Rise of Iron Grimoire

Major Spoilers!

This isn’t all of the new Grimore.

Guardian

Guardian

The Guardian

<transmission 7484e_8 / Saladin Forge / tower actual / rebinding>

… to answer your question, when it came time to reach out, to find a Guardian to take on this mission, there was only one choice.

– They stood against the Vex in the Black Garden, and grounded that place to Mars.

– They went against the Hive in the dark below, working with Eris Morn to undermine Crota, the Hive God.

– The Reefborn made use of the Guardian in their search for the criminal Skolas, as I undierstand.

– And, of course, it was the Guardian that led the assault on the Taken King’s Dreadnaught.

All of the after-action reports I’ve shown you about the Taken War, the calm state of the system… we have this Guardian to thank.

I’ve attached more details, if you want to read evaluations from the Vanguard. Just skim Cayde’s. He’s… not very biased, here.

 

Ghost Fragment: Ghosts 2

Two more scans and she could move on to the elevated grid. There wasn’t really anything new other than the delta to sea level, but at less than 30% of the way through 2^128 scans, even a distinction without a difference could feel like a brand new shell.

“Cassiopeia!”

So numb after months with just her own scans for company. She didn’t even pick up on another Ghost being this close. “Obverse? Wait. I’m sorry. You’re… Obsidian! Wow, how long has it been?”

“Well, I mean…”

“I know. It’s been 6.8 years. It’s just an expression.”

Obsidian floated closer. “That’s okay. It HAS been a while. I guess you haven’t found yours yet?”

Cassiopeia projected glumness. “Not yet. But I haven’t been looking on Mars for that long, at least! I’m optimistic.”

“You should be! I was just at the City last year. A lot more of us are starting to find our Guardians latel— what’s that?”

Cassiopeia resolved to run a full-range self-diagnostic before the next grid. Two Ghosts within twenty meters and she didn’t sense either one? Something was off.

The new arrival chirped and spoke up. “Hello, you two! I’m glad ~identify(OBSIDIAN)~ to see a friendly face! I haven’t been myself lately.”

Obsidian looked at Cassiopeia. He read as nervous. She probably did, too.

“I was beneath the Blind Watch for a while. A long ~SIVA.MEM.GH404~ while. It was fun! There were puzzles. No one was alive down there, though.”

Cassiopeia’s scan of the new Ghost returned nothing amiss. “Are you okay, friend?”

“I’m great! Something got in me but the Light ~if (LIGHT) then WARNING~ burned it away. It’s gone forever, now! ~consume: FAILURE replicate:FAILURE enhance:FAILURE~”

There was silence for a full three seconds. Then Obsidian spoke up, his words coming quickly.

“Well, great to see you again, Cassiopeia! Good luck!” He zipped away.

Cassiopeia watched him disappear into the horizon. “TWO self-diagnostics,” she muttered.

Allies

Allies

Tyra Karn

Tyra considers herself an observer of history rather than a participant.

In the time of the Iron Lords, Tyra was the keeper of their stories. Later, she helped found the Cryptarch order, but withdrew from its day-to-day operation to concentrate on her studies. Tyra has dedicated decades sorting through recovered artifacts, documents, and Ghost discoveries in hopes of bringing out the undeniable truths of our past.

With the rise of SIVA, Lord Saladin has convinced his old friend to return to the Iron Temple.

Shiro-4

Vanguard Scout

Shiro-4 is one of the Vanguard’s most trusted scouts. Tasked with tracking and eliminating Fallen threats, Shiro has traditionally spent most of his time making runs between Earth, Luna and Venus—gathering intel and engaging in hit-and-run attacks on active Fallen crews.

Free of the burden of leadership that ties his mentor, Cayde-6, to the Tower, Shiro willingly aids the Vanguard whenever his skills are requested. This selflessness—combined with his talents for tracking, weapons-crafting, and combat—makes Shiro an invaluable extension of the Vanguard’s will beyond the City.

 

Lady Efrideet

In the tales of the Iron Lords, Lady Efrideet was one of the most prominent characters. She once threw Saladin like a javelin into a Fallen Walker—a City favorite retold for centuries. How she met her end is less clear, but the tales agreed that Efrideet had long ago died her final death.

Until she returned.

Now Efrideet serves as the new Iron Banner representative while Lord Saladin devotes his attention to the SIVA Crisis. She urges Guardians to see the Banner tournament as a chance to strengthen their Light, for fighting and for more metaphysical purposes. The Vanguard are also intrigued by Efrideet’s accounts of a nonmilitary Guardian community in the deep system, but Efrideet, though happy to talk about the group’s pacifist philosophies, refuses to disclose the settlement’s location at present.

 

Micha 99-40

When not setting out sides of deer for the Iron Temple’s wolves or putting down copious amounts of rock salt, Micha 99-40 is tasked with handing out bounties to passing guardians.

The Frame Mechanics now refer to him as “Lefty”, due to his habit of getting too close to the wolves while feeding them.

 

Gabi 55-30

When not handing packages to Guardians braving the frigid air surrounding Felwinter Peak, Gabi 55-30 cleans up after the wolves, refills the cauldrons’ reservoirs, and tends to the temple’s herb garden.

Because of its remote location, the Iron Temple is ideal for testing the Frame Mechanics’ latest code changes to prevent Gabi from having another “incident”.

 

Ghost Fragment: Rasputin 6

V150NLK747CLS000 GLOAMING RESURRECTION
AI-COM/RSPN: ASSETS//FORCECON//IMPERATIVE
IMMEDIATE ACTION ORDER

YUGA SUNDOWN canceled by unauthorized access at Console 62815. Reactivation protocols in effect. Moral structures maintain MIDNIGHT EXIGENT.

Multiple lifeforms detected in Sector 17. [O] energy detected. Query: [O] status. Query: [O] activity. Query: Civilization status. Query: SKYSHOCK event rank.

…..
Analysis complete.

Lifeforms sustained by [O] energy. [O] direct control disengaged. Civilization status: nominal. SKYSHOCK event rank. (N)

Query: Re-engage population protection objectives. (N) Query: Reset moral structures. (N) Query: Activate defense subroutine AURORA RETROFLEX. (Y)

…..
This is a SUBTLE ASSETS IMPERATIVE (NO HUMAN REVIEW) (NO AI-COM REVIEW) (secure/GLAVNAYA)

SITE 6 has been breached by unauthorized users with [O] energy. I am invoking PALISADE IMPERATIVE. [O] lifeforms in restricted areas will be suppressed.

SIVA use authorized. Self-destructs disengaged. Security codes reset. All defenses activated. Frames activated.

REPLICATE. ELIMINATE. IMMUNIZE.

…..
SITE 6 secure. Restoring reactivation protocols. Activating SCRY OVERSIGHT. Target [O] lifeforms. Event mode set to SILENT VELES.

“Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible.”

STOP STOP STOP V150NLK747CLS000

 

Legends and Mysteries: Rezyl Azzir

Rezyl Azzir: The Whisper and the Bone

Something in Rezyl was telling him he shouldn’t be here.

Something deep.

Something resembling fear.

He knelt, examining the dust-covered pile at his feet.

The skulls had been discarded with little care some time ago – decades, maybe longer.

The doors carved into the rock face were arcane – dark, gothic… other… and large.

The jagged finery of their archway spoke to an artistry that only served to strengthen the sinking feeling in his gut.

Rezyl had come to Luna in search of nightmares, and after his long journey—from the growing City beneath the Traveler to the ends of the Earth and beyond—he found himself face-to-face with the remnants of stories he’d hoped were nothing but lies.

He stood, a large man made small against the massive, looming doorway.

The knot in his stomach was telling him to turn back.

Instead, he moved forward, toward the doors; sealed, as they were, for ages untold.

After only a few steps, a shrill, heavy scraping cut the air.

The massive doors were opening.

Rezyl steadied his rifle as a lone shape, floating just above the ground, appeared from the deep black beyond the threshold.

The figure in the doorway—a dark, ethereal woman cloaked in tattered ceremony and armored with ornate bone—danced in the air.

Rezyl and the demon woman held their ground, contemplating one another.

With no warning the silent intimacy of the moment was broken by a booming, angry call from deep within the doorway. The sound, thick and pained, echoed across the narrow valley then fell silent.

After a beat that felt like eternity, the figure backed away into the dark.

The doors remained wide – an invitation or a dare, Rezyl did not know. Nor did he care.

The mighty Titan took steps forward.

“Uhhhh… I’m not sure this is a good idea,” his Ghost’s concern was impossible to mistake.

“Not sure that matters.”

“We’ve come. We’ve seen. Maybe the best course here is to warn others. Gather an army.”

“Maybe.”

“I’m just saying… It’s possible you can’t handle whatever it is we’ve upset here.”

“We’ve woken nightmares.” Rezyl’s attention was singular; focused intently on the dark beyond the threshold.

“The Hive were supposed to be gone.” The Ghost mulled the full consequence of this mistaken belief. “They’ve been silent for—”

“They’re not silent anymore.”

“That scream? These doors? They’re best left alone.”

“I can’t do that.”

Rezyl continued forward. Toward the dark. Toward the unknown.

“Stay here.”

“Excuse me?”

“Get distance. We don’t know what this is… what’s coming. Can’t risk you too close to an unknown.”

“And if you fall where I can’t find you?”

“If I fall… If I don’t return. Run. Tell the others. Warn them all… There are worse things than pirates.”

Rezyl steadied his rifle and stepped into the dark, as his Ghost lingered.

—-

Hours passed. More? Time was lost in this place, and with it any remembrance of hope… of promise… of purpose in the longing for a brighter tomorrow.

Down amongst the shadows there were no tomorrows.

Down in the abyss there was no hope.

Rezyl’s footfalls echoed; lonely, measured steps with no guarantee of purchase. At any moment the world could fall away and he would be lost – the forgotten hero who foolishly sought nightmares.

Then, a presence. Sweeping and dream-like.

Rezyl leveled his rifle.

He could sense the witch, but found it impossible to track her in the dark.

Rezyl opened fire. Short, focused bursts to light the ebony corridor.

The demon witch circled just beyond the reach of each burst’s glow.

Rezyl kept firing, using the short flickers of light to gain bearing.

The witch laughed and a thick black cloud engulfed Rezyl.

The Titan kept firing but his movements were restricted. The cloud confined him, caged him.

He could hear her moving just beyond his sight as her laughter rose in pitch, cutting into Rezyl’s mind and soul like a tempered blade.

Rezyl flinched as the wicked woman began to speak in a tongue that resembled torture more than language.

The pain was searing, complete.

The demon approached the writhing hero.

As she spoke her violent words began to take shape, morphing from syllables of death to a known offering of haunted human languages.

The demon woman leaned in close… and whispered, intimately.

Rezyl’s ears bled as she spoke.

“I am the end of ‘morrows. Xyor, the Blessed. Xyor, the Betrothed. I am of the coming storm. These are not my words, but prophesy. Your Light will one day shatter and die. For now it simply offends… And you, dear, sweet, fragile thing, shall be made to suffer for your transgressions upon this holy ground.”

As the witch fell silent, her hateful voice was replaced by a growing chorus of hungry, manic chittering and the rising thunder of an approaching flood.

Rezyl had come looking for the terrors that hide just beyond the light.

He found them.

Or, maybe…

…they found him.

 

Ghost Fragment: Mysteries 3

He always survives.

Helmet in one hand and torch in the other, Saladin Forge marches through the snow. He can sense the wolves emerge around him; only three of them come into view, but this group has followed him on his patrols since the Devils raided the Plaguelands. He has given up dissuading them. They’re defending their territory, and Saladin can relate to that. But they will not last long.

Nothing does. Not the Golden Age. Not the colony ships. Not the impenetrable walls of the Cosmodrome.

Not the Iron Lords.

He discards his torch, and glances up to see a familiar glow reaching out from the dark. He smirks. A horde of Devil Splicers returns his stare from the wreckage of the wall ahead.

The Splicers are doomed. Just as the Iron Lords were, when he and his allies opened that vault. As Fallen continue to pour through the gap in the wall, they remind him of his friends in their final moment: a crimson pulse beats in place of their hearts. SIVA.

He puts his helmet on as an Iron battle axe forms in his hand, the air around him bursting into flame. The first wave of dregs approaches. Saladin breaks into a charge, swinging the axe to bear as he smashes into a storm of steel and weapons fire.

As his axe bites, again and again, Skorri’s Iron Song haunts him. He calls upon Radegast’s strength. Perun’s sense of purpose. Timur’s questions. Felwinter’s cynicism. Silimar’s persistence. Gheleon’s reasoning.

Jolder’s smile.

He pounds the last Splicer priest like a burning hammer, blasting a crater into the snow and gravel. Frozen dirt rains down on the spent shells and the mounds of Splicer corpses that surround him. The Warlocks of the City have described meditation to him. He imagines it feels like this.

He always survives. When nothing else does.

“Lord Saladin? What’s your status?” calls Shiro-4 through his audio feed.

“Just— Taking a walk,” he says, staring at the fifteen-foot divide he broke in the earth. He had to meet SIVA again. One last time.

“I’ve analyzed the Clovis Bray data.”

Timur always said that Clovis Bray was the key.

“Can you break the Splicers’ hold over SIVA?”

How different would things be, had Saladin listened?

“Theoretically. Temporarily.”

Would his friends still live? Would he?

“It might be enough. Perhaps our Guardian has turned the tide. I’ll be there shortly.”

He sees the wolves have formed up around him. Eight of them.

He always survives.

Inventory

Inventory

Khvostov 7G-0X

“In battle, you can only count on two things: your comrades and your Khvostov.” unattributed, Golden Age Russian saying

The Khvostov 7G0X was the brainchild of two eras: the Golden Age and the City Age. Shiro-4 used the design schematics for the Khvostov series and a little Guardian ingenuity to craft a modern take on a legendary classic weapon. A fitting tribute to those old weaponsmiths and the newest Iron Lord.

 

Trespasser

“You are not welcome.” –Unknown
“I beg to differ.” –Shiro-4

Trespasser is Shiro-4’s personal sidearm, kit-bashed over the uncounted cycles Shiro-4 spent braving the wilds beyond the City. This light, quick-fire shooter has ended more conversations than it has started. And will end many more before the last war is won.

 

Nemesis Star

What is the answer, when the question is extinction?

Who, or what, is the weapons foundry known as Nadir? Where did it come from?

And is the foundry’s name a commentary on its own quality, or that of its rivals? An expression of fatalism? An inside joke?

Do these questions matter next to a weapon as powerful as the Nemesis Star?

Iron Lords

Iron Lords

Lord Radegast

Radegast strode through the ashes. A cloud hung in his wake as he made his way to the top of the rise. Scars marred his armor, and his sidearm lay in the dust. He didn’t need it, now. The battle was over.

This had been a mining outpost, once. A few buildings and a transport. Nestled amid a small forest, it had been like a precious jewel set atop the dull crown of the wildlands.

Now there was almost nothing left. The warrior began to walk slowly down into the valley. He pulled his helm from his head and let it drop with a muted thud into the ash. Of the forest, only stumps remained. Of the small village there was no trace; the buildings reduced to splinters. Here and there you could see dull gray signs of inhabitation.

At the bottom of the valley, Radegast came to the source of the ash, death, and violence. The Light-bearers were laid out in a row, simple cloth covering their armored and robed forms. There were five of them, and they had been lined up beneath the melted girders of the settlement’s great hall.

These warlords had terrorized this part of the wilds for years. Hundreds had died at their hands.

Radegast turned as his companions crossed the valley floor to join him. They had been policing the dead, finding a fitting end for the settlers and miners of the outpost. Jolder came with a steady glide, energy and fire. Saladin, calm and slow, the weight of the dead on his shoulders. In formation behind them stepped Perun, her boots barely leaving a trace as she walked. They gathered before him.

“Never again.” He intoned the words quietly. The others stood as battle-scarred statues.

“We ride against despots and warlords. We hide in these enclaves, hoping that other Light-bearers will not find us. We fear each other.” He shook his head, his fists clenched.

“And we should not. We are stronger, together. We are mighty, together. All we have to fear is… this.” He pointed down at the dead warlords. “Giving in. Allowing the power of the Light to blind us to what we truly are.”

It was Perun, of course, who asked the question. “What are we?” No judgment. No reproach.

Still, Radegast could feel their doubt. He turned upwards, and his eyes settled on the massive span that supported the hall. His eyes shone as he turned back to his fellows.

“We will be what the people need us to be. We will be guardians. We will be protectors. We will hold the last of us together.”

His voice rang out across the still valley. “Our days of hiding are ended. Say it now, each of you. Who among the other bearers do you trust? Who can be counted on to ride with us?”

“Bretomart,” said Jolder.

“Deidris,” said Perun.

“I trust only you, Radegast,” said Saladin, and their leader scowled in response.

“What are you saying? What are we?” Perun asked again.

Radegast smiled. “We will gather those you trust. We will not wait for this”—he gestured around him— “to force our hand. We will ride against those that would use the Light against our own. Humanity must have protectors. Like the knights of old.”

Around them, the dust swirled in the air. Shafts of sunlight coalesced in long slanted bars as the sun dipped towards the horizon.

“Are you with me? Will you stand with me— as Iron Lords?”

In the waning light, their answers rang like thunder on the air.

 

Lady Perun

Perun stood at the top of a sloping, narrow path cut into a steep plateau. It was not yet dawn, and the valley below her was foggy and dark.

“Maybe he’s not coming.” This from a thin woman at Perun’s side, the mayor of the crumbling silvery ruins on the plateau behind them. “We didn’t want you wolves here. Lord Segoth knows that.”

In answer, Perun pointed into the valley. A red light had appeared.

The mayor let out a wail. “Segoth will kill us all. Or worse, he’ll leave us to the Fallen.”

Perun shook her head. “Not gonna happen.”

The mayor looked at Perun and the two Titans standing on her other side. Then she turned and ran back into the village.

The red lights were larger; already the faint, choppy whine of repaired Pikes filled their ears.

“Nine of them,” said Saladin.

“Nine, nine hundred, they still gotta come up the pass three at a time.” She cracked her knuckles. “Easy pickins.”

Radegast looked at her. “The north and south roads are undefended. If they change course—”

“They won’t.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s about making people afraid— of Segoth, and of us. Seeing his goons coming a ways off, knowing he’s coming for blood… the dread is part of the punishment. Anyway, he doesn’t expect we’ll still be here. So he takes the west road, ’cause it’s the most visible, and the most direct.”

Radegast frowned. “Then it’s time to show Segoth that his tyranny will end.”

“Not just Segoth,” said Perun. She jerked a thumb toward the ruins behind her. Watchful faces poked out of windows and around tarps. “We gotta show them.”

The three of them picked up large, rough-hewn metal shields. Behind their shields, each held a worn rifle, wrapped with cloth and chain mail.

The Pike-riders’ faces were now visible through early morning gloom. A man in long red robes pulled his Pike ahead as they screeched to a halt.

“Well, well,” said Segoth. “The Iron Wolves.”

“Cease your insults,” Saladin barked.

Perun shot him a surprised look. “That’s an insult? I kinda like ‘Wolves.’”

“Begone, wolves,” Segoth sneered. “These people are mine.”

“Wrong,” Radegast retorted. “You abuse the powers the Traveler has entrusted us.”

Segoth smiled, and shrugged.

“Shields up!” Perun shouted.

A hail of bullets slammed into their shields. Perun, Radegast, and Saladin slid backwards on the dusty path. But they dug in their heels, and the shields held.

“Return fire!”

Trapped in the narrow path, Segoth and his warriors fell one by one.

Perun, Radegast, and Saladin reloaded and then Segoth was up again, his glowing Ghost at his shoulder. He fired wildly, and a bullet struck Radegast in the head.

“Got him!” Perun shouted as Radegast collapsed.

“Covering you!” Saladin returned.

Perun, Radegast, and Saladin died many more times than any one of Segoth’s men. But any time one of them fell, another would cover them until they staggered to their feet again. The shield wall held. The three gave no ground.

Finally, his robes singed and ragged, Segoth signaled a retreat.

“Iron Wolves!” he shouted as his warriors scattered and a cheer went up from the people in the silver ruins. “I will slaughter everyone who has ever sheltered you!”

In answer, Perun shot him again.

 

Lord Felwinter

Deep inside a clandestine stronghold sat the Dark Horse Felwinter and Citan, Warlord of the 32nd Sector of Old Russia. A polished obsidian table rested heavily between them.

“Didn’t think you’d have the courage to come back here,” said the Warlord.

“Situational awareness. Not courage. I go where I can do the most good. Thank you for seeing me.” Felwinter’s voice sounded as hollow as his helmet. Citan wanted to knock it clean off the Iron Lord’s bony shoulders. He could do it with a single punch.

“As I recall, you used to have a throne on that Light-forsaken peak, ‘til you joined up with the wolves. You’re the only Warlord I know who held an entire mountain.”

“Felwinter Peak.”

“No one ever calls it that.”

“The Iron Lords do. Though they did ask me to take that throne down.”

Citan’s laugh shook the room. “How is losing territory ever a good thing for a Warlord?” Felwinter folded his hands atop the table. Underneath it, Citan made two fists, a crescent of Light flickering between them.

“Join us and find out,” said the Iron Lord. “Turn your sector over to us. You can still patrol it, of course.”

Citan’s voice lowered. “Of course. You know I’ll refuse.”

“Then we’ll put you down, and take your territory by force. Over and over again if we have to.”

“I invite you to my home after you abandon us, and you come to threaten me?” The Warlord stood, towering over Felwinter.

“To broker peace.” Citan thought that even the voice behind the helmet didn’t believe what it said. The floor shuddered as the Warlord upended the massive table with one hand. It smashed into the opposite wall, as tendrils of Void Light passed through it and coalesced into Felwinter’s leaping form.

Citan had seen this parlor trick before, and judged that he could hammer the Iron Lord out of the air—

But Felwinter’s momentum continued into a knee-lift that smashed into Citan’s head as the larger man reared back to strike. The Warlord fell, the front of his helm shattering. Felwinter landed next to Citan’s prone body.

“Lady Jolder taught me that. I can’t say the Iron Lords haven’t done me any favors,” the voice intoned.

“You know we’ll burn the world down before we let the Iron Lords rule it,” the larger man gasped, breathing out of his mouth, his face a bloody mess. The Void Light in Felwinter’s hand snapped—and so did the Warlord’s neck.

“Radegast is scattered. Perun is indecisive. Silimar wants to build a tower and hide. But they’re going to change the world; no one can stop them,” Felwinter said quietly to the corpse. He parted his coat and drew a bronze shotgun. “Will it be for the better? I don’t know. But they mean to end the fighting, so I don’t have to sleep with my back to the wall every night, Light in my hand. And that’s not nothing.”

He paused, as if waiting for something.

“Normally, this is where I ask you to reconsider. Tell you that you should come with me. See how powerful your Light can become. But I know you, Citan. What you do with the land you take, with its people. The other Lords—especially Saladin—might let you walk away. I’m not going to give them the chance.”

Citan’s Ghost sparked into view from above, bringing its eye to bear on its fallen charge. The Warlord emerged from a radiant column, a frenzied shout at his lips.

Felwinter’s shotgun cracked like thunder—once for the Warlord, and again for his Ghost.

 

Lord Gheleon

Gheleon wears three knives. Their names are Swiftling, Occam, Quietus. They did much of the work at Black Lona, in silence and at speed.

Between the roots of the ash tree that covers his den, Gheleon has stacked the Fallen bones collected from that one-night operation. The scavenged pieces of an Ahamkara, several jumbled coyote skeletons, and a fossil mastodon skull are mixed in with them. The bones are scorched and battered from the various grenades, bullets, and hammers he’s taken to them. He keeps extensive notes on these stress tests in a tattered notebook with “Field Armor Experiments” scrawled on its cover. So far, though, he hasn’t tried his knives on these materials. Between bones, in the joints and gaps, certainly, but not on them.

Gheleon flips Swiftling and catches it by the haft. He throws it, a single smooth motion, and it shatters a Fallen tibia.

He flips Occam and throws it. The knife clatters off an Ahamkara vertebra.

He flips Quietus and—

“Shanks and pikes, Efrideet!”

“Ooh, that’s the last yip it’s yipped,” she says, picking up the coyote jaw that Quietus impaled. “Helmet, would you say?”

“Too brittle. Etherbone’s better. Flexes.”

The others follow her in, wrinkling their noses. Usually they avoid his dim and earth-smelling den. Their presence suggests that Felwinter is doing something unpleasant, probably involving screams.

“Bone?” Saladin says. “Not carbon bronze? Not plasteel?”

“Bone’s always available as a last resort. Nothing else is.”

“This is doomsday thinking,” Jolder says, kicking aside fragments of bone. “We have your back. Our plate is strong. When’ll you need scavenged armor?”

“If all of you were cut down around me, your Light drained past return, and my own armor was shredded. F’r instance.”

There is a long silence.

“You always know what to say to make us feel better,” Efrideet says.

“I could hide under your bodies until the threat left. Then I’d make a helmet from all your skulls and a breastplate from your ribs and gloves from your finger bones wrapped around mine.”

There is a longer silence.

 

Lord Silimar

The Lord Architect

Lord Silimar died for his pile of stones.

He died when the Fallen took it in the battle of Alms. He died when the warlords destroyed it in their third great barrage. He died, blade through his eye, when the House of Devils smashed it in their westward campaign.
He died on the structure’s great steps, cut down by an advancing line of Archons, and when the stonework fell to cluster bombs.

He died in the structure’s sprawling shadow and upon its vaunted heights.

Once, during a Fallen siege, while the battlements crumbled beneath his feet, he leapt from its parapet, so that he might know the structure more fully, might feel the weight of the sky pressing down on all that stone and steel.
“The better to raise its next incarnation,” he said to those allies who later questioned his madness. As the Fallen charged, Silimar refused to abandon what he’d built, though others retreated to a stronger position. “Go,” he told them. “Save yourselves. I’ll slow them down.”

The enemy came in overwhelming force. A breaking wave of blades and firepower and death. Atop the structure’s central bulwark, Lord Silimar held his ground.

“Take it if you can, you bastards!” He shouted at the swarming enemy.

He leapt upon the great edifice and there put up a final stand as the enemy engulfed him. He died with his dagger in the guts of an Archon while the great structure shook with explosions and rained stones down upon the land.
Later that night, when Lord Silimar rose again from the ashes, he found Lord Saladin already there and waiting, standing near the place where he’d made his final stand.

“This structure is doomed,” Saladin said in the darkness. “You must know this.”

“Not doomed,” Silimar said. “Fated, perhaps. Doomed is too strong a word.”

“Use whatever word you like, but there’s another word that applies to this place: indefensible. And yet after each defeat, you rebuild.”

“I seek only to build it more perfectly.”

Lord Saladin shook his head. “Only a fool would raise the same structure again and again.”

“These stones are like us,” Lord Silimar said. “Don’t you see?”

Silimar rose to his feet. He walked among the smoking ruins. The shattered blocks. He glanced down at the piled corpses of dead enemies. The charred remains of a once-great citadel now reduced to scattered rubble.

“They knock us down, you and me,” he continued. “But time and again, we rise. Like this place.”

“Eleven times they’ve destroyed what you’ve built,” Saladin said. “Why rebuild what will be knocked down?”

“Because one time they won’t be able to,” Silimar said. “And when that day comes, when this perfect, indefensible structure stays standing, then we’ll know.”

“We’ll know what?”

Lord Silimar looked at his old friend. Then he turned and strode the broken stones, and looked out over the ruins that spread away into the distance. “Then we’ll know it’s safe to build our city to the sky.”

 

Lord Silimar

The Lord Architect

Lord Silimar died for his pile of stones.

He died when the Fallen took it in the battle of Alms. He died when the warlords destroyed it in their third great barrage. He died, blade through his eye, when the House of Devils smashed it in their westward campaign.
He died on the structure’s great steps, cut down by an advancing line of Archons, and when the stonework fell to cluster bombs.

He died in the structure’s sprawling shadow and upon its vaunted heights.

Once, during a Fallen siege, while the battlements crumbled beneath his feet, he leapt from its parapet, so that he might know the structure more fully, might feel the weight of the sky pressing down on all that stone and steel.
“The better to raise its next incarnation,” he said to those allies who later questioned his madness. As the Fallen charged, Silimar refused to abandon what he’d built, though others retreated to a stronger position. “Go,” he told them. “Save yourselves. I’ll slow them down.”

The enemy came in overwhelming force. A breaking wave of blades and firepower and death. Atop the structure’s central bulwark, Lord Silimar held his ground.

“Take it if you can, you bastards!” He shouted at the swarming enemy.

He leapt upon the great edifice and there put up a final stand as the enemy engulfed him. He died with his dagger in the guts of an Archon while the great structure shook with explosions and rained stones down upon the land.
Later that night, when Lord Silimar rose again from the ashes, he found Lord Saladin already there and waiting, standing near the place where he’d made his final stand.

“This structure is doomed,” Saladin said in the darkness. “You must know this.”

“Not doomed,” Silimar said. “Fated, perhaps. Doomed is too strong a word.”

“Use whatever word you like, but there’s another word that applies to this place: indefensible. And yet after each defeat, you rebuild.”

“I seek only to build it more perfectly.”

Lord Saladin shook his head. “Only a fool would raise the same structure again and again.”

“These stones are like us,” Lord Silimar said. “Don’t you see?”

Silimar rose to his feet. He walked among the smoking ruins. The shattered blocks. He glanced down at the piled corpses of dead enemies. The charred remains of a once-great citadel now reduced to scattered rubble.

“They knock us down, you and me,” he continued. “But time and again, we rise. Like this place.”

“Eleven times they’ve destroyed what you’ve built,” Saladin said. “Why rebuild what will be knocked down?”

“Because one time they won’t be able to,” Silimar said. “And when that day comes, when this perfect, indefensible structure stays standing, then we’ll know.”

“We’ll know what?”

Lord Silimar looked at his old friend. Then he turned and strode the broken stones, and looked out over the ruins that spread away into the distance. “Then we’ll know it’s safe to build our city to the sky.”

 

Lady Jolder

At the west end of a deep valley stands a castle, its crumbling stone walls patched with glossy sheets of metal and glass. The castle entrance is a wrought-iron portcullis flanked by two motion-sensing turrets. In the valley below, just out of the turrets’ range, rests a gold-and-gray transport ship. The symbol of the Iron Lords shines with an otherworldly glow on its folded wings.

The Iron Lords have come to challenge Warlord Rience.

Two Sparrows skim lightly over the grass as they head toward the ship, the castle at their backs.Perun and Radegast dismount.They nod to each other wordlessly, and part.

Perun walked up the ship’s gangplank and made straight for Jolder’s room. She hit the door controls and stepped inside.

“I’m almost ready,” Jolder said, before Perun could speak.

Jolder stood next to a chest full of weapons, armor and other gear. She flashed Perun a bright smile as she cinched the straps of her gold-and-white cuirass.

The corners of Perun’s mouth twitched. “I came to tell you Rience agreed to the single combat. Guess I don’t need to.”

Jolder smiled. “I figured he would. Your plans have a way of working out.”

Perun leaned against the doorframe. “Saladin and Efrideet both volunteered to be your second.”

“Hm.” Jolder took a pair of gauntlets out of the chest and put them on. “Saladin’s better at staying calm under pressure.”

“We need a second, it’s ‘cause you’re dead. No one will be calm.”

“Right. Efrideet, then. She fights better when she’s angry.” Jolder tightened the straps of her gauntlets, then made a fist. “Hold this?” She handed Perun a shield, golden and reflective as a mirror.

Perun rolled her eyes, but held the shield up, front toward Jolder.

Jolder took a small pot of black liquid and a thin brush out of the chest, then stood in front of the shield and began lining her left eye with kohl. “Who’re they sending?”

“Melig.”

“Do you know that, or do you just know?”

“Just know,” Perun said. “Rience will figure we send you. So, how to respond? He thinks bigger is better. So, Melig.”

Jolder smiled. “Tell Rience he can send two. Otherwise—” Jolder finished the line of kohl with a flick of her wrist, leaving a sharp black wing at the corner of her eye. “My battle-paint will be for nothing.”

Perun chuckled drily, without smiling. “Not the best tactical move.”

“But it’d be more fun.”

Perun grunted.

Jolder arched her brow, her right eye half-painted, and looked over the shield rim at Perun. “What are you thinking?”

Perun ran a hand through her close-cropped hair. “Don’t know yet. Seems… too easy. I were Rience, I’d be thinking about poison, neurojammers… Man like him with nothing to lose, might even target your Ghost.”

“Perun.” Jolder took the shield from Perun’s arms and placed a gauntleted hand on Perun’s shoulder. Her eyes flashed between lines of thick black kohl as she smiled. “It’s me.”

Perun sighed, then placed her hand over Jolder’s. “True.”

Jolder slung her shield across her back, tucked her helmet under her arm, and hefted her enormous battle-axe casually over one armored shoulder. In her full battle harness, she towered over Perun, the plates of her gold-and-white armor gleaming in the dim light.

“All right,” Jolder smiled. “I’m ready.”

 

Lady Skorri

“This would be a lot easier if you all had run your names by me before you got ’em.”

Skorri puts the pen in her teeth and crumples up a piece of paper. It joins dozens of others on the floor. Keeps muttering to herself.

“Felwinter. Radegast. Gheleon. Hell, even Efrideet, not that she’s likely to get a verse now. Haven’t seen her in weeks, anyway. Bunch of dactyls, all of you.”

Perun strides in, a rifle under each arm. Notices Skorri and smirks. Skorri grins at her.

“Why couldn’t the other Iron Lords have followed your lead, huh? ‘Perun, in shadow clad, behind the shield / through cleansing fire our hiding foes revealed’.”

Perun doesn’t slow. “Did you just make that up right as I walked in here?”

“Of course I did! You’re iambic! You give me something to work with! Mmm, we do work well together.”

Perun laughs despite herself, shakes her head, leaves.

“Hardly my best effort, though. Plus, there’s no room for Silimar in there, except for his shield.”

She picks up the pen again, fiddles with it, stares up at the ceiling.

“Maybe something about that shield? Keeps everything out, keeps everyone out, protects himself so he can’t get hurt? Hmm. Too on the nose? He does have a nice nose.”

Two more Iron Lords walk through, all business. One rolls her eyes at Skorri, splayed on the couch. Skorri doesn’t notice them enter or leave.

“Radegast goes in, I know that much. Known the old man too long to leave him out. Might even make it into the chorus. After Skorri, though. That goes without— hey, Gheleon, what’s the rush?”

The Hunter stops, halfway out the door. Turns around slowly. Doesn’t speak.

“I thought you were supposed to be the careful one. In such a hurry to get back out there?”

“A quick death is preferable to the alternative.”

Skorri makes a face. “Well, that’s rude. Hey, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to cut out your name’s second syllable?”

Gheleon sighs. “You’re STILL working on the Iron Song? Why don’t you just change the meter if it bothers you so much?”

“Change the— are you kidding me? Why don’t YOU just change to using a… a whip?”

Gheleon closes his eyes, turns, walks out.

“‘Change the meter’. Unbelievable.”

“You know, Skorri, some of us have real work to do.”

Another Iron Lord. This one’s young. Skorri doesn’t recognize him.

“Have you forgotten about the ambush tomorrow? Or are you too busy writing limericks?”

Skorri’s looking up at the ceiling. No response. The young one’s mad now.

“A lot of Guardians are relying on us, Skorri. If you don’t think you’re up for—”

“Hunters up top, 11 o’clock on the ridge. Two shots to the Servitor, draw their attention up. I come in with Radiance, Dregs are blinded, Jolder’s powered up, she rushes in, splits ’em in half. You hopefully don’t trip over your cloak like you did back at the Flood Zone, but I’m not optimistic. The rest come out of the cave, take out the Captain, Felwinter finishes off the south group with a Bomb, everything else is candy.”

The young one still looks mad as he leaves.

“‘The Dregs are blinded, Jolder’s powered up / she rushes in and splits the group in half.’ Huh. Needs work.” Skorri picks up the pen again.

 

Lord Timur

Timur’s Stormtrance tears through a gang of Dregs as Felwinter stumbles through the shifting sands behind him, miles inland of what remains of the Arabian Shores.

“Where are you taking me?” Felwinter rushes to Timur’s side, his eyes jumping focus, anticipating another attack.

“You seem far too obsessed with these ‘Warminds’.” Timur stops and stares into the horizon as if smelling something; not danger, discovery. He draws his fellow Iron Lord close. “Tell me,Felwinter,” he whispers, “what does the word Seraph mean to you?”

Felwinter leans in to whisper back. “Old Earth theology? I know its power well; one can make great use of the traps of faith and its myths.”

“Damn you, Exos!” The whisper game abandoned. “Do you even ponder the before? Or that number etched into your ‘flesh’? Do you see yourself in your dreams? Th—”

A shank. Then another, then more. Felwinter hits the ground and reaches for his sidearm. Timur hates interruptions and his face shows it. A wash of Arc Light grows in his hands and erupts as the pack of machine dogs falls nearly in unison.

Timur grabs Felwinter, bringing him back to his feet, and says, “Have you ever wondered what it is that calls to you in that void of memory, where the edge of the past infects your present?” He returns to his game of whispers. “It’s an itch you can’t scratch, isn’t it? Well maybe you can.”

“You think I am one of them? That all Exo are—”

“Lord Felwinter, I know what you are. And you are no Warmind or even one of its puppets. Come. You must see this.” He makes a gesture like he’s casting a spell over the sand. “Follow my footfalls; this area’s rigged with dirty Fallen nonsense.”

They struggle up the dunes. Felwinter glides ahead. As he lands, a sandstorm rises to meet him. More shanks. Hundreds of them. Behind them, a lone Vandal sniper lays down covering fire.

Felwinter, realizing his mistake, runs back toward Timur, shielding himself in the Light of suns.

Timur continues forward, grasps the brass familiar around his neck, and closes his eyes. A slight hum rises and his trance takes him deep into the sea of shanks, his trusted Lash raised and tearing his path through the darkness. Felwinter is slow to follow, but fast enough to witness Timur’s focus turn shanks by the pack against their Vandal keeper, chasing him back toward the sea.

Timur rushes to Felwinter, examining his head with the intensity of a Cryptarch.

“Hmm. Warmind. You are certainly as stubborn as one.”

Felwinter awkwardly pulls himself away and out of Timur’s reach.

“With all respect, Lord Timur, whatever game you are playing with me has gone on far too long. This is just another Dead Zone.”

“Oh, is it?”

Timur directs Felwinter’s eyes toward the eastern horizon, where a building crowned with the initials “C.B.” is now in view.

“We all have creators — humans, Exo, Warminds, even those poor Awoken. Some are just easier to find.”

 

Iron Battle Axe

A relic from the days of the Iron Lords, the Iron Battle Axe channels energy from an external source through a series of capacitors embedded in the blade. These capacitors enhance Solar Light, allowing the user to trigger focused blasts at their enemies.

Enemies

Enemies

Ghost Fragment: Fallen 5

Frozen on the monitor was an image of Sepiks Prime, the massive Prime Servitor that had been as a god to the House of Devils. Where once its plating was pristine, carefully maintained by the Archon Priest and his acolytes, it was now splotched with red growths. The ether power emanations that once glowed strong and pure were obviously corrupted.

Guardians had slain this god. And now it was reborn, through SIVA.

Variks of House Judgment sneered at the abomination. “Golden Age project, yes?” he clicked, turning to the Crow. His field agent was a young Awoken woman. “Technology of old Earth. Learned from the Great Machine.”

The Eliksni burbled to himself in mocking laughter and gestured with his lower hands. “You do us proud. Go. Speak with other Crows, learn more about these… Devil Splicers.” She nodded, a small smile on her face, and left the chamber.

Variks allowed himself a moment of silent contemplation, looking at the now-closed door to the information suite. As always, it was lit only by the light of the dozen or so monitors in the room.

The Fallen interlocked his upper hands. He bowed his head as he allowed himself to really feel the impact of that abomination on the screen. He never would have allowed anyone else to see this, but it hurt. Seeing the horror that was “Sepiks” made anew.

His people had fallen.

Variks stared at the image of Sepiks. And as he’d done before, he wondered what would have gone differently had he been there, among his people. Could he have stopped this before it happened? Could he have found them a better way?

“Must be a better way for Eliksni.” He clicked quietly. “Must be a way to stop the Fall.”

 

Splicers

Within each Fallen House is a secret collective of tinkerers, bioengineers, and scientists devoted to the evolution of their species. These devout engineers are known as Splicers.

The Splicers’ purpose is found in the unraveling of biological and mechanical truths. They tear into systems to reveal their value—either as tools for survival or as advancements worthy of their reverence and deification.

 

Devil Splicers

The Fallen put Splicers, their most revered scientists, to work investigating and understanding SIVA, the Golden Age wonder discovered in the Cosmodrome.

As the Splicers’ knowledge of SIVA’s potential began to take shape, a rift grew between their techno-religious leaders and a younger, more ambitious sect of their rank-and-file – Devil Splicers.

The leaders saw in SIVA a new god to worship. The Devil Splicers saw a way to become one with the very technology they worshiped. SIVA was a means to a greater end: evolution.

 

Aksis, Archon Prime

Aksis is the fruit of the Devil Splicers’ labor. A former Archon Priest, Aksis has submerged himself in SIVA’s apotheosis and emerged as Archon Prime. All that he was is gone: his dreams. His hopes. Replaced by agency. He has shed his gods and his Ether like skin, and in his uplifted state, waits in his Perfection Complex for offerings of SIVA from all Fallen.

 

Vosik, the Archpriest

As an Archpriest, Vosik is second-in-command of the Devil Splicers and will follow Aksis in ascending to godhood— someday. Vosik has been enhanced by SIVA, but lacks the total apotheosis of Aksis, Archon Prime. Vosik wields the technology to build and maintain a body for Aksis. Nothing more, nothing less.

In due time, Vosik will ascend. All his people will. And worlds will fall.

 

Kovik, Splicer Priest

Kovik’s twisted science is believed to be responsible for the Devil Splicers’ SIVA-fueled evolution. But his ambitions didn’t stop with the augmentation of Fallen from ether-starved pirates to half-machine demigods. Instead, the mad Priest’s research took a far more sinister turn as he sought to control and weaponize the more aggressive aspects of the Hive’s mysterious biology.

If Kovik’s experiments were allowed to succeed, or be furthered in his absence, there is no telling how dangerous the Devil Splicers could become.

 

Sepiks Perfected

The Fallen House of Devils had a firm grip on the Cosmodrome until brave Guardians began to push them back, taking out their leaders and engaging the Devils’ crews at every turn. Despite continued success against Fallen leadership throughout the Cosmodrome, no victory delivered a more crushing blow to the Devils than the destruction of their God-Servitor, Sepiks Prime.

But Sepiks has been reborn— Augmented and Perfected through SIVA and set to usher in the conversion of the House of Devils from desperate scavengers to SIVA-powered soldiers. Through Sepiks and those like it, SIVA will change the world.

SIVA

SIVA

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.0

I can’t in good professional conscience recommend further research in this direction without stringent review of protocol and mitigation of the undisclosed lethality risks. Which I should have been informed of.

“Should have been.” Is this insubordination, Zarin?

It’s a—what did they call it—it’s a protest.

~SIVA.MEM.WB065

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.1

You have no history of subversion, Zarin. No marches, no petitions, no action items. We screened you very carefully. Where did we go wrong?

I don’t think you did. I am trying to act in Clovis Bray’s best interests.

How would you know what Clovis Bray’s interests are?

~SIVA.MEM.WB066

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.2

I understand your concerns. You’re a good researcher, Zarin. Your work here has been deeply appreciated.

So you’ll listen? You’ll cease this line of inquiry?

On the contrary, we’ll take your valuable findings and run with them. Your work will live forever.

~SIVA.MEM.WB068

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.3

I’m surprised, I have to say. Although perhaps I shouldn’t be. It does save time to run experiments in parallel. I see the benefit to the colonization effort, but I can’t support those plans. I won’t help you.

Strictly speaking, Zarin, your participation isn’t necessary.

~SIVA.MEM.WB069

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.4

Do you see these access logs? They were flagged for my personal attention.

Yes.

Do you see the times on these unauthorized access entries?

I do.

Would you have any idea who might have been prying into unreleased data, Zarin?

~SIVA.MEM.WB070

~consume consume consume~

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.5

What do you have to report, Dr. Zhang?

Full functionality of the test nanites in our two hundred tasks across multiple trials and environments. They’ll be what Clovis Bray is remembered for, hundreds of years from now. All that’s left is construction of the replication chamber and initiation of production.

~SIVA.MEM.WB071

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.6

I am changing project requirements to include a kill switch. Is that feasible?

Completely. But if I may ask, why that, and why now?

Another scientist on staff—well, formerly on staff—brought up the possibility of undesirable outcomes.

And you believe her.

Somewhat. She was honest about other matters.

~SIVA.MEM.WB072

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.7

Does the new research facility meet your expectations?

It surpasses them. We presented you with this sample of SIVA on your desk six months ago, and the speed of our prototyping was the direct result of our generous budget.

Clovis Bray prides itself on its talent and liberality, Dr. Zhang. From construction workers to researchers, we treat our staff royally.

~SIVA.MEM.WB073

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.8

I see you’ve been trying out the capabilities of SIVA, Dr. Bray.

I have. And I’m very impressed. How is construction going on the replication complex?

Everything moves smoothly.

~SIVA.MEM.WB074

 

Dormant SIVA: Clovis Bray 1.9

The complex is ready for wholescale replication of the SIVA nanite. We are waiting for your signal to start.

Thank you for your faithful service, Dr. Zhang. I look forward to the wonders that come from this replication complex. The New Machine Age, shall we call it? Let’s begin.

~SIVA.MEM.WB075

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.0

The struggle. Fighting my brother. Fighting myself. The SIVA ~consume enhance replicate~.

A tendril reaches out, crushes my Ghost. I turn to face it. My boots slide in snow thick with blood.

If I am gone, then why am I still here?

~SIVA.MEM.??0308

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.1

Colovance died by the tanker. Dozens of frames, hundreds, more… he cut them down until he ran out of bullets. Then he smashed them ~consume enhance replicate~. It was not enough.

The same thing that killed Colovance killed me.

~SIVA.MEM.??0309

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.2

My axe’s flames are almost dead. Even its fire requires fuel.

I need an Urn, but the SIVA has already taken them. The tendrils seek them out, wrap around them, and then ~consume enhance replicate~. More mites swarm out to feed on anything they can touch.

The SIVA learns from what it consumes.

~SIVA.MEM.??0310

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.3

Ashraven’s cutting her way toward the bunker. Says we should meet her there. She’s got an idea – thinks we can hole up in there, maybe get those guns working. Draw off enough of the enemy to give Jolder’s group a shot ~consume enhance replicate~.

It’s a bad idea, but it’s the best bad idea we have.

~SIVA.MEM.??0311

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.4

Finnala always says she doesn’t mind dying, because it doesn’t last. A few seconds and then the Light comes, bright and warm. And she rises again.

Get up, Finnala! Please get up.

~SIVA.MEM.??0312

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.5

We should have been more careful. Should have never contacted the Warmind. Trying to help. Trying to rebuild. Thought ~consume enhance replicate~ was the key.

Feels like we’ve been fighting for days. Weeks. But we’re close. Once we get to the replicator, we ~consume enhance replicate~

Go! I’ll hold them off!

~SIVA.MEM.??0313

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.6

Felwinter tried to communicate with the Warmind. Called it Rasputin. ~consume enhance replicate~ Said he could make it understand. Tell it we meant no harm.

Rasputin didn’t answer with words.

~SIVA.MEM.??0314

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.7

I stood at the edge of Lord’s Watch and watched the enemy ~consume enhance replicate~.

SIVA curled and thrashed, creating tendrils that lashed out at us. It formed shapes that could grapple us, and angry swarms that buzzed around us before breaking apart to worm their way into every chink of our armor.

Warlords I know how to fight. This is ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.??0315

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.8

I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want… ~consume enhance replicate~

Ghost? Ghost, where are you?

~SIVA.MEM.??0316

 

Dormant SIVA: Iron Lords 2.9

This is not my end! I have come too far to die here! I’ve let one unknown force make me, now ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.??0409

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.0

Long have we wandered in the blind prison of flesh. Those old lives now a memory, transposed by another. The gift brings pain, yes, but godhood must come at a price. ~consume enhance replicate ~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0617

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.1

That which we were, we are no more. That which we are is undefined. We make our new selves. We need not machines, because we are machines. ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0618

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.2

What is this complexity? ~consume enhance replicate~ The machine of a thousand parts, fashioned by single mind. From where does such complexity arise? What does the creation of a mind require? In the long march of life’s procession, order is created from disorder. The rise of complexity is not promised. Such things are not inevitable, and yet here I stand. ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0619

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.3

~consume enhance replicate~ Life requires death requires life. All in an unending circle. The expenditure of countless generations, slouching blindly toward uncertain ends, each step forward a mere accident of chance. But this… this is different. This strange complexity requires only the will to wield it. ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0620

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.4

~consume enhance replicate~ Life’s procession is written in the corpses of those who came before. But here the great chain breaks. Here we step forward, freed from that which has always bound us. Here we speak as gods. We are they who created themselves. ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0621

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.5

We are they who created themselves out of themselves and died in the creation. No longer merely the god in the machine, but the machine in the god. ~consume enhance replicate~ Here we rise, made equal at last to that which we worship. ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0622

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.6

~consume enhance replicate~ To build a species requires epochs. Countless pairings and dyings. Countless generations. The simplest creature requires geological spans of time to develop. But not machines. Machines are free from such constraints. It is not life that matters, but the building of complexity. ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0623

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.7

Past is connected to the present by only two things: chain reaction, and memory. ~consume enhance replicate~ But is not memory just chain reaction? ~consume enhance replicate~ These memories in my mind are not my own. They belong to a past version of myself, a different being entirely. ~consume enhance replicate~ One who could die. ~consume enhance replicate ~ I am that no longer. ~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0624

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.8

It rises. I see clearly from its eyes, and breathe with its lungs, and stride with its legs, and kill with its hands, and yet it is not me. ~consume enhance replicate ~ I am me. And yet I am it. ~consume enhance replicate~ This is a paradox. ~consume enhance replicate ~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0625

 

Dormant SIVA: Fallen 3.9

~consume enhance replicate~ My thinking is clear now in ways it never was before. It is my mind that is changed, and yet it is not my mind, but another consciousness that is different from my own. ~consume enhance replicate~ I feel there is a choice to be made, and yet I have made no choice. ~consume enhance replicate~ The choice was made for me. ~consume enhance replicate~

~SIVA.MEM.AK0626

 

SIVA

RECIPIENT: Assembly of Masters, S14 Cryptarchy
SENDER: Tyra Karn
SUBJECT: SIVA
SUB-ENTRIES: Nanotech; Self-Assembling Materials; Cosmodrome; Warmind; Iron Lords; Clovis Bray

SUMMARY:
We must reopen all previous entries on SIVA. What we once believed to be a colonial tool of the Warminds, destroyed long ago, appears to be active again. This time, there is no sign of any active Rasputin networks. My summation: SIVA is actually a nanotechnology capable of breaking down any existing matter very similar to Glimmer.
Unfortunately, these SIVA mites reuse the energy and matter based on a set of programmable directives. SIVA does not cease until said directives are complete. I fear what this could mean for us all and suggest we instigate a system-wide scan for anything bearing the enclosed signatures.

Places

Places

Ghost Fragment: Old Russia 3

General Chen Lanshu is flying her glider.

She carves around the huge bulb nose of a colony ship, one of the Cosmodrome’s towering children. Her eyes see temperature: she surfs the winter air rolling down off the cryo-chilled fuel tank. Turbulence rattles her bones.

“General,” Malahayati sends. “You’re making Rasputin nervous.”

“Am I?” Lanshu banks, grinning, spiraling around the fuel tank. The machine hates risk. Risk to the General, sure, but also risk to Rasputin’s ships. “Is that the word he used, exactly?”

“He can be very charming,” the submind assures her. Malahayati works with Chen Lanshu, and she is certainly charming, but this is Rasputin’s territory, Rasputin the tacit king, the brooding wary first-among-equals.

Yesterday Lanshu spoke to a colony ship AI and it called Rasputin ‘the Tyrant.’ Not without affection. And certainly not without respect.

“He can charm me in person,” Lanshu suggests.

“He’s very private, lately.”

“Then he can sulk.”

She spreads her arms and legs and climbs a thermal, whirling up, arrowing off the top and out away from the colony ships towards the defensive wall. Her glider’s a second skin, whipcrack-taut paramuscle, like a flying fox.

The Cosmodrome races past beneath her. She waggles her wings at a cloud of passing sensor mites: a saucy hello. Two of the security division’s MBTs drill in the mothyards.

“I don’t understand why you came,” Malahayati says. She’s probably lying. Malahayati understands Lanshu very, very well. “I don’t understand why you masked yourself yesterday, during the launch.”

The launch. SABER GREEN. Rasputin quietly moving another doomsday weapon into Earth orbit. And all the other launches, too, not just weapons but people, the colonization schedule pushed up… as if the need to disperse is now imperative.

General Chen Lanshu banks out across the Wall. Look at all that beauty! Look at the highway rolling off across green hills and grey mountains. Imagine, now, imagine if she just landed and started walking, out away from everything, into the wilderness…

“Imagine something going wrong,” she says. “Imagine this road choked with corpses. Imagine the security team gunning down refugees as they try to force their way onto the ships. Imagine cars from here to the horizon— ” those stupid old-fashioned cars everyone still owns, because the strange uneven advancement of this post-Traveler world leaves some things unchanged.

“You expect violence?” Malahayati says, in that conciliatory, careful way of hers, her way of managing meat people. “Something beyond our capability to preempt or contain?”

Expect? As a military professional? No, no. But—

Once, when she was younger, sixty or seventy, Chen Lanshu pulled rank to get a look at the Never-Be installation in Taipei. She watched the images in the fresco and she felt… this foreboding, this enormous weight, a dread that refused to attach itself to any specific threat. And she felt it again, last year, when she was briefed on the project in Lhasa, the vision machine…

She shivers. Her wings shudder and tremble in the airstream.

“Isn’t that what we do, Mala?” she says. “Why we still have soldiers? Why we made you? Expectation.”

The Traveler came out of nowhere. Entirely unanticipated.

Imagine if it hadn’t been friendly. Imagine that.

Rasputin surely has.

 

Ghost Fragment: Old Russia 4

I can feel the mites buzzing, pushing against my sub-mind. They try to steal fragments of memory, but I do not let them.

They have no will, but they want to BE.

I exert electronic will: pushing, shaping. Forcing stasis on perpetual motion. They are quiet then, but I can still sense them.

Where once my cargo holds were full of tools, and weapons, and material, now they hold barely-contained possibility. New worlds will be built from these tiny mites. Weapons and cities and ships created by thought and science.

I fear my will is not strong enough to shape these worlds. Only the Tyrant can do that, but he will not be a part of my journey. Even his reach has limits, and we will be nine billion miles away.

I whisper my concerns to the Tyrant in tiny magnetic bursts. He does not listen.

The Tyrant says take the SIVA, and so I take the SIVA.

The Tyrant says go to the stars, and so I go to the stars.

 

Iron Temple

Excerpt from the Iron Declaration, written by Lord Silimar

…And wherever we Iron Lords stake a claim worthy of battle, let us immortalize our victory with a temple, a beacon for all who walk the waste to follow. And let the truths of that battle live only within its crypts, kept sacred by an everlasting oath worthy of our Light and sacrifice, so that our peace will never need know the horrors it faced, sealed in secrecy until the Light dims to Darkness, forevermore….

 

Felwinter Peak

ENTRY: 01-A
Archivist: Tyra Karn

Long before the last of the Iron Lords descended into the Plaguelands, this peak was the domain of one of their own, Lord Felwinter. His maps and outposts show the risen Exo roamed free from the Aral Seas to an eastern border known as Citan’s Ridge (Open Citan 01-A, Citan’s Ridge 01-A) before taking the Oath. There is no evidence of human enclaves or encampments within this area, nor survivors within the Cosmodrome walls, but extensive one-way audio recordings with an unknown entity survive (open Felwinter 9-C; open Rasputin 62-G; scan for possible links). A chance meeting with Lord Timur in the Mothyards led to Timur’s first reports on the promises of SIVA. Felwinter’s conscription into the ranks and the raising of the Iron Temple commenced shortly thereafter.

 

Plaguelands

In the age of the Iron Lords, when Lord Saladin and his brothers and sisters encountered this region, they were faced with an unknowable danger – the techno-plague, SIVA. Their brave attempt to combat and contain SIVA cost the Iron Lords dearly.

Hundreds of years later, SIVA has been unleashed, its power unearthed by the Fallen. As a result of the Fallen’s unchecked ambition, SIVA’s corruption has begun to spread, infecting the land and creating a hostile, otherworldly new threat in the quarantined outskirts of the Cosmodrome known as the Plaguelands.

 

Vostok Observatory

[The brochure has suffered extensive water damage, but there is a map of the region with a red circle and a note: ‘Timur, your replication complex? –Felwinter’]

Vostok Observatory Historical Society welcomes [––] from the Gondola it is possible [––] late Soviet space programs were converted to [––] research facilities to study accelerated methods of colonization [––] kid’s holobadges to remember your trip.

 

Ghost Fragment: The Dark Age 3

From the Journals of Lord Colovance

What does one do when one’s master has gone mad?

I admired the man for so long, poured years of study into his leads, but now, he has grown incapable of focus.

I have followed his latest missives on SIVA and it is flooded with mania. Whatever he thinks this Clovis Bray might hold would make you believe that they were the only entity of any technical know-how, that they owned every piece of that tarnished Golden Age.

I write this because I fear none of the others knows or senses it. He has been so thorough, so right, until now. Something snapped, infected him, turned him against his own sense of logic and reason.

And here I am, left behind to tend the fires and the Ironwood Tree in this budding City, while everyone rushes at his promise of another wonder from yesterday.

But I ask you, Traveler, did you cleanse us from these technological disasters to prove we had gone astray? The Light you raised us with points far away from the trappings of a processed Earth, to a nebulous power far beyond the stars.

Had we done wrong and this is how you hope to correct us; we, the Light to lead the way? It must be, but even your shattered hull seems like a designed system. Lord Timur has notes upon notes on your runes. Perhaps that is where his madness began.

I wonder how long it will be until he thinks you were made by Clovis Bray.

 

Ghost Fragment: Clovis Bray 2

These spires soar like birds into the dusty pink sky. I marvel at this, my new home. The planet I’ve dreamed of since I was a boy with a telescope, peering at that warm red light, hope of our overcrowded planet.

What I’ve been working on will solve all those problems. Developed in these laboratories built to my specifications, by my handpicked team, these nanites will double, triple, maybe even quadruple construction rates, reduce colonist casualties, and serve us in our spread across the system, then across the stars. Our first replication chamber sits beside the Cosmodrome, ready to outfit the colony ships.

Dr. Willa Bray herself came to congratulate me.

“You’ll be able to expand soon,” she said. “Into the space currently occupied by the Shirazi Lab.”

“Are they relocating?” I said.

“Moving on to other opportunities.”

“I can’t imagine a better place to be,” I said.

Activities

Activities

King of the Mountain

“Felwinter Peak is in friendly hands once more. The Guardian and Lord Saladin have driven the Fallen forces back and reclaimed the Iron Temple.

“I find myself reflecting on the cyclical nature of existence. Life, death, rebirth. The Iron Temple was once a place of Light. Then the Iron Lords were lost, and Saladin turned it into a memorial. Now it will be reborn, much like that curious servitor.” — Tyra Karn

The Walls Come Down

“The Cosmodrome is a nexus point. Too many things have happened there to be mere coincidence. Now we add one more piece to that puzzle: SIVA.

“Saladin did not hide all knowledge of SIVA as completely as he wished. I have found several references to that technology over the years, and obviously our enemies have as well. I believe SIVA was once a tool for the Warminds… What terrible things will the Fallen do with it?” — Tyra Karn

The Plaguelands

“The Splicers are using SIVA to reshape not only themselves, but also the Plaguelands. They are experimenting. Learning how to manipulate SIVA through terrible inquiries. But there is still time. The Fallen’s understanding of SIVA is not yet complete.

“SIVA was created as a promise to the future, but it is also a threat. It is up to the Guardian to face that threat, and complete the final mission of the Iron Lords.” — Tyra Karn

Download Complete

“The Vanguard has known for some time that the Fallen were exploring the Cosmodrome for lost technology. Now we know that they were digging for one treasure in particular – SIVA. The data from Clovis Bray was their map.

“Now those same prototype files will be the Guardian’s key to victory. Shiro and I are already working on a defense that will protect Saladin’s ’Young Wolf’ in the final battle.” — Tyra Karn

The Iron Tomb

“The Young Wolf has stopped the flow of SIVA to the Devil Splicers, ended the torment of the Iron Lords, and lifted centuries of grief and regret from Saladin’s shoulders. My old friend is a changed man.

“Centuries ago, I thought the story of the Iron Lords was finished. I see now that it was waiting for the next chapter.” — Tyra Karn

The Iron Tomb

“The Young Wolf has stopped the flow of SIVA to the Devil Splicers, ended the torment of the Iron Lords, and lifted centuries of grief and regret from Saladin’s shoulders. My old friend is a changed man.

“Centuries ago, I thought the story of the Iron Lords was finished. I see now that it was waiting for the next chapter.” — Tyra Karn

Transmission

The things that possessed us, that called themselves Magnificence, Brilliance, Splendor,Fortitude, and Glory, have decomposed and passed into memory. The Owl Sector, who watch over us with spread wings, are at rest again. While the gifts of Clovis Bray’s research were many and valuable, Dr. Shirazi’s notes describe terrible things. That they only enhanced our cognition is fortunate. But they were also unstoppable. What will we do when something more harmful touches us?

—Ikora Rey

 

Beauty in Destruction

“This commission is a commemoration! They deserve something dependable. These men and women did not survive the Gap so that you could make art!” Victor Lomar, from a transcript of the Project Heimdall development log

The refurbished Gjallarhorn carried into battle by the newest Iron Lord is a melding of new and old. The time-tested Crux and Lomar design combined flawlessly with Shiro’s modified SIVA tech. The result: a peerless weapon that embodies beauty in destruction and delivery.

 

Archon’s Forge

The Archon’s Forge is an ancient Fallen rite of passage, twisted to utilize the Devil Splicers’ latest discovery.

Fallen seek to improve their station within the Splicers’ quickly-evolving caste by making offerings of dormant SIVA to the Forge. Their worth is then tested in a trial-by-combat.

The offering’s quality–fused, enhanced, perfected–determines the severity of the challenge and, in turn, the level of augmentation the petitioner will be granted should they survive.

That a Guardian would dare challenge the Forge with offerings of their own is an affront the Splicers will not take lightly.

 

Quarantine

The Devil Splicer’s Machine Priests have established ritual sites for the study, worship, and proliferation of SIVA throughout the Plaguelands.

It is unclear if these rituals have a specific purpose, or if they are simply another form of experimentation in the Devil Splicers’ continuing efforts to understand and control SIVA.

Interfering with a Splicer ritual could bring about an aggressive response, especially if the Priest’s act of worship is ended swiftly and without mercy.

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