Zahir-2’s pulse rifle fired, ripping through a Taken Acolyte. As it rot into wisps of darkness, a pair of Taken Thrall appeared before the titan. Zahir blocked their fiery claws with his arm, wincing as they melted through his wrist. With his undamaged arm, he hurled an arc charged fist at one of the shadowy spectres’ heads, causing a bright explosion that left no trace of either but their hollow screams. He looked over at his teammate, a fellow titan by the name of Lacer, grapple against the weight of a Taken Centurion’s projection rifle. Lacer broke his struggle and dove sideways, causing the Centurion to stumble forward. As he got back onto his feet, he summoned a blistering concentration of void light in his hand. He turned around and dusted his hands after attaching the magnetic grenade to his foe, who erupted in purple energy, lighting up the walls of the cave.
“Good work.” Zahir nodded at his comrade, strapping his rifle to his back. Free of distractions, the two wandered deeper into the cave, lit by the radiant energy of Io. They soon approached the swirling mass of dark energy that was the blight. Its power lapped at the narrow entrance of a small room. Zahir noticed a shock blade plunged deep and neatly into the ground. One had obviously taken great care in marking the spot. What concerned him more than the blade, however, was the torn cloak that was wrapped around the hilt. He shakily reached for the ominous symbol and wrestled it out of the ground.
“Lacer… do you recognize this cloak?” He asked, holding it up to the slim, black clad titan.
“Mmm, lemme think.” Lacer tapped his finger on the chin of his helmet, looking up at the cave’s ceiling. He became lost in thought as his eyes drifted among the numerous fossils and cracks that dotted the rock above him.
“Oh yeah. Now that I think about it,” he turned the cloak around, eying a weathered cattle skull insignia, “Saiph was wearing a cloak like this last time we… oh.”
Lacer looked worriedly over at Zahir. The exo had put his head down, eyeing the empty slit in the floor of the cave. Yet another tragedy had befallen the titan. Lacer stepped forward, setting the remains of Saiph’s cloak beside Zahir, whose ghost, Crucius, was scanning the hilt of the shock blade.
“Tivik, Guardian Killer.” Crucius translated from the Eliksni scratched onto the blade.
“Tivik? That Fallen that’s supposedly been murdering Guardians?” Lacer asked in surprise.
Zahir nodded. “I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I had a run in with Tivik a long time ago. It was when I first met my fireteam.” He winced. Memories of his friends flashed through his mind.
Zahir continued to explain through the pain. “He abducted Kale and Heather during our strike, and I only barely managed to save their lives. After the strike was called off, the three of us planned to hunt Tivik down and get revenge, which is how we became a fireteam in the first place. However, our investigations yielded nothing. He may have been “Guardian Killer” back then, but he didn’t really have anything to show for it. We didn’t exactly give up, we just slowly forgot about it. We had other things to worry about.”
Zahir paused. “Something needs to be done. I don’t know how he’s suddenly killing guardians off, but we can’t let this monster continue his rampage. We know now that he’s not just a rumor, because starting with Saiph,” he held the shock blade, holding the carved hilt to the light that seeped through the cracked ceiling of the cave, “he’s started marking his victims. That means he’s confident and dangerous.”
Zahir seemed exhausted, and rightfully so. He found it hard to talk about his fireteam after their demise in the Red War. Lacer noticed his friend’s distress, urging to change the subject.
“Hey, Zahir. Let’s worry about Tivik later. Right now, we have a friend to lay to rest. I’ve got to notify the team, too.”
“Right, right.” Zahir untied the cloth, stepping outside of the cave. Zahir often forgot that he’d given his role as the leader of his scout team to Lacer. Lacer was a humble titan, who hadn’t treated Zahir any different after his resignation. He was grateful of Lacer, as he was his closest friend after the Red War. Without a word, the two began their trip back to the city.
Zahir, Lacer, and four other guardians stood at the grave of their fallen comrade. A gold trimmed, jet black ceremonial hunter’s knife, with what remained of Saiph’s cloak wrapped around the hilt, lay plunged into the earth in front of a tombstone. Zahir looked over at what was once his scout team. Only three of them, including Lacer, were of the team before the Red War.
In place of the warlock, Vira, who gave his life during the attack on the city, and the ex-warlock Eltanin, Zahir’s student, who lost her ghost during an operation in the war, were another warlock and a hunter. Another titan filled Lacer’s spot, who had taken Zahir’s role. In place of Saiph, of course, was nobody.
After each guardian paid their respects, they disbanded one by one, saying their farewells. Zahir’s thoughts were on Eltanin at the moment, though not peacefully. Visions of the past stampeded into his mind. He saw her ghost being shattered to pieces, and her legs being torn apart by a Cabal headhunter round. As he calmed himself, leaning against a wall, Lacer walked up behind him.
Before Lacer could speak, Zahir asked on an impulse. “How is Eltanin doing?” Zahir hadn’t visited his former student in her hospital at all. Regrettably now, he had spent most of the year following the Red War on Mars, where he was revived, recollecting himself. He had been busy with his new student as well…
“Oh, boy am I glad you finally asked about her! She really wishes you would have visited, but she’s doing fine. Her surgery was last week, and, come to think of it…” Lacer whispered to his ghost, nodding. “Oh, she’s being released tomorrow! I think it’s about time you saw her.” Lacer’s voice turned serious as he finished his sentence.
Zahir was shocked at Lacer’s sudden change of tone. His friend didn’t often get serious, but he was right. It wasn’t Lacer’s job to check on Eltanin, yet he had put the burden on him regardless.
Lacer watched as Zahir struggled with his thoughts. He put a hand on the exo’s shoulder. “Hey, better late than never, eh? She’ll be happy to see you no matter what. Tell you what. How about I arrange for her to come to your apartment when she gets out?”
Before, Zahir could reply, Lacer turned away. “Alrightie, I’ll make sure of it. See you soon.”
Zahir watched as Lacer walked back to the city streets. He couldn’t be mad at him. He’d brought the guilt of not visiting Eltanin upon himself.
Eltanin was, to him, a symbol of the incompetence he believed he possessed. The deaths he felt he could have prevented. The only partial survivor of a war that had broken his soul. Now, he had to face her, and consequently, all of that self inflicted guilt.