clear and they ran together, hoping for an end. High above them they saw Shriekers and Toland saw a clear wall barrier before a set of closing doors. They understood now that many parts of the fortress were keyed to the Hive and destroying the Shriekers opened the way.

They emerged in another vast area with towers and chambers with tall arched openings. Huge stones that glowed from the inside dominated some of the weird chambers and Hive creatures were in groups all over the area.

The Guardians moved into cover quickly as they saw the numbers of Hive. Toland seemed to be searching them, his eyes looking for something specific. “There’s something else here, something powerful, something dangerous,” he said quietly.

“Crota?” Eriana-3 asked immediately.

“No, but he is near as well,” Toland answered. “There is an immense power but its not here…yet.”

The others watched from hiding as well, interested in identifying the most dangerous enemy and keeping track of the numbers of Knights and Acolytes teeming throughout the temple.

Eris saw it first, a hovering Wizard but one larger than any she’d seen before and armored differently. It had a huge horned headdress and its dingy, rusty blood colored robes also had bones attached like spider legs extended down from its waist.

“Ghost,” Toland asked when Eris pointed the creature out. “Who is that?”

“Files say Ir Yut, the Deathsinger,” the Ghost reported. “She sings the Deathsong that kills all who hear it within just a few minutes.”

“How can she sing it and live?” Toland mused thoughtfully. “How do the Hive live within dead flesh?”

“Toland!” Eriana-3 barked. “Focus man! We’re here to kill them, not study them.”

“I came because of the opportunity to learn more about this ancient force we are up against,” Toland said sharply, suddenly fierce. Eriana-3 stepped back in surprise. “Humans haven’t been in existence very long but this enemy is ancient. How old are the records from the World’s Grave Ghost?”

“Billions of years,” the Ghost answered. “They have destroyed thousands of worlds, solar systems, whole universes.”

“Humans, whether we are originals, Awoken or Exos, we learn and adapt and survive,” Toland continued. “I came to learn, that is my purpose, to survive and learn.”

Eriana-3 just gazed at the man, her eye lenses and lack of facial expression revealing nothing about what she thought. Eris wondered what thoughts wandered through her unique mind.

“Then learn while you fight Toland,” the Exo Warlock finally said. “Eyes up Guardians! We need to kill that Witch before she finishes her song. We cannot fail!”

Eriana-3 reloaded her best weapon and stepped out into the weird light of the Hive dimension. She chose a target and began shooting. Knights roared and Acolytes screamed and the battle began.

Eris and the others joined their leader, moving around to make hard targets as the Hive fought back. And above it all, a sibilant whisper, a crooning sigh, words in some dark language permeated the air around them as Ir Yut began to fly around and sing her strange song.

Eris tried to stay focused on the fighting despite the words of the song starting to eat at her mind. There was no safe place, nowhere to put her back against the wall so she could keep her eyes forward and see all the threats easily.

She fought as well as she could, using all the powers of Light she had been given by the Traveler’s Ghost. She leaped high to avoid gunfire, then stopped her jump to fall suddenly, landing in a new location to fire from a new vantage point.

She switched guns from scout rifles to hit Acolytes in the face to kill them in one shot, then used a shotgun to blast Knights from right next to them. A machine gun would lay waste to crowded enemies and a rocket would smash the more powerful creatures.

But no matter how skilled she was and despite how many Hive she destroyed, she was dying. She could feel the Deathsong invading her body, her mind and her soul. It was similar to holding the sword earlier but far worse.

Her teeth ached as if all of them had exposed cavities. Her stomach felt knotted but roiled at the same time, gorge rising in her throat and threatening to spill out at any moment.

Her muscles were taut and her thoughts were increasingly wild. She had thoughts of shooting her fellow Guardians and other thoughts of suicide. The song seemed to grow in power and Eris heard Eriana-3 shouting for the Guardians to attack the Witch.

Eris and the others sought her out, chasing after Ir Yut and hitting her with everything they had. The three minutes seemed to last for ages and the Witch was quick to fly through the rooms and chambers to avoid being attacked.

Eris saw Omar suddenly fall, followed quickly by Sai Mota. The song was reaching a peak, the sounds blurring together into a growling buzz that threatened to crack her head in two.

She found Ir Yut floating close and she used her super ability as Golden Gun, empowering her hand cannon with solar Light. She fired four shots, and the song faltered. But it wasn’t enough and the song finally crushed her.

Her last sights were Eriana-3 dropping dead next to her and finally Toland collapsing almost at Ir Yut’s feet. Darkness ebbed into her vision and she felt death close in around her.

“Eris,” a voice called her back. Toland’s scratchy voice called her and a hand shook her. “Eris Morn, get up, we’re alive.”

She slowly got up to see the others recovering. “What happened?” she asked.

“Sunsinger ability,” Toland chuckled. “Revived myself and shot Ir Yut enough to stop the song and drive her away.”

“We were dying,” Omar said as he recovered. Toland had dragged them all into a chamber with a massive stone lit from within. “Thank you Toland, by the Light, thank you.”

“You must rise again, quickly,” Toland advised. “Crota has come.”

Eris helped Eriana-3 get to her feet and together they looked out of the arched openings. There was a horseshoe shaped platform with a pair of giant, golden horns behind it.

Further behind was a broken object that looked like a shattered planet with what appeared to be a massive green eye within or perhaps behind the object. Green fire flared there and illuminated the entire area in a sickly green glow.

In the room where they were gathering themselves, Eris could see the invisible barriers formed so she continued watching the platform and saw Crota appear. He was three times as tall as a human and formed like a Knight but many times larger and heavily armored.

He almost seemed made of crystal, the way green light glowed from within him. His elbows, shoulders and crown were all spiked and brightest as if his inner powers were thrust to the edges of his form and could be released.

He carried a massive sword that also seemed made of crystal and it too glowed with green fire. The Darkness within it was so strong it made her feel sick just to look at it. More Hive began to emerge, with Knights and Acolytes on both sides of the Guardian’s location.

“There’s another Knight with a sword down below us!” Sai Mota called. “Toland, do you think we need it to kill Crota?”

“I think its the only thing that will hurt him,” the older Warlock answered, his eyes focused on the glowing fiery eye. “They war with each other and their tools will damage their own kind.”

“Alright then,” Eriana-3 decided. “One of us gets the sword and the rest of us hit that bastard with everything we’ve got. Let’s clear as many of these other creatures out as well.”

The walls vanished and the battle began anew. Knights roared and charged while Acolytes fired on them from cover. The Warlocks took one side and the Hunters defended the opposite side.

They killed Knights and made their way outside of the center chamber and into the main structure. Crota watched them with almost amusement and Sai Mota leaped down to attack the sword bearer.

The others shot the armed Knight and killed it quickly. Sai grabbed the sword and started to run towards the platform where Crota waited. The Guardians used their heaviest weapons to attack Crota and hope it would be enough.

It seemed to do no damage but as Sai Mota leaped from the lower level to a stone on the right and then jumped again to the platform, Crota fell to his knee and the sword was lowered.

Sai attacked with the sword furiously, striking the giant repeatedly as the others watched. It was not enough and the sword shattered. Sai barely escaped as Crota rose and attacked.

“There’s another sword!” Eris called out as a new sword bearing Knight appeared.

“Then we do it again!” Eriana-3 shouted.

The Fireteam continued fighting, killing the Hive as quickly as they belched forth from their holes. Sai recovered the second sword and they renewed their attack on the Hive God.

He stumbled again under the pressure and Sai used the sword again. It cut into Crota’s strange flesh and seemed to hurt the monster but it still wasn’t enough to kill him.

Sai tried to jump away but Crota was too quick the second time. His sword swept through the air and smashed Sai hard enough to kill. Her body flew through the air and smashed into a pillar of chitin and bone.

“We’ll get her after we kill him!” Eriana-3 yelled quickly. “I’ll take the sword this time!”

“What the hell is that?” Omar asked as something formed above Crota.

There was a rumbling, a thunderous roar, as a globe of green fire appeared and seemed swollen with power. “Shoot it!” Toland screamed suddenly. “Shoot it now!”

Eris and the others fired on the object and their bullets seemed to just sink into it. A build up of energy continued and their bodies started to shake and the floor seemed to move like a ship on the ocean.

“Don’t stop!” Toland cried again. They continued firing and Eris thought it wouldn’t be enough. But suddenly it simply vanished and the energy building died.

“Back in the fight!” Eriana-3 commanded. “We have to win this battle now!”

They fought on, killing Knights, Thralls and Acolytes. They destroyed the sword bearer and Eriana-3 took hold of the heavy weapon. The others wounded Crota again and the Exo Warlock attacked with unbridled fury.

The sword hammered down on Crota’s shoulders and head, cracking his armor. Wisps of green fire escaped through the cracks and the Exo warrior wouldn’t stop. Crota tried to rise but the others used their super abilities, sending solar fire and void blasts until Crota’s body crumbled.

The green fire from inside swirled out of his shattered form and lifted into the air. It hovered there a moment, then moved quickly away as Eriana-3 watched. The Hive creatures seemed to go mad and howled as they tried to kill her.

Eris urged the others to help her and they killed the remaining Hive creatures. Finally, it was over and they gathered together. They recovered Sai and brought her back to life. Eriana-3 got them together and when she spoke, there was a cheerful quality.

“We’ve done it,” she said joyously. “We’ve avenged our friends and fellow Guardians. I’m proud of you all. Now let’s go find Vell Tarlowe and go home.”

“I’m afraid its not over Eriana,” Toland said with clear sorrow in his words.

“What does that mean Toland?” Omar said gruffly.

“That energy that escaped the body was Crota’s soul,” the older man told them. “Like the ones we saw held in crystals. There is probably a crystal for Crota as well. We need to destroy that and then maybe – maybe we’ll have killed him.”

“Are you certain of this?” Eriana-3 asked, her tone strained again.

“Yes, there is evidence in the records Ghost took,” Toland confirmed. “The Hive can keep their spirits separated from their bodies. They are immortal, apart from life.”

“Damn it!” Eriana-3 swore. “Damn it! Then we aren’t done. We find Vell and we find Crota’s crystal, we find his soul and we destroy it for good.”

Eris could see that the others had reacted poorly to that news. To have fought so long and hard, to have found the deepest lair of the Hive God and to have faced him and won – only to discover the beast wasn’t dead was almost crushing.

They made their way back through the temples and into the dark abyss. The lamps were dead and only the light from their Ghosts could show them the way. They wandered along the tiled paths in hopes of finding their way back up into the crystal rooms.

Eris walked with Toland and Omar while Eriana-3 walked ahead with Sai Mota. The whole team was silent and Eris worried they were too deeply affected by the failure to kill Crota. She knew Eriana-3 had made a vow to avenge Wei Ning and the rest of the Guardians in the Great Disaster.

“Eris, I sense movement up ahead,” Hawk announced suddenly. She heard the other Ghosts repeating the warning. “A lot of movement.”

Screaming sounded all around them and Thrall came rushing from all directions. The Guardians started shooting and Eris saw right away that the swarm of monsters would separate her, Omar and Toland from the other two women.

“We’ll have to meet up with them elsewhere!” Eris called to the men. “We can’t stay here!”

She saw the women pulling back farther as the two men went with her. Thrall filled the space between them as they poured into the abyss. They turned and ran, hoping they could avoid being overwhelmed.

They reached a wall they could barely see, filled with a honeycomb of tunnels leading out of the Hellmouth basin. Toland chose a hole and ran into it with Eris right behind him.

Omar turned and threw a tripmine grenade at the mouth of the tunnel. As the Thrall tried to follow it exploded. Eris tossed an arcbolt grenade for the next group and chained lightening scattered the rest of their foes.

They vanished into the tunnels and left the Thrall behind. They continued running through different tunnels, changing direction often until they were sure they’d escape notice.

Finally they found a small cave, seemingly an unfinished room. They settled into seated positions and checked their equipment, just as they had been trained to do.

“Hawk,” Eris said to her Ghost when she had counted her ammo synths. “Can you locate Eriana-3 and Sai?”

“There’s interference here,” Hawk answered. “A shroud of Darkness, confuses my circuits and scanners. But I can sense other…links down here with us.”

“Links?” Eris wondered.

“Those are mine Eris,” Toland announced. The two Hunters looked at him questioningly. “I sent small robots down into the tunnels ahead of us, to listen to the Hive if I could but they work as links back to the surface.”

“Can we get a message out?” Omar asked with hope in his voice.

“I have an ally,” Toland revealed. “We can contact her but not the Vanguard or Earth.”

“Who is this ally?” Eris asked.

“I call her the Stranger,” Toland answered. “She’s an Exo, not a Guardian but she fights the Darkness same as us.”

“What can she do for us?” Omar wanted to know immediately.

“She could get a message to the Vanguard,” Toland offered. “Let me try to reach her.”

Toland had his Ghost contact the other warrior, bouncing the signal around underground. Eris could hear the static from the Darkness but eventually a voice came through. It was the voice of a female Exo, the unique feminine mechanical voice.

“That you Toland?” the Stranger called.

“Yes, we’re here.”

“Are you alright?” the Exo asked. “Is the Fireteam whole?”

“I’m afraid not,” Toland said sorrowfully. “We’re down one, and three of us are separated from two others. We hope.”

“Use the links you set up to track them if you can,” the Stranger suggested. “I can deliver supplies to one of the entries to the fortress if you can get to them.”

“I’m not sure we can dear,” Toland said regretfully. “We’re in the lowest levels. But we’ll try.”

“And your mission?” the Stranger asked with some trepidation.

“Moderately successful,” Toland answered. “We destroyed Crota’s form but not his soul.”

“Can you destroy him?” the Exo asked after a moment’s silence.

“I believe we can,” Toland said. “We just need to find his crystal. Its possible the Ghost can detect the energy signature.”

“I’ll leave ammo synths and additional grenades outside the Temple entrance,” the Stranger said finally.

“One more thing Stranger,” Toland requested. “Any news from the City?”

“I was hoping you wouldn’t ask Toland,” the Stranger said in a voice that clearly held regret. “They know you’re in the Moon, or at least that your friends are.”

“They know Eriana-3 meant to go and they’ve figured out the rest. I followed chatter and its clear they don’t mean to follow you. And Luna is still off limits.”

“Damn it,” Omar said sullenly. “We’re on our own.”

“Thank you Stranger,” Toland said briefly. “We’ll try to be in touch.”

“Now what?” Omar asked, his mood darkened.

“We try to find the others,” Eris said right away. “Then we find our way out of this place.”

The other agreed and off they went, back into the tunnels. Toland’s Ghost could receive markers of where the other Ghosts were, but only in a general sense. The links had been simple tools to take readings and were never meant for more complex work.

After another long period of exploration, Eris felt as if eyes were on them. “Something is watching us,” she said. “I can feel it.”

“I hate when you say that,” Omar growled.

“Crota has many Eyes,” Toland said calmly. “Every God does.”

“We have to go,” Eris said, feeling that moving was best.

“If they know our every move, what chance do we have?” Omar asked, his demeanor continuing to fall.

“With their great age comes even greater wisdom,” Toland responded. “I have no doubt the Hive led us here with intent.”

“You think we were baited here?” Eris asked with a sudden fear.

“The Hive has an entire army down here,” Toland said matter of factly. “More forces than we thought. I think he’s testing us, as they test each other. This is what they enjoy.”

“You’re not helping old man,” Omar snapped.

Eris moved them along further and the signal for their friends seemed to be moving away from them. Eris hoped that meant they were alive. They eventually returned to where Vell Tarlowe had fallen, quite by accident.

Ash and pieces of bony armor littered the ground but there was huge footprints all around where the Guardian’s body was torn to pieces. It seemed a heavy weapons had also shattered the tile floor. But the Ghost didn’t register on the scanner at all.

Eris knew that Ghosts were both highly complex little machines, perhaps even more complex than the Exos, but also imbued with the Traveler’s Light. If they couldn’t connect through the normal channels, Ghosts could usually find each other by the Light within them.

They kicked through the ash and other debris, looking for any clue. “Found it,” Omar called from a good distance away from Vell’s body.

He bent down and picked up the shell. Its light was black, there was no hum to it, the life was gone. “Its dead,” he told them others.

Toland took it and had his Ghost scan it. He turned to Eris and shook his head. The Ghost was beyond saving and Vell was dead for the final time. It hit her like a punch to the gut and she almost fell to her knees.

Toland grabbed her and Omar quickly helped so they could bring her to a better location to recover. She knew the others needed her to be herself, to be strong and capable, to help them continue. She gritted her teeth and pushed herself forward.

“Let’s go, Toland, we find them and find them now,” Eris said forcefully. She stalked off with intent and checked her best gun as sh e went.

Her mood changed and she began to get angry at the Hive. It was time to really carve her way through the fortress and save what was left of her friends. Toland followed her and Omar brought up the rear.

She kept her attention ahead, focused on watching the dark corners and shadows cast by Hawk’s light. They ran into Acolytes and Thralls and Eris killed them as quickly as they came.

It was a harrowing journey but they eventually found Eriana-3 and Sai Mota defending a smaller chamber. They carved their way though them and helped them hurry away to another location where they could hide and pause to recover.

Eriana-3 and Sai were both exhausted and and sat down with their backs against a wall to rest while the others guarded them bolt hole. Toland spoke to their Ghosts and Eris listened to their story of constant running and fighting.

As they sat there, a cry sounded from somewhere and seemed to echo through the tunnels. Eris shuddered when she heard it and shook her head when the sound seemed to remain in her mind, like a burrowing worm of an idea.

“Those screams,” Eris said.

And I was just starting to tune them out,” Omar said quietly.

Toland moved to the entrance of the cave and looked out into the dark. “It has been told that with these screams another spawn is awakened, birthed in the name of the god it holds.”

“Crota,” Sai said confidently.

“I am afraid so,” Toland said without turning around. “They call this one Omnigul, Mother of the Spawn.”

“How do you…?” Sai started to say, then stopped. “I’d rather not know.”

“Commands, echoed through the dark, fetid caverns,” Toland said, his voice distant and strange again. “Orders carried out with grinding stone and squeaking claw, skittering Thrall and blade against bone.”

“Well, now he’s on a roll,” Omar sighed.

“I hear them, even when I don’t,” Eriana-3 said, her own voice sounding strained. “I will tear this Omnigul’s throat out.”

“If you were to do so, our work here would be done,” Toland said suddenly, turning around to face the others. “Without a Will to raise its army and herald its ascendance, there is no Crota to fear, at least here and now.”

“Then we follow the screams,” Eriana-3 decided as she stood up again and checked her weapons. Eris felt a certain sense of relief that her friend was back in charge.

Thinking about keeping the others safe had been the hardest part of leading them to find the others. She didn’t want to think or strategize, she just wanted to kill the evil all around her. She kept imagining being stuck down in the tunnels for days and how horrible that would be.

Eriana-3 walked with Sai in front, almost as if they had determined they worked well together. Eris stayed close to Toland and Omar fell back into the rear. They tried to avoid more gunfights and searched for signs of the Hive leaders.

They eventually found themselves in a large cavern with a huge rift down its center. A lip on their side was identical to a lip on the other. Acolytes were seen leaving the other side and the bridge they had used was floating pathways that vanished after they crossed.

Toland moved to the edge and crouched down and gestured to his Ghost to scan the edges. “I think there’s a resonant spell,” he explained. “The Ghosts should be able to find the right dimensional vibrational wavelength to show the path.”

The Ghosts wide scanned the cleft and soon small floating bridges appeared. Eriana-3 tested one with her foot and found it firm as if carved from the same Lunar stone.

“Let’s go, the sound of that witch is that way,” the Exo Warlock said. She started across and Sai Mota followed her quickly.

Eris and Toland watched them cross and then prepared to follow when Eris turned around to speak to Omar and discovered he was missing. “Toland!” she cried. “Omar is gone!”

Eriana-3 turned back and hesitated before commanding, “Go find him quickly, then follow us!” she called. “We’re going ahead!”

Eris had a sinking feeling at that moment that she’d never see the two women again. Toland turned to head out but Eris found herself watching her two friends until they were out of sight.

“Eris?” Toland said with concern.

“What if we never get out of here Toland?” she asked him.

“I have some ideas about survival but let’s hold off until we know what we can do,” Toland said reassuringly.

She followed him to the nearest tunnel entrance where they found drag marks through the dust and refuse. It was clear Omar had been dragged off by something.

“Thralls scream with madness and rush anything that isn’t Hive,” Eris said as they started following the marks. “Acolytes aren’t exactly sneaky and Knights roar as often as Thralls scream. What could have took Omar without a sound?

“Omnigul and Ir Yut are as different from Wizards as Sardon is from Knights,” Toland reminded her. “We’ve seen so many creatures down here, perhaps there’s some other kind.”

The pair followed the track down a tunnel where it vanished amid tile floors. Eris searched the nearby area but found nothing. “What do we do Toland?” she asked.

“I’ll have Ghost search for his signal,” Toland said with his hand on her shoulder.

“I’m picking up weapon signatures Guardians,” the Ghost announced.

“Show us the way Ghost,” Toland instructed.

They moved quickly through a series of tunnels and halls until they emerged in the most technologically advanced chamber they had seen. Machines filled the huge cavern with tubes and wires and objects they could make no sense of.

It was clear that weapons were being produced there and the working Hive were odd, Thrall like creatures that showed no interest in the Guardians standing at the entrance.

They were producing shredders, boomers and other weapons the two warriors had not seen before but Toland was drawn to an area of specialized weapons. The pair looked at them with wonder.

They were clearly Hive made, strange combinations of bone and metal, weapons that looked like ancient tools of war, with sharp edges and spines. But many of them were also advanced elemental guns, as skillfully made as any City made weapons.

“Take as many as we can carry,” Toland told her. “Right now, and any ammo we can take. With these weapons we can survive.”

As Eris started removing her own spent weapons and gathering up the Hive weaponry that she could, Toland moved to another part of the machine works and explored a different set of objects.

They left quickly, following the signal the Ghost could find but it was sporadic and seemed to be moving. They searched for so long Eris thought they’d lost him. Finally, Toland suggested they stop and rest again. She felt a bone deep weariness that seemed to drag her down when they found another place to hide.

Eris chose a Hive gun that seemed to be a scout rifle, she loaded it and sat it on her crossed legs. She leaned back against the stone wall and closed her eyes while Toland discuss records from the World’s Grave with his Ghost.

His voice was deep and soft, almost like a dull droning that made her feel relaxed despite her fears and sorrow for her friends. She almost feel asleep and fell into a twilight of consciousness. Her mind wandered from fear to exploration.

In her mind she the solar system, the wide expanse of her universe, with the spiraling planets and the billions of stars that threw their light into the future.

Somewhere, beyond the reaches of the local system, out in the greater universe, she saw a ship. It was shaped as a diamond, square with four points. As her perspective grew closer, she saw it could only be something created by the Hive, a construction of brilliant technology, combined with other powers from beyond understood space and law.

Her vision took her inside the ship and through halls of terrible Hive creatures and powers. She saw more of the strange black and white creatures and believed that was where they had originally came from when they fought them in the Hive fortress.

Deep in the ship’s bowels was a creature, bigger than even Crota had been, a beast monsters with horns like a hammerhead shark, with the same triple eye of most Hive.

As her vision carried her into some massive throne room where the black and white beings kneeled in obeisance, the great Hive God suddenly turned his head and faced her perspective.

She heard, or rather felt its name – Oryx – and her inner mind screamed. The sound of her actual shouting woke her from the dream and she felt a rising panic. “Toland!” she cried as she jumped to her feet with her gun ready.

She found herself completely alone in the small cave. Toland was gone with no sign. Had he been taken? Did he leave? Where the Hive picking them off one by one?

“Hawk, open the channels,” she commanded her Ghost. “Toland! Can you hear me? Eriana? Sai? Omar?”

She heard static and then barely made out words being broadcast. “It crawls from the shadows to claim our Light in the name of Crota.”

It was Eriana’s voice, so she called out again. “Eriana! Eriana, can you hear me, its Eris Morn.” She heard more but not in response to her. It seemed the Warlock and Sai were speaking openly, probably hoping to be heard like her.

“Can you track the others?” Sai asked.

“No. There is too much interference,” Eriana responded. “The shroud is too thick here. Ghost?”

The Ghost answered, also amid static that covered much of the sound. “We in bad shape?” Eriana-3 asked.

“<chhk> Could be better. <chhk>” the Ghost answered.

“Any charge?” Eriana-3 asked the machine.

“No. Something is siphoning the Light. <chhk> I’m getting weaker by the second. <chhk>”

“And Sai’s Ghost? Same?” she assumed.

“Faint charge detected <chhk> but it’s fading. Its shell is damaged beyond repair. <chhk> No comms. No transmat. <chhk> Even if there were a signal…”

“Use whatever juice you’ve got and relay this transmission to the others,” the Exo Warlock commanded.

“They won’t receive it. <chhk>”

Eris continued trying to speak, hoping her voice would cut through. Eriana-3 and Sai were in trouble. Hell, she was in trouble! She didn’t know if she should leave the cave or not. What could one Guardian do alone?

“Not the point,” Eriana said firmly. “This is Eriana-3 of the Praxic Warlocks. Marked by the Cormorant Seal. I am alongside the Hunter Sai Mota. Our Light is nearly gone. The ash of untold Hive covers the ground in our wake.”

Through the comm, the terrible scream Toland said came from Omnigul sounded. Eris could hear it herself as well and she thought perhaps they were closer than she realized. She told Hawk to keep recording and broadcasting and started to rush through the tunnels to follow the sound.

“Omnigul!” Sai barked.

“From what Toland has described we are on the path of Crota’s dreaded Hand,” Eriana-3 continued.

“The Hand is falling back toward the screams beyond these tunnels,” Sai told her friend.

“Screw it,” Eriana-3 said fatalistically. “You ready?”

“My knives are eager for another dance,” Sai growled fiercely.

“You speak little, Sai Mota, but always say the right things,” Eriana-3 said and Eris heard their guns cocking. Then there was nothing, the signal lost and Eris screamed despite the possibility of being heard.

She ran as quickly as she could, but sounds of Hive Thrall came from multiple directions. She found herself forced to choose tunnels that seemed to pull her away from the direction of the screams.

She traveled away from the sounds of stalking Thrall until she found herself in an upper pathway that ran along a lip near the top of another cavern. She meant to pass through quickly until she heard the scream from below.

She realized she was looking at Omar Agah, hung by his feet upside down. A Wizard was next to him, on golden armor and light colored fabric. On the floor were both worms and cocoons with creatures moving around inside them, their shadowy shapes squirming within.

The Wizard would gesture at Omar and waved its clawed hand and she could see a shimmering wisp get peeled away from the Guardian, causing him to scream in pain and fear.

Eris understood that it somehow was stealing Omar’s Light and as the Hive spawn chittered and squealed as the Light dissipated and fed them. Eris was horrified and angry but knew there was almost nothing she could do.

She switched to a Hive created sniper rifle and crouched behind the lip of the shelf. She took careful aim on Omar’s head and fired a single elemental bullet. He died without a sound but the gunshot echoed and the Hive howled at the intrusion.

Eris ran, going through the smaller tunnels that always seemed to lead to areas not used by the Hive. She ran until she found another place to stop and she finally wept.

Her shoulders bowed as she shuddered through tears and let the emotion well up in her. She allowed it, let it pass through her, let it run its course before finally recovering.

Then she spoke to Hawk in a somber voice. “Record this. The Heart of Crota. It is her blood that feeds their fury.”
I thought Omar dead until I heard his screams. I followed them down, to the darkest night of the caverns below. What I saw -I witnessed all we fear – the villainy of the Hive on full display.”

“Among a sea of cocoons, and surrounded by thousands more freshly spawned hordes, the Heart held Omar’s broken body in a vice of bone and pain. She was peeling the Light from his body. How? I can’t imagine, and I have tried. Tendrils of luminance tore away like flesh.”
With every strand Omar’s scream cut the dark and was met with a chittering chorus from the unborn. I can’t say if they were feeding off the Light itself, or the pain, but my guess is both – somehow, both.”

“The Heart, though I can’t believe she actually has one, seemed to be conducting some nightmare orchestra, nurturing Crota’s children, with the echoes of Agah’s Light.”
The Hive must end for all they had done, and some day, by my hand or another’s, the Heart will meet with an end fitting of the pain she, herself, has dealt.”

She sat back against the wall again and settled into what she assumed would be the rest of her short life. No one could survive the Hive alone and she had to know the others were all dead or worse – dying.

She wallowed in that depression and sorrow for a long time, in a place that no longer had meaning for time. All moments were the same, moments of fear and horror that were so powerful as to overwhelm her.

She sat there until her thoughts wandered back to her childhood. Laying in bed every day and how much she wanted to be a Guardian. She had already died once to be born again in Light and perhaps she was selling herself too short.

She decided she would fight to stay alive no matter what. She knew it would be near impossible but she would plan to return to the City, even at great cost to herself. She would go on no matter what.

Not long after, she heard Eriana’s last transmission & knew she was speaking to Wei Ning. “My Ghost’s Light is so dim, there’s no point following me further into this fog – any hope of raising me died halfway through the Stills – I only hope she’s got strength enough to take this ember to where you fell, to dance once more with any last whisper of your own light left on this cursed, broken rock.”

“Again I will confess. I am Eriana-3, of the Praxic Fire, and I know my flame goes out down here. I will burn bright and hot and raze a thousand Hive to ash as I go, but I know we will not end him – The one who fell you, and hundreds more, with that foul blade.”

“I now beg, as I feared, for your forgiveness. I will not avenge you, but join you amongst the fires snuffed out upon this moon.”

“I was a fool to lead us here. I was blinded by the loss of so much, by your light extinguished. I put my trust, and the light of four others, in a madman, and I bear witness to their fall into darkness and death. Toland’s song was nothing but screams, and we go now to sing with them. We will not return.”

“I only hope now that my foolish charge will serve as a record of warning. So that no other Guardians go to face this monster and those that serve him – and those beasts beyond imagining that he must serve in the realm I now go forth to die in.”

“That this tiny bit of Light, joined with yours, and Sai’s, Vell, and poor Omar’s – that it might spark a torch of warning to leave this dead and broken moon as Crota’s prize.”

“Let the Titans on their walls and towers look up at night to this glowing reminder in the sky that your Light fell below the surface. Let the moonlight fall on Hunters’ eyes through the canopies of the wilds, and guide the way of Warlocks searching their hidden paths. At night, let them look up and see, and let us be mourned. At night, let them remember you. And let the light of the day free them from the curse of this memory.”

Part 7 – Years Underground –

The first year was frantic and difficult but she survived and learned much about the Hive. By listening to Hawk’s knowledge from the World’s Grave records, she learned the history of the Hive, who were once called the Krill.

On Fundament, the Krill’s King was mad and listened to the whisperings of a dead worm. The court teacher Taox had the Helium Drinkers kill the King and take over the Osmium Court.

The surviving heirs, the sisters Aurash, Sathora and Xi Ro escape the chaos and vow revenge. They were influenced by their father’s worm who helped them find an ancient ship & travel to the planet’s inner core to meet the worms Yul, Eir, Ur and Akka in the Deep.

A creature called the Leviathon, an ally of the Traveler, tells them to go back. The worms offered immortality and salvation for their people in return for taking the worm’s children as symbiotes.

Symbiosis gives them power. Aurash took the King morph and became Auryx, the First Navigator. Sathora took the Mother morph and became Savathun, bent on cunning. Xi Ro took the Knight morph and became Xivu-Arath, the warrior. The Worms convinced them to conquer Fundament and then the stars. The Krill became the Hive and took over the planet, then attacked its moons.

A great advanced race called the Ammonites, tried to fight them, allied with the Leviathon, but were utterly destroyed. The Great Worms rose and ate the Leviathon, causing the Traveler to flee. Afterwards Auryx, whom Eris realizes is Oryx, kills his sisters.

The Hive believe in strength, and will fight each other as often as other races in their quest to be the strongest. As the time went by, Eris even saw evidence of such behavior.

She learned that a Witch named Verok had controlled the Thrall that had killed Vell Tarlowe. Another Hive Knight loved her in his own way, a monster named Alak Hul, the Darkblade.

Alak Hul attempted to overthrow Oryx’s rule and Crota’s position but was defeated harshly by the Taken forces, the black and white Hive creatures she had seen with her team. She saw other examples of change within the fortress as one Hive would attack another for a greater position.

She learned to use that against them as often as possible in her own survival. She slowly learned the layout of the tunnels and chambers but still, living in hear darkness was difficult, both on her body and more on her mind.

The Darkness in the tunnels had a weight, a pressure that pushed against her soul. There were whispers on the wind and screams that echoed through the tunnels endlessly. She used tools to dig her own private area where she good hide with two escape routes and defenses that would alert her and destroy intruders.

She attempted to contact the Stranger repeatedly but hadn’t heard her again for months. She learned that Hive made guns influenced her and often made her more aggressive, sometimes to a dangerous degree.

There was something more that distracted her as well, a whispering in her mind. It didn’t speak in words she understood but suggested emotionally. She would feel a need to defeat her enemies and to rise in power even among the Hive.

She also discovered that Toland had downloaded his journals into Hawk and she listened to his words often. She learned that Toland believed that the Darkness was an evolutionary endpoint of the universe.

It seemed that one of the laws of the universe or perhaps multiverse, was that all things competed with all other things, from the simplest life forms to the most complicated. As atoms came into being, they defeated the primordial existence before them. Life, even the weird undead life of the Hive, existed to evolve and war.

He saw the future as war among archetypal nations. One would be a ruling of law, another that believed knowledge made predominate and a third that believes solely in conquest and domination. Toland knew that the Hive was billions of years older than human kind.

The Hive were ancient and had been warring against all other species for millennia with the Darkness. Toland also believed that humanity, now made of humans, Exos and the powerful Awoken, had been natural survivors and unlike the Hive forces, they consistently worked together to succeed.

She was listening to details about the history of the Hive, about a battle between Crota and the Vex that took a hundred years when the emotional whispering scratched at her mind. It called to her, some relic, some piece of the fortress.

She gathered up her guns and slowly made her way through her own traps until she reached the open tunnels again. The whisperings seemed louder and she felt that she could find it, whatever it was.

She crept through the caverns, staying at the edges of the dark shadows, sneaking through the luminescent crystal lights and avoiding the Thralls and Acolytes. She stayed away from the populated areas she knew about and found herself in a new area she hadn’t seen before.

The cavern she found herself in seemed to have once been a smaller version of Crota’s Temple, almost a throne room of sorts. There was a chair in the back, dimly lit by the glowing crystals and she could just make out a figure there, holding something green that glowed.

Eris aimed her gun at the figure, who was shrouded in rags like a Hive creature with a hood that covered its face. “Who are you?” she called with a dark tone, ready for anything.

“Ah, you’ve come!” a familiar voice said huskily. “I knew you’d come, you’ve been here long enough to feel the powers in these realms.”

“Toland?” Eris said softly. “Is it you? Is it really you?”

The older man flipped back the hood and revealed himself to have changed. His face was drawn, his skin pale, his eyes almost milky. And in his hand was a glowing rock, a deep green that seemed to resonate with power.

“Yes, I’ve come back to help you before I must leave again,” Toland said with some warmth in his tired voice.

“Leave? Eris suddenly shouted angrily. “You abandoned me Toland! I’ve been alone, everyone else is dead! I heard Omar screaming as they tore his light from him!”

“I know Eris, I know,” he said calmly as he stood. “And they will take your light as well unless you listen to me.”

“What has happened to you?” Eris asked, her confusion replaced by concern for her friend.

“I shed my Light,” Toland explained. “You will have to as well. But this relic and an…experiment, should help to keep you alive long enough to find your way out of the tunnels.”

He held up the glowing object, that seemed to be a small porous rock with a eerie green glow, almost like a barrier around it & when he released it, it floated there alone, held stationary by something unknown.

“What is it?” Eris asked.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Toland admitted. “But its connected to the Hive, maybe even the Darkness. But it seems to want to exist & its warned me several times.”

“You seem different now,” Eris said hesitantly.

“I gave up my Light,” Toland said with some sorrow. “I need to go deeper. I need to go back to their dimension, I need to understand this all. But you must give up your Light as well, and accept a new existence.”

“What the hell are you talking about Toland?” Eris asked sharply. “You’re freaking me out here!”

“Touch the relic Eris,” Toland urged. “And trust me.”

Eris reached her right hand out below the relic and it dropped into her palm. Immediately she heard whispers in her mind, a sibilant murmuring followed by images in her mind’s eye.

She could see Hive creatures and monsters hunting. She knew, without doubt, that they were hunting her and they would find her because her Light was a beacon in the Darkness.

Her eyes opened and she let go of the relic but it floated near her. “You see?” Toland asked. “You must give up your Light. You must give up your Ghost. And you must embrace a change.”

“What change?” Eris asked, her nerves getting worse. There was a certain madness in her friend, a way his eyes shifted strangely.

“You must be…ah, there’s no better word – infected with Darkness,” he said simply.

“Infected?” Eris cried. “Lose the Light? Become Darkness? I know what happened to Dredgen Yor!”

“Eris, you are one of the bravest Guardians I’ve ever met,” Toland said suddenly, his hand taking one of hers. “You will have to sacrifice the Light, if you do die, you won’t be raised again. Unless the Traveler wakes and returns, then perhaps.”

“But for that to happen,” the older man continued. “You must survive. And to survive, you must transform yourself, you must become part of the Darkness, a part of the Hive. Will you trust me? Will you do it?”

Eris could still feel the whispers and the danger as if it was crawling towards her. She was scared and lost and alone. But Toland seemed to have a plan, he seemed so sure of himself.

“Fine, fine, Toland,” she said softly. “I’ll do it.”

“It will hurt but you will be safer for it,” Toland promised. He had her sit down on the cavern floor and he began to draw a circle around her with chalk.

He drew a complicated circle with sigils of Hive runes all around her while she sat with the relic hovered above her lap. Hawk floated above her to receive her Light. Toland revealed a trio of what appeared to be gems at first.

He removed her helmet and much of her armor and produced a new set of gear. Before she could dress in them, he cast a spell that drained her Light into her Ghost and as it left she found herself weeping again.

It was painful but she refused to cry out. She let all that loss, that terrible, chilling, awful loss of youth, joy & beauty, drain out of her with her bitter tears. Hawk whined as he was empowered again with the life force of the Traveler.

When it was done, she felt as drained as Toland appeared. Her hands seemed thin, her knuckles pronounced, her veins swollen, almost as they had been in her youth. Hawk floated down to her eye level and he beamed his scanner at her.

“I have your Light,” he said with a powerful sadness in his mechanical voice. “I’m sorry Eris.”

“Just try to get out Hawk,” she said in a strained voice. She felt empty, as if her spirit had been pulled free. “Try to get back to the City, tell them I’m alive. Tell them Toland is alive. Tell them what happened.”

The little Ghost softly whined, then zipped away through the tunnels. “He’s not going to make it is he?” Eris asked Toland.

“He will distract the Hive away from you while we disguise you,” Toland answered. “This part will be worse my friend. And I’m sorry.”

Eris felt too weak to fight or even wonder what would be next and as the next part of the spell proceeded it was as if darkness swirled out of the relic and swept over her. She couldn’t stay focused and felt overwhelmed.

She passed out and had weird visions of the massive Hive ship and other planets being covered by Hive Seeders, with their creatures covering continents with war.

She heard Toland’s voice again and when she opened her eyes she could see in the dimly lit cavern so clearly is was as if it had been illuminated by the sun. she looked about her but something was additionally strange.

Her hands reached up to her face and she could feel an almost oily substance on her cheeks, then her eyes with a third eye above the other two. “What have you done to me?” she screamed.

Toland grabbed her arms and lowered her hands from her face. “Don’t touch them!” he warned. “Not yet anyway, you’ll need to give them time to heal. For now, wear this.”

He tied a strip of cloth over her eyes and she found she could still see perfectly in the dark. He presented her new gear to her as well. A brown robe to wear with Hive bone shoulder pauldrons that stuck out like horns off eithe shoulder.

Her gave her body armor that was studded like ancient Japanese armor. He gave her a head wrap to wear on her head. “Where did this all come from?” she asked as she dressed in the new gear. “Will this even protect me?”

“Its not like Titan armor Eris,” Toland almost chuckled. “But it will allow you to pass among them without being noticed. It smells like Hive. And your new eyes will allow you to see without your Ghost.”

Eris not only saw perfectly in the darkness of the cavern but she could sense Hive, she could hear sounds and they started to make sense to her. She could feel the Hive’s desires, the commands that set them moving.

“Toland,” she said in a very small voice as the desires started to swell in her mind. “What have you done to me?”

Her new eyes swam with runes and imagination but suddenly Toland’s face appeared before her. She saw him but she could see more now, almost like visualizing the blood and Light coursing through him.

Right in his forehead, there was a small, moving void, a dark, more than black worm, the Darkness in his thoughts, the ideas, but somehow his Light kept it from burrowing any further.

Toland grabbed the sides of her face, and kept her looking at him. “You are Eris Morn, child of Tarris and Cintha Morn. You are still a Guardian of Earth, a warrior of the Traveler’s Light.”

“You are still you, dear girl,” he continued. “You must keep that in mind at all times. Ikora Rey leads the Hidden, Guardians who go where others cannot and gain intel about the forces of Darkness arrayed against us. You must act as one of them now.”

“Toland, I don’t know,” Eris said in a strained voice. “I can hear the Hive leaders, I can feel what they feel. I don’t know that I’m strong enough for this.”

“You survived illness, you became a Guardian and you’ve been a fighter ever since,” Toland reminded her. “You can do this, you will do this. Just as I must do what I need to do.”

“You’re leaving again, aren’t you?” the Hunter asked, already knowing.

“I am friend,” the Warlock confirmed. “There is much to do, so much to still learn. You’re a survivor Eris, no one else could do what you will do.”

After that, there was nothing else to say and soon, Eris watched Toland walk away into the dark. Her face felt strange and she had to keep her fingers away from her new eyes. The sensations of Hive billowing through her thoughts was distracting.

She had no idea how she would survive this but there was no other choice.

Part 8 – The Years Between –

Eris lived among the Hive for dozens of years. She witnessed things no other being has. She became intimately aware of the Hive, their methods, their functions, their desires and just how complicated and seemingly endless the horde was.

She heard their history, so ancient it was myth, stories about God Worms who gave power to those willing to take it and harness it and use it. Stories about children, banished from their homes, who had to fight against their world to find power.

She heard their names in every cavern, every tunnel, even in the smallest holes she could find, where she could rest, where she kept track of her findings – always their names, in every chant, in every spell – Eir – Ur – Xol – Yul.

When she stumbled across Eriana’s shattered body, she tore away the pieces she understood, parts that would help her preserve her findings. A small, piecemeal computer, nothing like Hawk, her Ghost, but enough to keep a record.

She learned that the Hive had a deep, passionate hatred for the Light. Their efforts was no new war, it was a crusade, all thoughts working towards killing the Traveler and from what she saw, the Hive obviously believed they were close to the end of that hunt.

She saw the Wizards, some of the most powerful, Verok, Eir Spawn and Omnigul, breeding millions of pupae, that would grow into the terrible beasts of universal, ancient war. She heard their chants and felt their power.

She learned of Crota’s history, when he was tricked into attacking his father and fell into a hundred year war with the Vex. The Hive challenged each other as often as they razed worlds. They were the top predator of the universe.

She discovered that Toland’s ramblings about great queens and sword logic were all true. She found the Spawn of Crota – the Eyes, the Hands, the Heart, all beasts doing his will, making plans to invade the Earth and take the Traveler.

She was there when Verok and Alak Hul, the Darkblade, tried to take control of the Hive, leading a rebellion because he felt her had no purpose. The Hive teaching drove him but he simply wasn’t strong enough.

Eris saw Oryx’s sect, the Blood of Oryx, when they claimed Alak Hul and took him away to the Dreadnought, a ship millions of miles away, older than the Earth and the Sun.

She learned of how each death, each killing transferred power to Oryx and she realized there was a flaw in the logic. A weakness – if one could defeat them, beat them back, kill their bodies, then kill their souls, use their power against them – they could be beaten back.

The secrets she learned, the discoveries about the Hive, gave her strength to continue. Even when she learned that the Hive had captured a piece of the Traveler and were using it to drain its Light, she continued to crawl among them, learning.

She was in the fortress for so long she forgot what the color of the sky was on Earth, she couldn’t recall the stars or the sun. She thought with her new eyes, those sights were probably dead to her regardless.

She had stopped dreaming of her triumphant return long ago and had settled into the search for information. She continued her work, avoiding feelings of hope and freedom and made herself a home in one of the caverns.

Then the entire fortress changed. The Hive stirred from their slow planning, and hordes of creatures were on the move up. The Hidden Swarm and their Swarm Princes gathered their dark swords and moved through the tunnels.

Telthor the Unborn rampaged through the caverns. The Celebrant of Oryx left the Moon altogether for the Earth. Ir Yut and Omnigul began to plan. Eris crept up, always up, into the horde’s masses.

When she reached the areas not far below the surface, in places she had not crawled through since the doomed raid, she tested her computer’s communication abilities. She cycled through the transmat & Guardian signlas, trying to either hear news or reach someone.

“This is the Stranger,” a familiar voice suddenly broke through the static. “The only people who knew about this band were with Toland. Who is this?”

“This is Eris Morn speaking from within Luna’s tunnels,” Eris said with more excitement then she had felt for so long. “Or what’s left of her.”

“Is anyone with you?” the Stranger asked immediately. “Is Toland alive?”

“I haven’t seen him since the first few years,” Eris answered with the same feeling of sorrow she felt in the beginning.

“Do you know what’s happening above ground?” the Exo warrior asked.

“I only know that the Hive is awake again,” Eris told her. “What has happened? Is the Vanguard finally coming?”

“There’s a new Guardian,” the Stranger informed her. “They call her the Quiet One. She’s been tearing through the Hive & I’m asking her to go to Venus to meet me to face the Vex. Your path out may be clear.”

Eris didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t thought about going home in so long. She couldn’t even remember the details of her old life. “I don’t know what to do.” she finally said.

“Go home Guardian,” the Exo said firmly. “You’ve been gone long enough and the Vanguard will need your knowledge.”

“I’ve changed,” Eris said hesitantly. “I’ve been changed. I’m…I’m…My Ghost is gone. My Light is gone. My eyes are gone.”

There was a long silence but it was clear the channel was still open. Eris didn’t know what to say but if the Stranger was horrified, if her response was ugly, Eris would never leave the tunnels again.

“Eris, I can’t imagine what you’ve been through,” the Stranger said in a voice that was calm and warm. “But you’re needed. The Cabal are stronger, the Vex are growing, the Black Garden is alive. Darkness is growing again. Join the fight.”

Eris had no idea what would happen, how she would be received. She was scared of what would happen but she knew it was time. Time to return, time to go to the surface and time to share what she had seen.

Eris Morn was going home.

 

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A Story by Tad Williams.

I’ve wanted to be an author for a long time.  and I read voraciously everyday.  I carry a book with me when I walk to the store so I can read while I walk.  I have quite a few favorite authors, people that I buy everything they write.  But my favorite male author, out of the all is Tad Williams.  He’s written a handful of great stories, some so long they takes weeks to read through, but they are always amazing.

This year, he and his wife, known as Mrs. Tad, offered a free story to anyone that blogs.  Of course I jumped all over that!  so for Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate, I got this story to post.  I’m happy to share it with you, here as my next post.  Read and enjoy.

 

Tad Williams’ new short story collection, A Stark And Wormy Knight, is available now, worldwide, as an ebook, $4.99 (or equivalent) for one month

http://www.amazon.com/Stark-Wormy-Knight-ebook/dp/B006P2QX3U

The following story is unique to this blog and a few others.  Happy Holidays.

THE SUGARPLUM FAVOR

(A Christmas Story)

Tad Williams

Danny Mendoza counted his change three times in while the teacher talked about what they were all supposed to bring for the class winter holiday party tomorrow. It was really a Christmas party, at least in Danny’s class, because that’s what all the kids’ families’ celebrated.  Danny had his party contribution covered.  He had volunteered to bring napkins and paper plates and cups because his family had some left over from his little brother’s birthday party with characters from Gabba Gabba Hey on them.  He’d get teased about that, he knew, but he didn’t want to ask his mother to make something because she was so busy with his little brothers and the baby, and now that Danny’s stepfather Luis had lost his job they had a Money Situation.  Danny could live with a little teasing.

Danny was going to buy a candy bar for his mother, one of those big ones.  That was going to be his Christmas present to her and Danny knew how much she’d like it — he hadn’t just inherited his small size and nimble fingers from her, he’d got her sweet tooth, too.  And she had just been talking about the Christmas a few years ago when Luis had a good job with the Sanitation Department and he’d brought her a whole box of See’s chocolates.  Danny knew he couldn’t match that, but the last of the money he’d saved up from raking leaves in the neighborhood and walking old Mrs. Rosales’ wheezy little dog should be enough to buy a big old Hershey bar that would make Mama smile. No, what to get wasn’t a problem.  The thing that had him thinking so hard as he went down the street at a hurried walk, hands shoved deep into his jacket pockets, was whether he dared to get it now or should wait another day.

In Danny’s San Jose neighborhood the Mercado Estrella was like an African water hole, not only a crucial source of nurture but also the haunt of the most fearsome predator in his 3rd grade world.  Any stop at the little market meant he risked running into Hector Villaba, the big, mean fifth-grade kid who haunted Danny’s days and often his nights as well.  Danny couldn’t even begin to guess how much candy and other goodies Hector had stolen from him and the other kids over the years, but it was a lot — Hector was the elementary school’s Public Enemy Number One.  About half the time his victims got shoved around, too, or even hit, and none of the grown-ups ever did anything about it except to tell their humiliated sons they should learn how to fight back.  That was probably because Hector Villaba’s father was a violent, drunken brute who didn’t care what Hector did and everyone in the neighborhood was as scared of him as the kids at school were scared of his son.  The last time someone in the neighborhood had called the police on Hector’s dad, all their windows had been broken while they were at church and their car scratched from one end to another.

Danny was still trying to make up his mind whether to risk stopping at the market today or wait for better odds tomorrow (when class ended early because of the holiday) when he saw Mrs. Rosales walking Pinto, her little spotted dog.  He almost crossed the street because he knew she’d want to talk to him and he’d spent a lot of time doing that already last week when went to her house to get Pinto nearly every day. He was too close, though, she’d seen him, and Jesus hated being rude to old people almost as much as he hated it when kids lied, or at least that was what his mama always told him.  Danny wasn’t expecting much from Santa anyway, but if Jesus got upset things would probably be even worse.  He sighed and continued toward her.

“Look who’s here!” Mrs. Rosales said when she saw him.  “Look, Pinto mi querida, it’s your friend Danny!”  But when he waved and would have passed by she told him, “Hold on a moment, young man, I want to talk to you.”

He stopped, but he was really worried that Hector and his friends might catch up if he stood around too long.  “Yes, Mrs. Rosales?”

“I short-changed you the other day.”  She took out a little coin purse.  It took her a long time to get it open with her knobby old fingers.  “I owe you a dollar.”

“Really?”  Danny was astonished.

She pulled out a piece of paper that looked like it had been folded and unfolded a hundred times and handed it to him.  “I know boys need money this time of year!”

He thanked her, petted Pinto (who growled despite all their time together, because Pinto was a spoiled brat) and hurried toward the market.  Another dollar!  It was like one of those Christmas miracles on a television show – like the Grinch’s heart growing so much it made the x-ray machine go sproing!  This changed everything.  He could not only buy his mom’s present, he could buy something for himself, too.  He briefly considered blowing the whole dollar on a Butterfinger, his very favorite, but he knew hard candies would be a better investment — he could share them with his younger brothers, and it was Christmas-time, after all.  But whatever he got, he didn’t want to wait for tomorrow, not now that he had something to spend on himself.  Danny Mendoza had been candy-starved for days.  Nothing sweeter than the baby’s butterscotch pudding had passed his lips that week, and the pudding hadn’t been by his own choice.  (His baby sister had discovered that if she waved her spoon things flew and splattered, and she liked that new trick a lot.)  If he hurried to the market he should still get there long before Hector and his friends, who had many children to harass and humiliate on their way home.  It was a risk, of course, but with an unexpected dollar in his pocket Danny felt strangely confident.  There had to be such a thing as Christmas luck, didn’t there?  After all, it was a whole holiday about Jesus getting born, and Jesus was kind to everybody. Although it sure hadn’t seemed like a lucky Christmas when Luis, Danny’s stepfather, had lost his job in the first week of December.  But maybe things were going to get better now — maybe, as his mama sometimes said, the Mendoza family’s luck was going to change.

He was even more willing to believe in miracles when he saw no sign of Hector and his friends at the market.  As he walked in Christmas music was playing loudly on the radio, that “Joy to the World” song sung by some smooth television star.  Tia Marisol, the little old lady who ran the place on her own since her husband died, was trying to hang some lights above the cigarettes behind the cash register.  She wasn’t his real aunt, of course.  Everybody in the neighbohood just called her “Tia.”

Oye, little man,” she called when she turned around and saw him.  “How’s your mama?”

“Fine, Tia Marisol.  I’m getting her a present.”  He made his way past thepostres to the long candy rack.  So many colors, so many kinds!  It almost seemed to glow, like in one of those cartoons where children found a treasure-cave.  When Danny was little, it was what he had imagined when the minister at the church talked about Heaven.  The only better thing he had ever seen in his whole life was the huge piñata at one of his school friends’ birthday party, years and years ago.  When the birthday boy knocked the piñata open and candy came showering out and all the kids could jump in and take what they want – that had been amazing.  Like winning a game show on television.  Danny still dreamed about it sometimes.

Danny realized that he was staring like a dummy at the rack of candy when every second the danger that Hector and his friends would arrive kept growing.  He quickly examined the big Hershey bars until he found one with a perfect wrapper, a massive candy bar that looked as if it had been made special for a commercial.  He would have loved to spend more time browsing — how often did he have a whole dollar to spend just on candy? — but he knew time was short, so he grabbed a good-sized handful of hard, sour candies for sucking, took several different colors of candy ropes; then, as worry grew inside him, as uncomfortable as needing to pee, he finally snatched up a handful of bubble gum and ran to the front counter.

“What’s your hurry, m’hijo?” Tia Marisol asked.

“Mom needs me,” he said, which he hoped was not enough of a lie to ruin Jesus’ upcoming celebration.  After all, Mom did always need his help, especially by this time in the day when she’d been on her own with the baby and the littlest brother since morning, and had just walked the other brother home from preschool.  He pulled the three dollars worth of much-counted change out of one pocket and mounded it in front of Tia Marisol, then put the Hershey bar and his own handful of candy down beside it before digging out the crumpled dollar Mrs. Rosales had given him.  She slid her glasses a little way down her nose while she looked at it all.

“Where’d you get so much money, Danny?”

“Raking lawns.  Taking Mrs. Rosales dog for walks.”

Tia Marisol smiled, handed him back twenty-three cents, and put everything into a paper bag.  “You’re a good boy.  You and your family have a happy Christmas.  Tell your mama I said hello, would you?”

“Sure.”  He was already halfway through the door, heart beating.

The Christmas miracle continued outside: other than a couple of young mothers with strollers and bundled-up babies, and the old men who sat on the bus bench across the street drinking from bottles in paper bags, the area around the store was still clear. Danny began to walk toward home as fast as he could without running, because he had the bag under his coat now and he didn’t want to melt Mama’s candy bar.  Still, he was almost skipping, he was so happy.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come…!

HeyMendoza,” someone shouted in a hoarse voice.  What’s in the bag,maricon?”

Danny stopped, frozen for a moment like a cornered animal, but then he began to walk again, faster and faster until he was running.  There was no question whose voice that was.  Pretty much every kid in his school knew it and feared it.

“Hold up, Mendoza, or I’ll kick your ass good!”  The voice was getting closer. He could hear the whir of bike tires on the sidewalk coming up behind him fast.  He looked back and saw that Hector Villaba and his big, stupid friends Rojo and Chuy were bearing down on him on their bikes, and in another second or two would ride him down. He lunged to the side just as Hector stuck out his foot and shoved him, sending Danny crashing into the low wire fence of the house he was passing.  He bounced off and tumbled painfully to the sidewalk as Hector and his gang stopped just a few yards ahead, now blocking the sidewalk that led Danny home.  The hard candies had fallen out of his bag and were scattered across the sidewalk.  He got down on his knees, hurrying to pick them up, doing everything he could to avoid eye contact with Hector and the others, but when he reached for the last one Hector’s big, stupid basketball-shoe was on top of it.  The older boy leaned over and picked it up.  “Jolly Rancher, huh?  Not bad. Not great, but not bad.”  He waved it in Danny’s face, making him look up from all fours like a dog at its master.  “I asked you what’s in the bag, Mendoza?”

“Nothing!  It’s for my mama.”

“For your mama?  Oh, iddn’t dat sweet?”  Hector’s fingers hooked under Danny’s chin and lifted.  Danny didn’t fight — he knew it wasn’t going to help — but he still flinched when he saw Hector’s round, sweaty face so close, the angry, pale yellow-brown eyes.  Hector Villaba even had the beginnings of a real mustache, a hairy smudge on his upper lip.  It was one of the things that made him so scary, one of the reasons why even bigger twelve year olds like Chuy and Rojo let him lead them — a fifth-grader with a mustache!

“C’mon, open it up,” Hector told him.  “Let’s see what you got for your mama.” When Danny still didn’t offer up the bag, Hector’s friend Chuy put a foot on Danny’s back and pushed down so hard that Danny had to brace himself to keep from being shoved against the sidewalk.  “I said show me, maricon,” said Hector.  “Chuy gonna break your spine.  He knows karate.”

Danny handed Hector the bag, biting his lip, determined not to cry.  Hector pulled out the big Hershey Bar.  “Hijole!” he said.  “Look at that!  Something for your mama, shit — you were going to eat that all by yourself.  Not even share none with us. That’s cold, man.”

“It is for my mother!  It is!”  Danny pushed up against Chuy’s heavy hiking boot trying to reach the candy bar, which didn’t look anywhere near so huge clamped in Hector Villaba’s plump, dirty fingers.  Chuy took his weight off for a moment, then kicked Danny in the ribs hard enough to make him drop to the concrete and hug himself in pain.

“If you try any more shit, we’ll hurt you good,” said Hector, laughing as he unwrapped the candy bar.  He tossed a piece to Chuy, then another to Rojo, who grabbed it out of the air and shoved it in his mouth like a starving dog, then licked his fingers.  Hector leaned down and gave Danny another shove, hard enough to crash him against the fence again.  “Don’t you ever try to hide anything from me.  I know where you live, dude.  I’ll come over and slap the bitch out of you and your mama both.”  He pointed to the hard candies still clutched in Danny’s hands.  “Get that other shit, too, yo,” Hector told Rojo, and the big, freckled kid bent Danny’s fingers back until he surrendered it all.

The Christmas chocolate bar, looking sad and naked with half its foil peeled away, was still clutched in Hector’s hand as he and his friends rode away laughing, sharing the hard candy out of the bag.

For a while Danny just sat on the cold sidewalk and wished he had a knife or even a gun and he could kill Hector Villaba, even if it made Jesus unhappy for weeks.  At that moment Danny almost felt like he could do it.  The rotten, mean bastard had taken his mom’s present!

At last Danny wiped his eyes and continued home.  It was starting to get dark and the wind was suddenly cold, which made his scratched-up hands ache.  When he reached the apartment he let himself in, dropped his book bag by the door, then called a greeting to his mama feeding Danny’s baby sister in the kitchen as he hurried on to the bathroom so he could clean up his scratches and tear-stained face and do his best to hide the damage to the knees of his pants before she saw him up close.  It wouldn’t do any good to tell her what had happened – she couldn’t do anything and it would make her very sad.  Danny was used to keeping quiet about what went on between home and school, school and home.

After a while he went out and sat at the table and watched as his mother fed green goop to the baby.  Even her smile for Danny looked tired.  Mama worked so hard to keep them all fed and dressed, hardly ever yelled, and even sang old songs from Mexico for Danny and his brothers when she wasn’t too tired…

And now that cabron Hector had stolen her present, and he didn’t have any money left to get her something else.

 

*

Later that night, when the house was quiet and everyone was asleep, Danny found himself crying again.  It was so unfair!  What had happened to the Christmas luck?  Or did that kind of thing only happen to other kids, other families?

“Please, Jesus,” he prayed quietly.  “I just have to get Mama something for Christmas – something Hector can’t take.  If that’s a miracle, okay – I mean, I know you can’t do them all the time, but if you got one…an extra one…”

 

*

Something woke him up – a strange noise in the living room.  For a moment he lay in bed wondering if Santa Claus might have come, but then he remembered it was still three days until Christmas.  Still, he could definitely hear something moving, a kind of quiet fluttery sound.   His brothers were both sprawled in boneless, little-boy sleep across the mattress they shared, so he climbed carefully over them and made his way out to the living room.  At first he saw nothing more unusual than the small Christmas tree on top of the coffee table, but as he stared, his eyes trying to get used to the dark, he saw the tree was…moving?  Yes, moving, the top of the pine wagging like a dog’s tail.

Danny had never heard of a Christmas tree coming to life, not even in a TV movie, and it scared him.  He picked up the tennis racket with the missing strings Luis kept promising to fix, then crawled toward the scraggly tree with its ornaments of foil and cut paper.

As he got closer he could see that something small was caught in the tree’s topmost branch, trying to fly away but not succeeding.  He could hear its wings beating so fast they almost buzzed.  A bird, trapped in the apartment?  A really big moth?

Danny looked for one of the baby’s bowls to trap it, then had a better idea and crept to the kitchen cabinet where his mom kept the washed jars.  He picked a big one that had held sandwich spread and slithered commando-style back to the living room. Whatever the thing was, it was really stuck, tugging and thrashing as it tried to free itself from the pine needles.  He dropped the jar over it and pulled carefully on the branch until the thing could finally get free, then Danny clapped the lid on the jar to keep it from escaping.

The thing inside the jar went crazy now, flying against the glass, the wings going so fast that it made it hard for him to see for certain what it was.  The strange thing was, it actually looked like a person — a tiny, tiny little person no bigger than a sparrow.  That was crazy.  Danny knew it was crazy.  He knew he had to be dreaming.

“What are you doing?” the thing said in a tiny, rasping voice.  It didn’t sound happy at all.  “Let me go!”

Danny was so startled to hear it talk that he nearly dropped the jar.  He held it up to the light coming in from the street lamp to get a better look.  The prisoner in the jar was a little lady — a lady with wings!  A real, honest-to-goodness Christmas miracle! “Are you…an angel?” he asked.

“Let me out, young man, and we’ll talk about it.”  She didn’t sound much like an angel.  Actually, she sounded a lot like that scratchy-voiced nanny on that TV show his mama watched sometimes.  Her hair was yellow and kind of wild and sticky-uppy, and she wore a funny little dancing dress.  She was also carrying a bag over her shoulder like Santa did, except that hers wasn’t much bigger than Danny’s thumb .

“P-Promise you won’t fly away?” he asked this strange small person.  “If I let you out?”

She had her tiny hands pressed up against the inside of the jar.  She shook her head so hard her little sparkly crown almost fell off.  “Promise.  But hurry up — I don’t like enclosed places.  Honest, it makes me want to scream.  Let me out, please.”

“Okay.  But no cheating.”  He unscrewed the lid on the jar and slowly turned it over.   The tiny lady rose up, fluttering into the light that streamed through the living room window.

“Oh, that’s so much better,” she said.  “I got stuck in a panoramic Easter egg once, wedged between a frosting bunny and a cardboard flower pot.  Thought I was going to lose my mind.”

“Wow,” he said.  “Who are you?  What are you?”

She carefully landed on the floor near his knee.  “I’m a sugarplum fairy,” she said.  “Like in that ballet.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.  Look, thanks for getting me loose from that tree.”  She turned herself around trying to look down at herself.  “Rats!  Ripped my skirt.  I hate conifers.” She turned back to Danny.  “I didn’t mean to scare you, I was just passing through the neighborhood when I felt somebody thinking candy thoughts — real serious candy thoughts.  I mean, it was like someone shouting.  Anyway, that’s what we do, us sugarplum fairies — we handle the candy action, especially at Christmas time.  So I thought I should come and check it out.  Was it you?  Because if it was, you’ve got the fever bad, kid.”  She reached into her bag and produced a lollypop bigger than she was, something that couldn’t possibly have fit in there.  “Here, have one on me.  You look like you need it.”

“Wow.  Wow!”  He suddenly realized he was talking out loud and dropped his voice, worried that he would wake up his mama and Luis.  He reached out for the lollypop.  “You’re really a fairy.  Do you know Jesus?”

She shrugged.  “I think he’s in another department.  What’s your name?  It’s Danny, isn’t it?”

He nodded.  “Yeah.”  It suddenly struck him.  “You know my name…?”

“I’ve got it all written down somewhere.”  She started riffling through her bag again, then pulled out something that looked like a tiny phone book.  She took out an equally small pair of glasses, opened the book and began reading.  “For some reason you fell off the list here, Danny.  No wonder you’re so desperate — you haven’t had a sugarplum delivery in quite a while!  Well, that at least I can do something about.”  She frowned as she took a pen out of the apparently bottomless bag and made a correction. “Of course, they may not process the new order until early next year, and I’m not scheduled back in this area until Valentines Day.”  She frowned.  “Doesn’t seem fair…” A moment later her tiny face brightened.  “Hey, since you saved me from that tree branch I think I’m allowed to give you a wish.  Would you like that?”

“Really?  A wish?”

“Yes.  I can do that.”

“You’ll give me a wish?  Like magic?  A wish?”

She frowned again.  “Come on, kid, I know you’ve been shorted on candy the last couple of years but is your blood sugar really that low?  I just very clearly said I willgive you a wish.  We’re allowed to when someone helps us out.”

He was so excited he could barely sit still.  It was a Christmas miracle after all, a real one!  “Could I wish for, like, a million dollars?”  Then even if Luis didn’t find another job for a while, the family would be okay.  More than okay.

She shook her head.  “Sorry, kid, no.  I only do candy-related wishes.  You want one of those extra big gummy bears?  I hear those are popular this year.  I could bend some rules and get it to you by Christmas.”

He was tempted — he’d seen an ad on television — but now it was his turn to shake his head.  “Could I just get a big Hershey bar?  One of those extra-big ones?  For my mother?”

The little woman tilted her head up so she could see him better from where she stood down on the ground.  “Truly?  Is that all you want?  Gee, kid, I could feel the desperation coming off this house like weird off an elf.  You sure you don’t want something a little more…substantial?  A pile of candy, maybe?  A year’s supply of gumdrops or something?  As long as it’s candy-related, I can probably get it done for you, but you better decide quick.”  She pulled quite a large pocket watch on a chain out of her bag, then put on her glasses again.  “After midnight, and I’ve still got half my rounds to go.”  She looked up at him.  “You seem like a nice kid, Danny, and it doesn’t look like you guys are exactly swimming in presents and stuff.  How about a nice pile of candy, assorted types?  Or if you’d rather just concentrate on — what did you say, Hershey Bars? — I could probably arrange a shopping bag of those or something…”

For a moment his head swam at the prospect of a grocery bag full of giant chocolate bars, more than Hector the Butt-head Villaba could ever dream of having now matter how much he stole…but then another idea came floating up from deep down in Danny’s thoughts – a strange, dark idea.

“Can you do all kinds of wishes?  Really all kinds?”

“Yeah, but just one.  And it definitely has to be candy-related.  I’m not a miracle worker or anything.”

“Okay.  Then  I’ll tell you what I want.”  Danny could suddenly see it all in his imagination, and it was very, very good.

 

*

The school holiday party was nice.  Danny and his classmates played games and sang songs and had a snack of fruit and cheese and crackers.  Nobody brought Chips Ahoy cookies, but one of the mothers did indeed bring cupcakes, delicious chocolate ones with silver, green and red sprinkles for Christmas.  There were even enough left over that although Danny had finished his long ago despite making it last as long as possible, he was allowed to take home the last two for his little brothers.  He suspected that the teacher knew his family didn’t have much money, but for this one day it didn’t embarrass him at all.

After the bell rang Danny followed the other third-graders toward the school gate, holding one cupcake carefully in each hand, his book bag draped over his shoulder.  He was watching his feet so carefully that he didn’t see what made the other children suddenly scatter to either side, but as soon as he heard the voice he knew the reason.

“Look at that, it’s Maricon Mendoza, yo,” said Hector Villaba.  “What’d you bring us for Christmas, kid?”  Danny looked up.  The mustached monster was sitting astride his bike just a few yards down the sidewalk, flanked by Rojo and Chuy.  “Oh, yeah, dude — cupcakes!” said Hector.  “You remembered our Christmas presents.”  He scooted his bike forward until he stood directly over Danny, then reached out for the cupcakes.  Danny couldn’t help it — he jerked back when Hector tried to take them, even though he knew it would probably earn him another bruising.

“Punch the little chulo’s face in,” Rojo suggested.
Hector dropped his bike with a clatter.  The other kids from school who had stopped to stare in horrified fascination jumped out of his way as he strode forward and grabbed the cupcakes out of Danny’s hands.  He peeled the paper off one and shoved the whole cupcake in his mouth, then tossed the other to Chuy.  “You two split that,” he said through a mouthful of devil’s food, then turned his attention back to Danny, who was so scared and excited that he felt like electricity was running through him.  “Next time, you better remember to bring one for each of us, Mendoza.  You only bring two, that’s going to get your ass kicked.”

Danny backed away.  It was hard to look into those yellow-brown eyes and not run crying, let alone keep thinking clearly, but Danny did his best.  He dropped his book bag to the ground and out fell the stringless tennis racket that he had brought from home.  Hector hooted with angry laughter as Danny snatched it up and held it before him as if it was a cross and Hector was a vampire.

Que?  You going to try to hit me, little boy?”  Hector laughed again, but he didn’t sound happy.  He didn’t like it when people stood up to him.  “I’ll take that away from you and beat your ass black and blue, Mendoza.”  The bully took a step nearer and held out his hand.  “Give it to me or I’ll break your fingers.”

“No.”  Danny wasn’t going to step back any farther.  He lifted the racket, waved it around like a baseball bat.  It was old and flimsy, but he had come to school determined today.  “You can’t have it…you fat asshole.”

Behind Hector, Rojo let out a surprised chortle, but Hector Villaba didn’t think it was funny at all.

“That’s it,” he said, curling his hands into fists.  “After I kick your ass, I’m gonna rub your face in dog shit.  Then I’m gonna kick your ass again.  You’re gonna spend Christmas in the hospital.”  Without warning, he charged toward Danny.

Danny stepped to the side and swung the racket as hard as he could, hitting Hector right in the stomach.  With a whoop of surprise and pain Hector bent double, but when he looked up he didn’t look hurt, just really, really mad, his eyes staring like a crazy dog’s eyes.

“That’s…it.  I’m…going…to…get…you…Mendoza…” he said, then sucked in air and stood up straight, but even as he did so a funny expression crossed his face and he looked down at where he was holding his belly.  Hector’s hands were suddenly full of crackling, cellophane-wrapped hard candies, so many of them that they cascaded over his fingers and onto the ground.  He lifted his hands in disbelief to look and dozens more of the candies slid out of the front of his open jacket — candy bars, too, fun-size and even regular ones, Snickers bars, Mounds, Tootsie Rolls, lollipops, candy canes, even spicy tamarindos.  The other children from the school stared in horrified fascination, guessing that Danny had broken a bag that Hector had been carrying under his coat. They were so scared of Hector that they didn’t move an inch toward any of the candy that was still slithering out of the big boy’s coat and pooling on the ground at his feet.

“Oh, man,” one of the other third graders said in a hoarse whisper, “Mendoza’s going to get beat up so bad…!”

But even more candy was pouring out of Hector’s belly now, as if someone had turned on a candy-faucet, a great river of sweets running out of the place where Danny had knocked him open with his old tennis racket.

“What the…?”  Then Hector Villaba looked down at himself and began to scream in terror.  Candy was showering out of him faster and faster onto the sidewalk, already piled as high as the cuffs of his pants and still coming.

Hijole, dude!”  said Rojo.  “You’re a piñata!”

Hector looked at him, eyes rolling with fear, then he turned sprinted away down the street squealing like a kindergartner, a flood of candy still pouring from him, Crunch Bars, M&Ms,  (plain and peanut) as well as boxes of gumdrops and wax-wrapped pieces of taffy, all raining onto the street around the bully’s legs and feet, bouncing and rolling.

Rojo and Chuy watched Hector run for a moment, then turned to stare at Danny with a mixture of apprehension and confusion.  Then turned from him to look at each other, came to some kind of agreement, and threw themselves down on their knees to start scooping up the candy that had fallen out of Hector Villaba.  Within a few seconds the other school kids were all scrambling across the ground beside them, everybody shoveling candy into their pockets as fast as they could.

Danny waited until he wasn’t breathing so hard, then started for home, following the clear trail of candy that had gushed from Hector Villaba as he ran.  He didn’t bother to pick up everything, since for once in his life he could afford to be selective.  He stuffed one pocket of his jacket with candy for his brothers, then filled the other just with Butterfinger Bars, at least six or seven, but kept walking with his head down until he spotted a nice, big Hershey Bar in good condition which he zipped in his book bag so it would stay safe for his mother.  The rest of the way home he picked up whatever looked interesting and threw it into the book bag too, until by the time he reached home he was staggering with its weight up the apartment building walkway.  For once, Hector Villaba had been the one who had run home crying.

He didn’t feel sorry for Hector, either, not at all.  Scared as the fifth-grader was now, he would be all right when he reached home.  Danny had made that a part of the wish and the fairy had said she thought it was a good idea.  Jesus didn’t want even mean kids to die from having their guts really fall out, Danny felt pretty sure, so he had done his best not to spoil the Lord’s birthday.  Of course Hector Villaba probably wouldn’t have a very merry Christmas, but Danny had decided that Jesus could probably live with that.

Chapter One, Rewritten

CHAPTER ONE

DREAMS

 

Heaven.

Everyone has thought about it.  No matter your practiced religion or faith, everyone has at least wondered once, if Heaven was a real place.  A place that you go to when you die.  It’s supposed to be a place that you go when you die if you’ve lived a good life.

There have been stories told about it, legends and myths about it, even movies that show what people think it could be.  Andrew Spur knew that it was real.  He had proof.  In his hands he held a book, a book that was so old, it should be crumbling into dust, but some magic kept it whole and readable.

It was titled The Book of Secrets and Mysteries.  It was written by the Archangel Raziel, who gave it to Adam and Eve.  Legend tells that other Angels became angry that Raziel gave it to them and took it away, throwing it into the ocean.  But God Himself got it back and gave it to Adam again.

Raziel had wanted the Humans to learn from the book and find their way back into God’s good graces.  The book had been kept and cherished for thousands of years until it had eventually been given to Andrew by his father when he died.

Andrew was a wealthy man, who inherited a vast fortune from his father.  He also worked as a banker and made quite a bit of money himself.  When he received the book, he made an effort to learn the language it was written in, a language not used for a thousand years.

Andrew Spur was one of four families that could trace their roots all the way back to Biblical times.  The four families had stayed together and had grown wealthy over time.  When Andrew read the book, after years of study, he discovered many things.

First, he discovered that God was in fact real.  There were Angels, that lived in Heaven and affected Humankind.  He discovered that DemonS were real as well and they had fought a great battle in Heaven and when they lost, they were condemned to Hell.

He also discovered that along with his three friends, from the three other ancient families, he was an Otheymm, a Human that had power.  He learned that the substance that reality was made of was called Seer.

Otheymm had the power to make objects out of Seer, either clothes or weapons or other object they would need.  They needed to learn how to fight with these weapons because they had a plan that also came from the book.

The book told Andrew that not only was Heaven real, but the Garden of Eden was real.  And in the Garden of Eden was the Tree of Life.  Eating the fruit from the Tree of Life would make a Human immortal like the Angels and Demons.

Andrew Spur was a powerful Human.  But to become immortal was a power beyond his Human dreams.  When he had discovered that passage in the book, he had become obsessed with the idea, and with the other three friends, he began to learn about his new powers, creating weapons out of Seer and learning how to fight with them.

Learning how to create weapons, and learning how to fight with ancient weapons had taken a large amount of time.  Andrew and the others were ready, finally.  They had learned the skills needed to fight in Heaven and they planned to go there this very year and find the Tree of Life.

They had learned the magic of Heaven and how to make a Gattae, or Gate to go from Earth to Heaven.  They had spent years gathering materials they would need to open such a Gate.  They were almost ready now; they needed one more item to make the idea happen.

They were very close and ruthless in their plans.  They would let nothing stop them from getting to Heaven and reached the Garden.  They had done things, some terrible, to get where they wanted to be and soon they would cross the Heavens to reach immortality.

 

***

 

The dream was different.

Cormac had always been able to tell when he was dreaming.  It was a talent he had since he was young.  When he had nightmares as a child, he could tell himself, even during the dream, that it was just a dream and no harm could come to him.

This dream was different.  This dream felt real, and Cormac felt scared.  It was twilight, that hour where you can’t make out shadows from reality and everything seems hidden and strange.  He was in a field where the grass was knee-high and wet.

Cormac was running, running from something dark and terrible that was chasing him.  It was huge, tall and wide and all black, like a shadow, but with gleaming red eyes.  It appeared to have horns on its head and its hands ended in sharp talons.

He could hear it breathing, great gusting breaths that sounded like they were coming from right behind him.  It had been chasing him for a long time now and there was nowhere to hide.  The field was just empty before him, deep in shadows and he feared tripping or falling and being caught.

He could feel sweat running down his face and collected on his back.  He could feel the hot breath behind him and it stank like rotten meat.  The creature behind him didn’t threaten or speak.  Its intentions were clear and Cormac had to do what he could to escape.

He knew it was a dream, but it had a new quality to it, as though it were not a dream.  The details, of the grass and the dew, the breath and the thumping footsteps behind him were all too real.

Then he saw a shape up ahead, not tall and curvy, like a woman.  She had red eyes too, but he could tell she wasn’t hunting him.  She passed her hand through the air and a doorway, or a gate opened up and light shined from somewhere else.

Cormac ran towards the light and got a glimpse of the woman’s face as he passed her.  She too had horns, and her skin was dark blue, like a frozen corpse.  She was beautiful though and she smiled at him as he raced through the doorway of light.

He woke suddenly, just as he crossed the barrier from dark twilight to a shining path of light.  He opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling in his room.  It was midday and he had fallen asleep for a nap and fell into the strange dream.

He sat up, disturbing his two cats, who were sleeping with him.  They both jumped to the floor and meowed at him, hoping to be fed.  He slid his legs over the side of the bed and stood, rubbing his face.  He walked into the kitchen of his small one-bedroom apt, and got the cat food.

The cats followed him as he walked to the bathroom and opened the can, spooning out a bit of food into two separate bowls.  He returned to the kitchen, put the can in the fridge and walked into the living room to look out the window onto the street.

It was overcast that day and seemed a bit dreary outside.  Standing on the corner of a connecting street was a man in blue jeans and a flannel shirt, with a cap.  The man was staring up at Cormac’s window, but looked away when Cormac noticed him.  The man walked away quickly.

Thinking that was a little strange, Cormac surveyed the rest of the street, but it looked the same as always.  He lived on a quiet street in a small town in New York State.  The town didn’t have much, but it suited his quiet lifestyle.

Cormac though of himself as a simple man, with simple desires.  The truth was, it was a bit more complicated that that.  He had been diagnosed with bi-polar mood disorders and that earned him a Social Security check once a month.  He didn’t have to work, but the amount of money wasn’t so much that he could have a lavish life.

He lived alone, in a small apartment, on the third floor of his building.  He wanted to be a writer, so he used much of his time writing, or doing research for his writing.  It was a good life, simple, but good.

There was something else that made Cormac unique though.  He could see ghosts, or souls as he thought of them.  He had been able to see them since he was young.  He saw them around old houses, or floating along the street, or stuck somewhere obsessing over a regret.

They didn’t speak to him or communicate in any way, and it didn’t seem like a talent or a skill that he had.  He didn’t know why he could see them, and he had become accustomed to it years earlier.

The souls were always light blue and sort of misty, and they floated wherever he saw them.  He had noticed that he didn’t often see them in the same places, so somehow they moved on he supposed, but since he couldn’t interact with them, he never gave it mush thought.

On the other hand, his relationships with Humans were quite a bit different.  He could talk to them, and interact with them, but he didn’t understand them and often had conflicts with them.  He felt different than they seemed to, and not just because he could see spirits.

Cormac knew, deep inside that he was different, he just couldn’t tell anyone how he was different.  He had been born a bastard child, and adopted by a family friend, who raised him alone.

He was a troubled child, a fighter, always battling with someone over a slight, whether true or imagined.  In his mind, Cormac was always making sense, and the world around him didn’t make sense.  He didn’t understand Human, or their actions, so he had become a loner by the time he was twenty-five.

He had been dating someone, juts up until a few months ago, when she left him for a few reasons he didn’t understand.  She had said that her friends didn’t like him, and she didn’t like that he didn’t work.  Of course, she had known that the whole two years they were together, so he didn’t really understand what happened that made it a bad thing all of a sudden.

It took many years, and a bit of medication for him to react the way he did.  He didn’t understand it, but he didn’t fight it either.  If she didn’t want to be with him anymore, what could he do?  So he let her go, and tried to just be her friend.

That wasn’t working out as well as he’d like, and again, he couldn’t understand it, but he maintained contact and stayed friendly and hoped that in the future it would become easier.

Her name was Kayla, and they had known each other for half of their adult lives.  They had helped each other through a rough period of time and it just seemed natural that they started dating.  And things had seemed good, right up until she announced that she was done with him.

So now his life was simple and quiet.  He spent his time writing, or going to the local AA meetings, or meeting with the very few friends he had.  He spent most of his time alone and he liked it that way.  Human relationships were far too complicated for him to understand.  Easier to be by himself.

 

***

 

Kayla Carpenter found herself thinking of Cormac again.  She shook her head angrily and scolded herself for letting her mind wander again.  She missed him sometimes, that was true, but she had broken up with him for good reasons and she meant to stick to her decision.

She was working, outside, as a gardener in her mother’s business.  She had gone to school to be a therapist, but she couldn’t find a job doing that, so she fell back on what she had done when she was younger, working for her mother again.

As a gardener, she worked outside; doing back breaking work that wore out her body but kept her fit and strong.  She was thin, and shorter than Cormac and she had short brown hair.  Her eyes were a liquid gray with golden flecks and she had a clear jawline that Cormac had loved to draw.

Damn it!  She was doing it again, thinking of him while she worked.  Her mind would wander, but she needed to focus.  She stood up straight and looked across the lawn to the other people who worked for her mother and her hand fell habitually to the necklace her grandmother had given her when she died.

The necklace was simple, a silver chain with a tanzanite stone held in a silver clasp.  It hung right between her collarbones and glowed when the sun hit it.  Today was a sunny day and she looked up at the slowly drifting cloud and she asked for help, from the universe to get her through this period of time after the breakup.

She was not only working for her mother, but living with her too, and sometimes she just felt worn out from her life.  She thought she would’ve been married by now and had a child, she thought she’d be working in her field by now, and nothing was going the way she had hoped.

She was stuck living in her mother’s house, in a small room, with her two cats, and her mother’s husband clearly didn’t want her there, which created more stress for everyone.  But she just didn’t make enough money to live on her own.  It was a rotten situation.

She and Cormac had talked about marriage and children, and for a while, she was convinced they would have those things.  But Cormac wasn’t really going anywhere.  He lived alone, spent most of his time alone and seemed to like it that way.  Kayla wanted to live a different life, so she had broken it off.

She hadn’t wanted to hurt him, but she just didn’t see them having a future together.  Now they were attempting to be friends, which consisted of a few phone texts now and again, but that was it.

She knew she could always depend on him if she needed anything.  He was definitely loyal, to a fault, but it was hard to maintain a friendship after a romantic relationship that went south.

She reached down and picked up her bottle of water and took a long drink.  Working made her hot and the still cool water felt good going down.  She sighed and shook her head again.

Better get back to work, she thought.  They needed to finish this garden by the end of the day, and they were already halfway through the work day.  She needed to move faster, and spend less time thinking about the past.

She gritted her teeth, took another moment to calm herself, and then bent down to work again.  She pulled roots and debris away from the flowers and decorative plants and focused on her work.

 

***

 

Heaven was guarded and guided by twelve Archangels and twelve Angels.  Heaven was populated by souls of Humans that had decided to stay in Heaven and try to evolve into something greater than a Human soul.

When a Human died, if that Human lived a moderately good life, they were given a choice.  They could either forget all they had learned and begin again as a newborn baby, living another life, or they could stay in Heaven and evolve into Angels themselves.

It took thousands of years to evolve from a Human soul into an Angel, but thousands of souls chose just that, and they lived in Heaven, working towards the greater good and slowly evolved.

Heaven was divided into twelve cities, where the twelve Archangels ruled over their souls that had decided to stay.  Each Archangel had chosen a Human warrior class that they felt was the best Humans had achieved.

The Archangel appeared to look like the warriors of the time period they especially thought well of.  And their cities appeared as they would have in that time period.  The cities were built side by side in a vast circle surrounding a Central Market.

Human souls worked for their livelihood, farming, or managing animals, or working a hundred other tasks that helped a city function.  Some made clothes; others made weapons, while others built homes for the souls that chose to stay.

Every soul had a job, and the Angels and Archangels watched over them, and guarded them from attacks by Demons that tried to invade Heaven for centuries, ever since they lost the Great War that made them Fallen Angels.

Each Archangel and Angel had work as well.  Some of them guided souls to Heaven, while other created hardships for Humans to overcome.  They also had tasks in Heaven, responsibilities that they must perform.

Gabriel, the Messenger of God, the Spirit of Truth, and the Archangel that would blow the Horn Gajallarhorn at the end of time, was in charge of Research and Development.  He created tools to communicate with, or tools to make life easier in Heaven.

Gabriel was the leader of science in Heaven and he had gathered like-minded Angels to his side.  He stood now in a building within his city, with a small group of Archangels and Angels that followed his command.

Gabriel was dressed as a Spartan warrior, and wore a bronze breastplate and a bronze helmet with cheek plates.  He carried a Hoplon shield that could cover him from chin to knee.  His sword was a Xiphos sword, just as the Spartans used so many years ago.

Also in the building were one hundred Human souls that he had gathered from his city.  They had come to be part of an experiment that Gabriel had told them would bring them closer to God.

He held up a machine that he had created.  It was small and not threatening, just a jumble of wires and tubes that made a simple shape and glowed with an inner light.  He lifted the machine and flipped a switch and passed it over the heads of the Human souls that stood patiently waiting.

The machine hummed and clicked and made other noises that showed it was working.  Each soul suddenly stood a little straighter, their eyes rolling back in their heads.  They began to shake and drool until they eventually fell down in a heap.

In a large glass container behind Gabriel, something grew inside.  A light that appeared solid, but wasn’t.  it was a glow that couldn’t be described but it made the Angels glad to see it.  Gabriel smiled and turned to his fellows that followed his commands.

“We have done it!” he cried over the hum of the machine.  “We have extracted the part of the soul that contains God Himself!”

The other Angels stared at the glowing light in the glass container.  It was warm and peaceful, but bold and powerful as well.  It was hard to focus on and mysterious to contemplate.

“But this machine I have created,” Gabriel explained.  “Is not enough.  We can only used one hundred souls at a time with it.  We need a special soul, a Keystone soul to make a bigger machine that could pull God free of many more souls at once!”

“Where will we find such a soul?” one of the other Angels asked.

“On Earth of course!” Gabriel laughed, as if it had been obvious.  “And you, Leliel, will find us that soul!”

Leliel, an Angel that appeared as a squat Hun warrior, clothed in furs and leather, nodded.  He grinned back at Gabriel and agreed to be the one to find the soul they needed.

Leliel was a Trickster Angel and had contacts in many places.  He was sure he could find the Keystone soul they needed.  He looked at the hundred souls that had fallen, as they started to wake and stand.

The souls looked empty.  Their faces were slack with no real inner light.  Their eyes were dull and lightless.  Gabriel gave them commands to go back to their lives and work hard, and they mumbled an agreement and shuffled off to go back to their work.

Even Leliel was alarmed at this new science.  The souls they extracted God from looked like the dead instead of vibrant as they were before.  He wondered how long it would be before the other Archangels noticed the change in the Human souls in Gabriel’s city.

Leliel wondered how they would react when they learned of Gabriel’s plan?  And he wondered which side he would stand on in the end?  He chuckled to himself and turned away to seek out his contacts and find the soul they needed.

 

***

 

Something had changed.

Cormac could feel it in his gut.  Ever since he had the strange dream, something was different.  He could feel spirits now, instead of just seeing them.  Normally if he saw them, floating about, it would be luck.  He would just happen to look at the right time.

Now however, he could feel them, like a light pressure, way before he saw them.  On his way to see his scheduled therapist visit, he felt and saw four of them on the way there.

He could feel some kind of energy coming from them, and he could feel weight of their presence.  From the cab he saw the first three, as they were driving, so he only saw them quickly.

The last one, seen outside the mental health building was even more different.  His cab had dropped him early, so he sat outside by a bench to read a book before going in.  Cormac felt the now familiar pressure and looked up to see a young girl floating near the building.

Cormac watched her moving around the corner of the building until he felt another pressure, this one much stronger and darker.  It had an evil cast to it and made him feel sick to his stomach.

He saw the girl spirit look frightened and a shadow crossed over her.  The shadow seemed to consume light, draining the surrounding sunlight and it consumed the spirit as well.

A moment later, both the girl and the shadow were gone and he felt nothing.  Cormac didn’t understand what was happening, but he knew it was connected to the dream.  Somehow that dream had touched him, connected him to something new, something more powerful than simple sight.

Now he could feel the spirits as well as see them.  It was an odd feeling, familiar in some ways, and frightening in others.  Cormac wasn’t sure how to react, and of course he couldn’t talk to anyone about it.

He had learned years ago what happens when you tell other Humans about strange abilities.  His therapist and shrink would definitely think he was crazier than his normal diagnoses.

Cormac knew he needed to keep this to himself, but he couldn’t stop thinking of it.  His session with his therapist was affected and she pointed out that he seemed distracted in some way.  He brushed it off quickly, saying that he was tired.

On the way home, he didn’t see any other spirits, but that night, after he had eaten dinner, he felt another pressure, slightly different in a way he couldn’t describe, coming from outside his building.

Cormac stepped to the window and looked outside and standing there, on the corner again, was the man he had seen right after his dream.  He focused on the man and could tell the pressure was coming from him.  He turned away and quickly put his shoes back on and ran down the three flights of step to get outside.

When he walked through the double doors, the man was gone and so was the feeling of pressure.  He realized that he felt it vanish even before he had gotten done the steps.  He looked up and down the street, but there was no sign of the man.

Cormac climbed back up to his apartment and looked out the window again, but the street was clear.  He saw no one standing out there and the feeling of pressure was still gone.  He returned to his seat in front of his computer and went back to writing.

The rest of his night was normal, and he shut down his computer and turned off all the lights before walking into his bedroom and undressing for sleep.  He climbed in his bed and read a book for an hour before turning off his light and going to sleep.

 

***

 

Andrew Spur sat on the bed in his favorite bedroom of his California house.  To call it a house was like calling a skyscraper and business building.  His home sprawled across a high cliff that looked out over the sea.

The building had fifteen bedroom and fifteen bathrooms.  It had a tennis court, a ballroom and a conservatory.  It had guest cottages outside, a one hundred foot long swimming pool and a walkway that led right to the ocean below.

The house was the first building Andrew had bought for himself when he inherited his father’s fortune.  The bedroom he was in had polished wooden floors, expensive carpets and a marble fireplace guarded by two marble lions.

Andrew’s relationship with his father had been a strained one.  His mother had been a meek woman, who cowered around the bull his father had been.  His father had been loud and brash, a conqueror of men and his son had never quite lived up to his expectations.

Andrew had been thin and a bit like his mother at first, a peaceful sort of boy that was quiet and reserved.  His father soon beat that out of him, and he became a hardened, wiry man that would crucify anyone who did him wrong.

He had been sent to a private school in Europe and that was where he met his only friends, from the three other Otheymm families.  James, Jessica and Michelle.  Andrew had still been quite meek when he arrived at the school, and he was picked on mercilessly by the other boys.

James, a giant even as a boy, came to his rescue.  James was over six feet tall and built like a house, muscles on top of muscles.  He was inhumanly strong and took a liking to Andrew right away.

Michelle, being half white and half black, also needed a protector when she was young.  She wasn’t accepted by the white students or the black student because of her mixed heritage.

Jessica, a stunningly beautiful bombshell, was a fierce competitor and took Michelle under her wing right away.  The four of them learned about their family connections early on and Andrew had become their leader.

It was Andrew that told them about the secret book his father had locked in a safe.  Andrew had seen it a few times and knew it was written in a long lost language, but he joined a group of archeologist’s sons who specialized in ancient languages and he soon learned how to read the old book.

It wasn’t until Andrew’s father was dying of cancer, that he admitted to knowing what the book was.  Andrew could remember his last words as if he had heard them yesterday.

“I was tough on you boy, because you need to carry on our family name,” his father croaked out between wheezing breaths.  “That book can get you into Heaven itself!  Find the Tree!  Make our name immortal boy!”

Andrew’s father had dies the next day, leaving the book and his fortune to Andrew.  Andrew gathered his friends to read the book and they started learning the secrets of Heaven.

The ancient book had taught them about Seer, the stuff of creation, that everything was made of.  In Heaven, the Seer was the actual building blocks of reality and if they could learn to use their Otheymm powers, they would be strong in Heaven.

They learned about open Gattaes or Gates, that would allow them to travel from one dimension to another.  They found a way to make a Gate into Purgatory, and they traveled there to practice with their powers.

All four of them spent years learning martial arts and weapons training.  They learned about Shiboleth, the ability to move at lightening speeds, making them efficient killers.

The book told them how to build a special Gate, a Gate into Heaven, but it did not tell them what Heaven would be like.  That was still a mystery.  The book did tell them how to get into Heaven and how to get into the Garden.

The book told them they needed a Keystone and a Keystone soul.  Andrew had used his considerable resources to find a family that had a Keystone.  He had discovered that an old woman, named Carpenter had owned a Keystone necklace.

Andrew had learned that the necklace was given to the old woman’s granddaughter upon her death, and that the girl was now the Keystone soul and the owner of the Keystone.  Her name, this special girl, was Kayla Carpenter.

Andrew had a man watching her daily, and she did in fact wear the necklace.  All that was left was to approach her and find a way to get the necklace.  Then they could go to Heaven and find the Garden.

Andrew smiled as he held the ancient book that should be crumbling with age.  It was heavy and thick, filled with information that Humans didn’t know.  His friends would be arriving tonight to hear about his discoveries.

Then they could go after this Kayla Carpenter.

 

***

 

Cormac was dreaming again.

The dream started the same, running through a field in twilight, being chased by a heavily breathing monster.  Cormac was sure he was dreaming, but again it felt all too real.  He was looking for the woman this time and when she appeared, he breathed a sigh of relief.

She gestured and a door opened in space and Cormac ran through.  He found himself, alone with the woman in a barren landscape filled with rocks and cliffs and stunted trees.

He turned to look at the woman and saw that she was more than a woman.  Her skin was blue, her feet were hoofed and delicate horns breached her forehead.  Then he saw her spiked tail whip up behind her like a frustrated cat.

“Who are you, what are you?” he asked, his breath still ragged from running.

“Impolite Nephilim aren’t you?” she laughed.  “I am a succubus, a demon of dreams.  And normally, you would have a wonderful dream about bedding me and I would suck out a little of your soul in exchange.”

“A succubus?” Cormac repeated stupidly.

“Yes, as I said,” she responded, her smile vanishing quickly.  “I was told to speak to you in your dreams.  Great things are happening in the Realms and you, dear boy, are part of it.”

“I don’t understand what’s happening.  This is more than a dream isn’t it?” Cormac asked, alarmed at what she was saying.

“It is more than a dream boy,” she answered in a low voice.  “You must prepare yourself.  A man will come to you, and you must do as he says, if you wish to survive what’s coming.”

Cormac was enthralled by the devil woman, but her words were confusing.  The Realms?  Something was happening to him?  He would be a part of something?

“The dream did something to me,” he said, trying to wade through the confusing information.  “I can feel ghosts now instead of just see them.  And I think I can feel other things too.”

“We did open your mind a bit with the first dream, that’s true.  Now you can sense spirits, Demons and Angels.  That is what you felt, their spiritual pressure or energy.  You felt their power.”

“Why do I need to feel that?  What is happening?”

“All I know is that Demon and Angels are going to war again, and you are wanted in that exchange.  I didn’t bother to ask why.  I’m doing the job assigned to me.”

“By who?” Cormac asked with worry.  “Who told you to do this?”

“By he who shall make himself know to you soon,” she answered cryptically.  “In the meantime, do you feel my spiritual energy?”

Cormac looked her over again and realized that he could feel pressure from her, just like the ghosts.  Hers was stronger than a spirit, but not as strong as the shadow.

“Yes, I can feel your energy,” he replied.

“Good, now feel your own, if you can,” she commanded.

Cormac closed his eyes and tried to feel his own energy.  At first, he could only feel hers, but then he felt something else, a sense of power beneath his chest.  It rippled through him and he felt it coming forward, from his center.

Cormac opened his eyes and looked down to see a handle sticking out of his chest.  His eyes widened and he grabbed it and pulled, as his power grew, the object came free.  When he pulled it all the way out, he saw that he was holding a sword.

The sword was long and sharp, kind of thin and curved slightly at the tip.  It was black metal, with a black handle, with bright red ribbon tied to the end.  Cormac held it away from himself and looked to the she-devil for answers.

“That,” she said, indicating the weapon, “Is your Quizarat, or Soul Blade.  It is your power manifested as a weapon for you to use.  You must learn how to use it, and how to separate your soul from your body.”

“This is crazy!” Cormac cried.  “Why is this happening?”

“Everything will be made clear to you soon Cormac, but for now you must listen to me.  Separate your soul from your body.  Feel your power again, and when it’s ready, step away from your mortal shell and you’ll be free.”

Cormac felt like he had no choice but to follow the instructions.  He closed his eyes again and felt deep inside for his power.  It was like a red vibrating image of himself and he urged it to move faster.

When the shape of himself in his mind’s eye grew white hot, he forced himself to take a step forward and when he opened his eyes he could see his lifeless body lying behind him on the ground.

“Excellent Cormac!” the succubus praised.  “You have a natural talent for this!  That’s enough for this visit.  Now slide back into your body and put away your sword.  Then you can wake.”

Cormac envisioned his energy sliding back into his body, and after a few grueling minutes, he managed it.  He got to his feet and put the point of the blade at his chest and thrust in, amazed to see it slide back inside him without harming him.

He turned to look at the succubus but she was gone.  He looked all around the lifeless landscape and wondered where she was.  He was about to call out for her when everything turned bright white and vanished.

He woke up in his bed, fully aware and remembering everything.  On a whim, he got out of bed quickly and ran to the living room to look out the window.  The man was there, looking up at him.

Cormac turned away, grabbed his shoes, put them on and ran out the door.  He got to the street in record time, but the man was gone.  Puzzled, Cormac returned to his apartment slowly, wondering what part the man played in this new experience.

 

Chapter One – The Dream

CHAPTER ONE THE DREAM The dream was different this time. Normally, when he took a nap during the day, he would have the same strange dream. He would be somewhere basically familiar, like his bedroom or his apartment, but he would be held restricted from behind by what felt like a Demon.

This Demon would hold him and they would float around the room, while he tried to struggle out of its grip. He would attempt to reach backwards and grab the Demon and usually woke himself up reaching over his head at his pillow. But this time, in his dream, the Demon took him to a new place. And he knew that the Demon was female as he caught a glimpse of her in the moonlight. The female Demon was still holding him from behind and restricting his movement but he didn’t feel as desperate as he normally did.

She carried him, still floating through a different landscape that was mostly dark shapes that weren’t illuminated by the moon overhead. She floated until they came to a building, a dilapidated looking barn of some sort. She carried him into the building and soon he could hear the noises of another creature that sounded big and nasty. Then she floated to the corner of a wall and peeked around the edge and he saw what was making all the noise. Before him was another Demon, for it could be only that as it had horns and hoofed feet and large claws on its hands. It howled in rage and pain at the moon and for the first time since he was a child, he felt fear at seeing this beast before him.

The female Demon pulled him back around the corner and they flew through different hallways, speeding away. But then they stopped and paused in the shadows somewhere and he heard the Demon come close. “I can feel you out there little soul!” the Demon said loudly. “I will find you and consume you! You will be mine!” In a total panic, he trembled against the female Demon who seemed to be on his side and protecting him from the other Demon. In another moment, she sped away and they were free of the dangerous Demon that hunted them.

She brought him back to his house and she released him and he woke up, pretty freaked out and panting. He opened his eyes and looked around his bedroom, searching the shadows for anything strange. His room was the same as it always was, small and filled with boxes from when he thought he was going to get evicted or have to move. His two cats were nearby, both asleep and not worried about a thing. He lowered his head to the pillow again and closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep. At some point he did go back to sleep and slept soundly for the rest of the night. He thought of himself as a simple man and perhaps that was true, but Cormac struggled with the world around him and had suffered for his passions. He lived in a small one bedroom apartment on the third floor of his building in a small town that was filled mostly with people under pressure to survive.

Cormac had experienced a series of bad years that eventually landed him in that small town, to live alone and try and recover some sort of life. He was thirty years old and divorced with an eight year daughter that lived with her mother full time. Cormac was the adopted son of a psychotherapist who he didn’t get along with very well. Cormac struggled with the relationships in his life and had very few friends that he could count on. He was sober now, after two years of treatment, but had been a drug user and an alcoholic for much of his teen years. After a series of bad choices and events, one right after another, he had finally reached out for help for both his drug addictions and his mental disability. He had been diagnosed with bi-polar, mood disorder not as specified and with an anti social personality disorder.

What it meant was, he struggled with anger and his emotions and he often had conflict with others. That conflict had cost him jobs and relationships, but since asking for help, he had received treatment for his addictions and medicine for his disability. He felt much calmer and more ordered than he had before. Cormac’s relationships were still a little skewed however. He had just been dumped by his girlfriend of two years, Kayla, on his birthday. It had been about six months and he was trying very hard to remain friends with her, but she had it difficult by not interacting as much as she once did. Cormac did not get along with his adoptive father at all, and their relationship had been reduced to emails only.

His relationship with his daughter was good, but with her mother it was terrible, so often he didn’t get to see her and that upset him very much. Other than his father, his daughter and his ex, he had a handful of friends he spoke to by email and two friends he had met in treatment that lived locally. Mostly he kept to himself, living alone with his two cats, trying to become an author and writing everyday. Slowly, over time, Cormac had become more private and spent most of his time at home writing. He was hoping to become an author and he wrote for several hours a day. He had produced a small body of work and now he was trying to get it all published, one way or another. He woke at eight in the morning when his alarm went off and he spent a few minutes laying in bed before he sat up and looked around his room.

His apartment was small, with a bathroom, a bedroom and another large room that had a half wall separating the kitchen and the living room. His bedroom was still filled with boxes from when he thought he would lose his apartment. He had been receiving social services and help from another organization to pay his rent but that help had stopped a few months ago. Thankfully, the landlord worked out a deal, letting Cormac work instead of paying rent while he waited for his SSI case to be finished. He had just received a letter saying he had won his case and soon he would be getting payments and he could pay rent again. It had been months of struggle, but there was finally light at the end of the tunnel. He threw off his blankets and put on some socks, pajama pants and a shirt and walked into the kitchen.

Already his younger cat was meowing for food and he open the fridge to get the half can left from the day before. He walked into the bathroom and fed the cats, even though the older one wouldn’t saunter in until later. He walked back into the kitchen, disposed of the cat food can, then back to the bathroom to brush his teeth and use the toilet. Then back to the kitchen to take his day meds. He had just started taking a new medication during the day that was supposed to give him some energy, but so far he hadn’t felt a change. There was a basic depression that he felt every day since the break up. It had come as a surprise and hurt him very much.

They had broken up once before and he had worked incredibly hard to convince her to come back to him and he thought they were doing good, but she broke it off on his birthday and since then, well, there just wasn’t much to be happy about. He left the kitchen and walked to the one window that faced the street outside. He lived on a quiet block with all large houses. Either owned by someone with a bit of money or rented to a few people, like in his own building. Cormac lived in apartment six, on the third floor. There was a young man across the hall, two sisters that lived downstairs and a couple right below him. A single woman lived on the first floor as well as the landlord and his mother.

Cormac looked out the window to see the street lit up by the morning sun. The sky was cloudless and it seemed like a nice fall day. He noticed a man standing outside, right on the corner of the street across from his building. The man was dressed in blue jeans and a flannel shirt with a cap on that obscured his face. It had looked like he was looking up at Cormac’s apartment at first but when Cormac looked down, the man was looking away. Strange, he thought to himself, just before his older cat came running in from the ledge outside where the cats liked to play. When Cormac looked back on the street, the man was gone. He didn’t understand how he could just vanish like that, but he wasn’t there anymore, so Cormac turned back inside to talk to his cat.

He sat down in his one large chair in his living room and pulled out his book to read a little before starting his day. He read often, usually in every spare minute during the day. He would read while walking to the bathroom and back even. After an hour or so, he sat down at his computer to check his email and facebook account. Twitter was filled with updates as it always was and he skimmed through a few of them before moving on to facebook. He scrolled down the home screen, reading what his friends had posted and then posted something himself. Therapy day, he wrote and clicked the post button. Then he checked his regular email, hoping that his ex had emailed him back, but she hadn’t and he had gotten used to that at this point.

There was an email from his father, just checking in and he read it and decided to respond later. Nothing else of interest, so he went back to facebook and loaded up the two games he liked to play. It took almost an hour to play both and by that time, he was hungry. So he found something on Hulu to watch and prepared to make some food. He ate the same thing almost every morning. He had bacon, two bagels with butter and some grapes. He liked oranges and grapefruit too, but they were either out of season, or he just didn’t like what he saw at the grocery store, so he bought grapes instead.

He ate his breakfast, sharing some bacon with his younger cat and watched something online. Then he had some time before he had to catch the cab to go to therapy, so he played around online a bit more and then read over what he had written the day before. Cormac wondered if he should write down his dream. It had been different in that it came at night and not during the day like all the others, and he had actually been frightened of what he saw. Ever since he was young, he had decided that dreams were just stories in his head and nothing to be worried about.

Nightmares didn’t scare him because he could remember they were only dreams even while he was having them. But this dream had truly scared him. The scent and sounds from the Demon sounded so real and he felt that it was really looking for him. The memory of it was just as bad. Cormac wasn’t the religious sort. He believed that religion and faith was for people who need to feel like something good was watching over them. He felt that intelligent people didn’t need that crutch and he was more realistic. He believed in what he could see and touch. He had never read the bible or gone to church, but when he read about or saw movies about exorcism, he had the distinct feeling that those were actually true and someone really could be possessed by a malignant force. He had no reason to believe it any more than believing in God, but what he had read convinced him that possession could happen and probably did happen. So the dream freaked him out a little. Soon it was time to wait for the cab that would take him to the local Mental Health building where he would meet with his therapist. He got dressed in jeans and a shirt, with a long sleeve shirt over that since it was chilly out. He grabbed his book, his keys and his knife and walked down the three flights of stairs to the front porch. He chose a seat there and sat down to read and wait. His medical coverage paid for the cab and he had a standing order to be picked up every Thursday. Cormac liked that system because he really didn’t like talking on the phone at all, so this saved him from calling each week. The only downside was needing to be outside an hour before the appointment to wait for the cab and then there was usually a longer wait to be picked up again to go home. He read his book, a new fantasy novel, that being his favorite genre. A half hour later, the Columbia Cab Service pulled up and honked even though Cormac was already up and moving towards the car. He walked down the steps, onto the stone sidewalk and into the vehicle. There was a black man driving, someone Cormac had met before and they exchanged a greeting and then the man drove off. It took about a half four to reach the neighboring town where Mental Health was so Cormac read while sitting in the car. They arrived at Mental Health, and Cormac thanked the driver and stepped out. The building was old and had been converted from something else into the offices it housed now. As Cormac stepped away from the cab he spotted a flash of something at the corner of the building. He glanced over and saw what looked to be a little girl in a dress move behind the corner of the building. She was pale and kind of see-through and Cormac felt a strange sense of alarm go through his body. She didn’t look like a person, she looked like a ghost. He shook his head and looked again and she was gone. Feeling very strange, he walked up the steps to the door and went inside. He stopped at reception and stated his name so they could call up and announce that he was there. He found a seat in the waiting room and opened his book again. He found it hard to read and kept thinking about the little girl that he had seen. Did he really see a ghost, he thought? How could that be? Ten minutes later, his therapist, Janet came to the doorway. “Ready?” she said good-naturedly. She was pretty and young, around his own age he thought. She was sweet and attentive and he had a great working relationship with her. He had been seeing her for over a year, along with a psychiatrist that prescribed most of his meds. Together they walked down the hall and she asked how he was. “Same as always,” he answered, and she nodded her head. They walked upstairs and around the corner and stepped into her office on the second floor. “How are you?” he asked, looking at her large belly. She was pregnant and due soon. She had been saying she couldn’t wait for the baby to be born, she felt like she had been pregnant forever. “I’m fine, just like you, still waiting!” she answered, her smile a little strained. “Yeah, me too,” he said. “Still no check from SSI?” she asked, hopeful. “No, it hasn’t come yet. The letter they sent said around the sixteenth, so maybe early, but maybe later than that too.” “That sucks,” she said. “And how are you otherwise? The same you said?” “Yeah, the same. Nothing new going on except for my writing,” he told her, having already decided he wasn’t going to tell her about the ghost. “You’re still writing everyday?” she asked. “Everyday,” he answered. “I write maybe twenty five pages a day. I read that an author I really like tries to write eleven pages a day, so I try to write more than that if I can.” The office was tiny, just a square room with one window on the far wall. There was a desk and a chair with it, but Janet sat in another chair in front of the desk. There was a small table separating them with a small sand garden and some colored chalk in a little container. Cormac uncrossed and recrossed his legs as he looked out the window. He felt awkward staring at her for the whole session so he often looked away. “Any word from your daughter?” Janet asked next. She took a sip from her drink that sat on a small bookshelf by her side. “Yes, we spoke earlier in the week. She’s fine. Her mother’s still crazy though. Got into another fight with me about child support. But I pay every week, even if it’s not as much as she wants, I still pay.” “What more can she ask?” Janet said agreeing with him. “Will you get to see her soon?” “I don’t know, it’s always a problem with her. She would rather I was totally out of the picture, but that’s not gonna happen.” “How about your father, heard from him?” her phone beeped and she picked it up, pressed a button and put it back down. “Yes, got an email this morning. That’s still the same too. He wants to see me, but still hasn’t apologized for what he did, so I’m not inclined to let it happen.” “Well, you know he may never apologize,” she warned, smiling all the same. “And that’s why we may never hang out again,” he answered quickly. He had decided this a few months ago when his father and he had argued online about writing and publishing. He was supportive sometimes, but other times he was weird about it, like it was a challenge or something. “How about Kayla? Anything from her?” Janet asked, her voice softened for this subject. “No, nothing,” he said with a sigh. “I write her, but she rarely writes me back. Mostly we talk about normal stuff, like our pets or how her stepfather is leaving the house soon. But we don’t discuss our lives at all, so I don’t really know what’s going on with her.” “Well, if she doesn’t want to share that stuff, you have to respect it, right?” Cormac looked her in the eye for just a moment. “I know, I just miss her and the future I thought we were going to have. I would’ve been so great. But I get it; she doesn’t want to be with me. I just hope we can have a better friendship than we’ve had so far.” “Give it time Cormac; I’m sure things will work out.” She sounded so sure about it that he tried to have hope, but he knew he would feel depressed for a while still. He decided to tell her about the dream. He described it to her, in detail and she remained silent for the whole description. When he was done, she was silent for a moment and then spoke. “That’s a strange dream. What do you think its about?” “I don’t know really. It was just really strange and I can’t believe I was so affected by it. I was really scared when I woke up!” he laughed, looking back on it it seemed silly. “They say dreams are our brains trying to work stuff out. Maybe the female Demon was pulling you around because you feel so helpless about the way your life is now. Nothing is in your control, but we all wish we could control our lives better.” Cormac thought about that. It certainly could be that. But something about it was stranger than that. It affected him in some way. He felt like it was linked to the girl he saw, but he wasn’t going to discuss that at all. “That could be,” he offered, But who knows? Maybe I’ll have another dream like it and learn more about it. Can’t say yet, but it was certainly strange.” For the rest of the session, they talked about meds, scheduling another appointment with the shrink and who his therapist would be during her leave for the baby. After an hour, she walked him back downstairs and he called the cab, settling in to wait outside. He sat down at a picnic bench a ways away from the building and he pulled out his book again. It could be a short wait, or a long wait, he never knew what the cab company would do. He saw a flash again and he looked up at the corner of the building. She was there again and he watched her this time closely. She was young and looked like she came from another time. Her clothing was different and he could tell she must be older than her youthful appearance. She watched him for a while and he just stared back, not really knowing what he should do. The he waved, thinking that’s what he would do if she was a regular human. She smiled a sad smile and waved back. He felt sort of shocked. That meant she could see him and knew that he could see her! How was this happening, he wondered? He never saw spirits before. Did his dream have something to do with it? Suddenly the girl looked frightened of something and vanished into the building. Cormac didn’t see anything but he felt a presence, like pressure on him, from a dark force, something bad that had just shown up. He felt like he was going to vomit and tears came from his eyes under the weight of that pressure. Then it was gone and he felt normal again. Did something come for that girl? It felt like something really terrible had arrived and then was suddenly gone again. He heard a car and looked to the road and saw the white cab coming. He got up on shaky feet and walked over, pulled the door open and stepped inside. It was the same man from before and he was silent all the way home. He was dropped off outside his building and he quickly went upstairs and sat down. Today was turning out to be really strange and he felt like it was all because of that dream he had. He sat down at his computer and started reading over his work again, trying to think of something else and avoiding thinking about what had happened so far today. He immersed himself into his work for the next few hours.

Villains

Villains.

I need some villains for the start of the book.  So I have chosen the Otheymm.  They are humans that have learned how to use Seer (the substance that all things are made of) as a weapon.

The Otheymm are a group of super wealthy individuals that have used a book called the Sefer Raziel HaMalach to search for immortality.  The book was written by the Angel Raziel and given to Adam and Eve when they left Eden, after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Raziel had given them the book to help them find their way back to God.  Other Angel got upset about it and took the book back and threw it into the ocean.  God got the back out of the ocean and gave it back to Adam and Eve.

The book is filled with Secrets and Mysteries.  So for my story, what if this book was kept by the families of Adam and Eve and passed down through generations until these four villains have it today?

What if they want to use this book to find their way back into Heaven and into the Garden of Eden to find the second tree, the Tree of Life, so that they can eat from it and gain immortality?

I’ve decided to also tie them to other books about magic and the Kabbalah.  If you don’t know what the Kabbalah is, it’s a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an eternal and mysterious Creator and the mortal and finite universe (His creation).

It’s very complicated and involved but it’s mysterious and interesting.  In it is the idea that souls have different elements, the nefeshru’ach, and neshamah. The nefesh is found in all humans, and enters the physical body at birth. It is the source of one’s physical and psychological nature. The next two parts of the soul are not implanted at birth, but can be developed over time; their development depends on the actions and beliefs of the individual. They are said to only fully exist in people awakened spiritually.

Nefesh is the lower part, or “animal part”, of the soul. It is linked to instincts and bodily cravings. Ru’ach is the middle soul, the “spirit”. It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.  And Neshamah is the higher soul, or “super-soul”. This separates man from all other life-forms. It is related to the intellect and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. This part of the soul is provided at birth and allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God.

There is also the Chayah, Transcendent unconscious level of soul, and the Yechida or Essential, transcendent root of soul.  If I take these elements or their teachings I think I can add a level of realism to my myth.

If these villains are after immortality, they would have read many magical texts and works and they would have a working knowledge about the soul, especially if they are using the Seer to make weapons so that they can fight Demons and Angels.

As I mentioned I thought it would be interesting to have the main character need to protect his ex from some trouble and I think the four villains will be excellent for that.

The main character will be Cormac and his ex will be Kayla.  Kayla was once given a necklace from her grandmother that’s very important to her.  This necklace will be the missing element that the villains need to break into Heaven.  So they will be after Kayla from the start and it will be up to Cormac to figure out how to protect her without stepping over the boundaries of their recent break up.

The villains will be Andrew, the leader, Jessica, the second in command, James, the muscle of the group, and Michelle, the fourth person with the ancient heritage that they are pursuing.

I still have to figure out their powers and weapons, plus all the powers for the Angels and Demons but I’ve got Cormac, and who is father really was, and I figured out my main player to get Cormac going in his adventure.

It all begins with a dream, that awakens certain things in the hero and the adventure begins with him starting to see ghosts or spirits.  Then there’s a strange man hanging around his apartment building and he has to figure out who that is.

I’ll probably start posting a few chapters up here and on my other site, but now you have the beginning ideas.

Demons

They say you should write what you know.  So I think I’m gonna use a few elements from my own life to write this next book.  I like the idea of a man who had some tough times for a while but things are just starting to look up.

What if that man had just gone through a break up with a woman he cared for, nothing bad, it just didn’t work out.  But then that woman is targeted by people that want to us her soul to get them immortality.

How would the man protect her without overstepping certain boundaries due to the break up?  I think there’s some tension there worth writing about.  And that’s just the beginning, the more the man learns about souls and Heaven and Angels and Demons, the worse it gets, until he’s a part of something so big it would affect the whole world.

And it’s up to him to save it.  So that’s where we’re starting.  I think I can write some things about my own life that will be cathartic for me to write about but will give me a good set up for a realistic story beginning, before I go nuts and create a whole new fantasy world.

A friend of mine who’s interested in out of body experiences, once told me that there were no demons, but souls that have been bad on the earth plane.  In other words, while they are human, they are bad, but when they die they go to a place where they can heal and try their life again, to get it right the next time.

I like that in a way, because it would sure be great if that’s the way it was, but I’m pulling from religious writings and when they talk about demons they are fallen Angels that do terrible deeds as almost revenge against their Creator.

Now my Angel aren’t going to be all good, and my demon certainly won’t be all bad, but they each have roles to play within our lives and within their own, so I want to work a little with that ancient conflict.  I think there’s a lot of stories to be told there.

They say you shouldn’t bring Demons into your life at all, so I’m going to not read any of this out loud and call them into my life, but these are the ones I’ll be using –

Lucifer, Mammon, Asmodeus, Satan, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Belphagor, Lilith, Astorath, Belial, Ba’al & Kali.  That’s the seven deadly sins Demons and a couple others, using Lilith the Succubus and Kali who is an Indian aspect.

What’s interesting to me is that some of the Angels I chose for my story are considered Demons by Christianity.  I think that make it more interesting that some religions consider them Angel while others consider them Demons.

I think I’m going to write that when you die, your soul, if you were moderately good in life, goes to Heaven.  When your soul arrives in Heaven you have two choices.  You can either be reborn into a new human body and live life again, or you can choose to try and evolve and become an Angel.

Souls that want to evolve live in Heaven and have a life there, working and living and slowly becoming something greater than themselves.  But it’s similar to life in that you have to work and participate in the daily activities that make Heaven run properly.

There are farms, and markets, and living areas, while you also train to fight the legions of Demons that hurt both man and Angel in their constant war against each other.

There will be more to the plot than just some people trying to gain immortality through the young lady, but I choose to wait and have that revealed in the story as opposed to telling you now, here.  But the main character will have to interact with both Angels and Demons, he’ll go to Heaven and probably Hell also, and we’ll get to see all that during the story.

I think I’m going to name the main character Cormac, since I use that as my handle on social sites and I like the name.  But I need to come up with names for the Otheymm, who are the people that use Seer as a weapon.  Seer is the stuff everything is made of, the spiritual energy that is in all creation.

Haven’t figured out what kind of people they will be or where they are from or any of that yet.  I spent most of the day figuring out the two levels of Angels and their weapons, since each will be named and have a released form as well that needs a name.

I still need to write out all the different small relationships between the Angels still, and then do all of that work with the Demons.  It looks like there will be a lot of work put into the creation of all this before I can really sit down and begin writing.

But I have finished my 2nd book and I’m full on into the research for this new 3rd book.  I’m really enjoying the process and writing about it as a blog helps me keep track on my progress.

Thanks for reading.

Angels

So I’ve started my research on Angels and Demons.  I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff I never knew before.  One of my favorite things about writing is the research.  You pick an idea and then teach yourself as much as you can about the subject and then create a new story from that.  I love that about being an author.

I learned that there are three Heavens.  There is the First Heaven, which is the sky above us, where you find clouds and birds.  The Second Heaven is space, where stars and planets are.  The Third Heaven is beyond that where God lives.

Within Heaven, there are three Spheres.  The First Sphere has Seraphim, Cherubim, Ophanim.  Angels of all kinds were made of Fire, not clay like Man.  The Seraphim have 6 wings and are covered in eyes.

The prophet Ezekiel describes cherubim as a tetrad of living creatures, each having four faces: of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. They are said to have the stature and hands of a man, feet of a calf, and four wings each. Two of the wings extended upward, meeting above and sustaining the throne of God; while the other two stretched downward and covered the creatures themselves.  Early Semitic tradition conceived the cherubim as guardians, being devoid of human feelings, and holding a duty both to represent the gods and to guard sanctuaries from intruders.

Ophanim are wheels that are also covered in eyes.  They are the wheels of God’s chariot.

In the Second Sphere, are Dominions also known as the Hashmallim, regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans. They are also the angels who preside over nations.  The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords.

Then come the Virtues, whose primary duty is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order.

Third is the Powers or Authorities, who appear to collaborate, in power and authority, with the Principalities (Rulers).  The Powers are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Some believe that no Power has ever fallen from grace, but another theory states that Satan was the Chief of the Powers before he fell.

In the Third Sphere are the Rulers, who are shown wearing a crown and carrying a scepter. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the Dominions and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth. Like beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science.

Then come the Archangels and then Angels.  Angels are the lowest form and are messengers.  They are the ones most concerned with the affairs of living things. Within the category of the angels, there are many different kinds, with different functions. The angels are sent as messengers to mankind.

I have chosen to use the Archangels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel, Saraqael, Wormwood, Raziel, Abaddan, Azrael, & Sammael.  Under them I will have Angels, Barachiel, Metatron, Mu’aqqibat, Munkar, Nakir, Qaphsiel, Tennin, Tzaphqiel, Tzadqiel, Maalik, Leliel, & Israfel.

I have chosen already who will be paired together as a Captain and Lieutenant situation, but I haven’t chosen background stories for all of them yet.  I need to do personalities and appearance, motivations and desires and anything else that will help me get down each character.

I think its important to have back stories for each of them so I know not only where they stand as characters but a little bit of what they’ve gone through in the hundreds of years they’ve been alive.

My only hang up at this time is, if I’m going with the idea that God fracture Himself in order to create the universe, how do I explain the legends of Him speaking to Prophets and interacting with the world?

I believe that legends come from some kind of Truth, but what is the truth?  Did these Prophets have visions and say they spoke to God?  Did Angels impersonate God in an effort to teach them something?  Or did God at one point have a more active interaction with humans but has since left us alone?

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do with the ideas yet, but soon I’ll know what way I’m going to go with it.  I don’t want to read the whole Bible to figure it out.  I wish Robert Crumb had done more than just the Genesis book.  That I could read all day.