ENTRY 1 - Charon's Silhouette
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS… A royal invitation got me as far as the inner reliquary. I enter the belly of the Leviathan, unattended. My eyes catch on the runs in Calus's crestfallen banners. His inner halls don't gleam—reminds me of stories from the Golden Age. Polish the veneer and present them on a platter, but when you peel back the layers it's just… old. Past, with prime far behind. Ahead, a Legionary in loyalist gild nods to me and swings open a door. A manufactured version of Calus stands tall on the other side. Its likeness mirrors the Tribute Hall's automaton and many other statuesque bots I'd spoken to him through. The statue of Calus whines to life. "You're early, but I suppose your tribe is always ahead of the pack, Hunter. Should I have this room moved, that you may stroll the Leviathan's halls that much longer and appreciate my hospitality?" I'm not sure what he wants to hear. "She's an impressive beast. I've come to take the job." I turn it like an offer. Uncomfortable silence. "Come and see me, Katabasis. I have a gift for you." The statue points toward a domed chamber; its curled walls sport every kind of trophy. Bones on hooks. Taxidermy wrapped around terrified eyes and final moments. A clutch of Councilors watches me as they take mechanical plates from three other identical statues of Calus surrounding them. They huddle about a towering cage of filigreed alloys and woven circuitry, fitting the plates to it with sacramental focus, until the cage becomes a tomb around a pearlescent seat supporting a lonesome figure within. "What an auspicious early arrival. Come. Witness my containment. Few have seen this," Calus wheezes from inside the cage, his voice like taut suffocation. Calus's withering form swells and jostles. My thoughts stink of disgust, and he can smell it. "I am no more trapped here than you are by your Light. You assume this flesh satisfies me? How small. My automatons stand as monuments of my image; reflections of my breadth. They are, as I am: one collective self, as Nothing is. I grit my teeth and look on, stepping sideways to see him from a different angle. His skin is mottled with sickly translucence that grips my stomach. "Your thoughts are as open as your fears, Katabasis. Come, come… look upon me and let my Councilors assuage them." Councilors lay more thick plates over Calus's living misery, brushing past me as they finish and exiting the room with my inhibitions. Mechanisms within the plates engage as plum light emits from the slits between them. Nacre runs smooth around the frame and into a throne-like cup of sullied nobility. Beneath the throne, hoses bubble viscous royal wine into the sealed frame. Calus looks through me, eyes like clumped chalk, as the last Councilor fastens a faceplate into position. Deep orbs illuminate in the faceplate, like wild eyes in the open pitch of night. We are alone. "What do you know of lies, Katabasis?" I pick between the words. "There're a lot different kinds." "And all of them are weakness. " Calus's voice spills from the containment vessel and floods the room. "Gods do not lie. Like me, they have neither the capacity nor the reason. True power cannot be threatened. It does not compel deception. And yet, I have been betrayed by one I thought to be the final divinity." "Sounds like you got swindled… ?" I quickly blunt the question with respect: "…Emperor?" "When the Darkness found me adrift in the cosmos, rejected by a people I had made, I thought to have found a confidant. No—an idol. They promised to return to me, to uplift me—that we may dance together among the stars and drink of their dying ecstasy 'til the end, as one. But their chilling little fleet came and went. It was luscious, and so many tasted so much. Yet I am empty. Nothing. Trapped in this limbo of their lie." "And gods don't lie," I proffer. "Precisely. To be seen…" Calus pauses to heap the drama, "…for what we really are, underneath the surface, is bliss." All four statues step forward to bear Calus's vessel. His voice resounds from all of them simultaneously. "Come. Cast a shadow in my halls and drink. Soon we will speak to the liar, and separate from it the truth." FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Smuggler's switches still working. Maintenance side-hatch. Had to kick in the vent.
ENTRY 2 - Lust and Reappropriation Pt. I
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS… Our disheveled Thresher rattles through lean Nessian atmosphere. Calus's words ring in my ears over the storm-rush of reentry: "The ship is yours to claim." Most of the seats in the drop-hold are empty. A Psion officer named Qinziq sits across from me. Her eye hasn't left me since she boarded. To my right, a craggy Cabal Centurion, complete with demolition satchels and Projection Rifle, adjusts the connectors on his pressure suit. He'd been assigned to make sure none of the other Cabal try to kill me. Seems news of my command had rendered a number of the crew indignant. I prod first: "I can't imagine hiding a ship from the Legion was easy on Nessus. To be honest, I'm surprised they haven't tried to storm the Leviathan." "They would die," grumbles the Centurion. "Bad strategy." "What does it matter? Calus saw fit to give you a ship, Katabasis." My Ghost, Gilgamesh, glares at me. Qinziq sneers and leans forward. Her voice seethes from her helmet. "The Legion is stirred by Caiatl's rousing, Human…" I recognize the tinge of malice in her address. "…and the fall of Torobatl. She sends heralds of her fleet. Ships come and go without stories recorded. We pass unnoticed for some time." The brute bows his head. "First I'm hearing of it. You're saying they won't notice this ship taking off?" I ask. "For some time," Gilly quotes the Psion. "But normally they would… because it's a Legion ship, and you've set me up to commit thievery?" "All Cabal ships belong to Calus," the Centurion growls. "And Qinziq does not answer to you." "Right." My shoulders slump forward, head resting in my hands, as the Thresher touches down. We disembark onto prickly milk-rich soil, turning away from the sun as the deep green sky slowly bleeds out. A congested Cabal shipyard glows in the distance against the crest of dark riding the horizon. "You are Katabasis." The Cabal is speaking to me. He gestures to himself. "Bahr'Toran." "You're my skull-cracker." I point to my Ghost. "Name's Gilgamesh, or Gilly." Bahr'Toran considers for a moment and nods. "I do that. But you will need to know my name if we find battle." "I'm not looking to have a shootout with an entire base. I think the plan is more a quiet reappropriation of goods, Bahto." "I do not like that." "Gilly's didn't take at first, but time wears ya down." Gilly nods to Bahto, who nods back with a grunt and begins walking. We follow him across the bluffs toward the yard, into flatland desolace and sunless gloom. The shipyard is a massive pulverized flat of rough tarmac and shanty barracks surrounded by a barrier fence. It overflows with craft ranging across eras of the Cabal Empire. On the far end of the strip, Gilly spots Arc-lights shining. A figure draped in azure raiment stands above a throng of Cabal, drawing attention like thunder. Whatever he's saying, they believe it. Gilly catches a few words. It's the same talk you hear anywhere else someone's been forgotten: blame, looking for a hole to fester in; wrestling at the edges with tepid hope; at risk of falling back down into the past. FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Maintenance hall off the cargo bay door. Cozy spot floor-side.
ENTRY 3 - Lust and Reappropriation Pt. II
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS… Smaller ships flock like parasites around a centerpiece flagship. Qinziq points to it, a Cabal carrier-class warship. "Glykon Volatus." She touches her finger to the yard's perimeter barrier and says, "Over," as if directing an animal. Qinziq flattens her palm against the ground and displaces the radiolarian saturation with a bubble of Void energy. It bursts and launches her and Bahto over the barrier. I follow on steps of Light, my Tex Mechanica rifle dangling from a loose strap. Bahto settles last on uneasy jet bursts. Qinziq steps in front of him and calibrates a device on his chest plate before Bahto turns to face me. "One of your transmat," he grumbles. "I will stop their signal receiver, so our ship is hidden until we remove its locational anchor." We separate into the silent yard, to our tasks. Qinziq and I weave through a field of parked interceptors as Bahto does his best to stay inconspicuous on his way to a gargantuan signal dish at the adjacent edge of the yard. The daunting bow of the Glykon Volatus looms, obstructing the sky like a bloodied wave rearing up to consume us. I duck behind the frontal landing gear while Qinziq opens a service chute to the command deck. I peek through the open hatch. Down the hall, a lone Psion runs diagnostics on the bridge. I carefully crawl inside and slip the long rifle from my back. "Shoot it." "Guns are loud, Gil." He wasn't totally off-kilter. One thought from that Psions could alert the whole yard. 'Ignorance.' The word ripples through my brain in Qinziq's seething voice. 'She will not.' I didn't invite you in here, I thought. The ripple spreads: 'Yours is a mind unfocused and taxed. Chaos where reason should lie.' "We need this ship," Gilly whispers. He swings into my peripheral view. "If you don't do something, that Psion is going to have every Cabal in the sector on us!" Qinziq surfaces from the hatch and kneels beside us. "This is Yirix, Ghost. She will not reveal us." "She's Red Legion. Calus would see her executed." "Psions fly many colors, but within the Cabal, we exist in congress, moving toward our own future. She will recognize my contribution, as I hers," Qinziq says, stepping forward. Gilly watches Qinziq approach the other Psion. "If this sours, don't give it the chance." His words cinch around my lungs. Short breaths of wary anticipation escape. I sight my long gun and wait. Yirix stiffens as she becomes aware of Qinziq. She turns. They bow their heads together. The two empathize and come to one understanding in silence. Whatever ambitions they have go further than this ship, this moment, this Cabal. I hadn't thought that way since I last wore the veneer of a Guardian. Sold a dream of an immortal City shielded by Light, as if it could go on forever. Forever is just a hope folks don't live long enough to see crumble. Yirix looks to Gilly and me, to my rifle, unthreatened. I feel her request for temperance and a tranquil reassurance of their cause. For a moment, I feel young. I stand. We warm the launch engines as Yirix slips away to join the throng and let us be. Bahto materializes onto the bridge out of transmat and out of breath. He manages a few prideful words, "Charges set. We will not be tracked." The Glykon breaks atmosphere as a colossal explosion rocks the shipyard and shutters through our hull. Flames spit across the distant yard below, spreading into a bonfire of heirlooms. Bahto called it "the spark that burns the past to fuel the future." Better than the other way around. FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Door's on the fritz. Been that way since we dove. Staying away from this one.
ENTRY 4 - Well of Absence
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS… Blood meets a slurry of oil and dark Ether draining into runoff vents in the cabin floor. I sit. A savage din echoes through the harvester craft. I can hear them in the war beast pens below deck. Gnashing teeth maddeningly chewing through restraints. The wet slaps of their bodies battering the walls. Bahto boards the harvester under a hail of tiny stones. "The hold is secured, and casualties collected." He shuts the bay to the Reef-storm behind him. "How many?" I ask, noticing the two of us are alone. He mistakes concern for weakness. "We will be ready for tomorrow's harvest." I shift the question. "How many more of these things does Qinziq want?" "Two days of harvest before leaving the Shore." "She tell you what for?" "No more than you." "Following blind orders something that sits well with you?" "Qinziq does not answer to you, Lightbearer." "So I've heard." More than once. "My father spoke like you. Questioned," Bahto grumbles, laying down his gear. "He abandoned Calus to join Ghaul's coup. Disgraced our bloodline. I threw off my father's shackles and pledged my life to the emperor. I was shown mercy. Soon I will reclaim the clout of my line and the right to sire. Loyalty is not blindness. Loyalty is rewarded." "Sounds like he turned away from a losing battle to one he thought he could win." "He left when hope seemed small, before he could see victory through." Bahto pauses, pensive. "Calus will expose the secrets of the Darkness and use them to reclaim Torobatl. It will be." __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Qinziq blocks the entrance into her lab. It had been hastily transferred from Leviathan to Glykon after our procurement of the ship; all manner of vicious-looking machinery. She raises a finger to my face. Her language restructures in my mind. "You do not belong here." "I need to know exactly what you're using them for." "Why? They are animals. Our beasts of burden." I ponder the ethics. They used to be something else, a deadened part buried and ignored… but… "Such concern for a Hunter." She meant to pin me to Cayde. "Ain't any different from defiling a corpse. You people honor your dead, don't you?" 'I do not answer to you,' Qinziq seethes into my mind. She brushes me away and moves to shut the door. "Bahto does. His soldiers do. Do you want to politely ask the Scorn into confinement, or do you want to be straight with me?" She scowls at me. "Where is your Ghost?" "Hangar maintenance…" "Come," Qinziq says, leading me inside the lab to a bundle of large vats adorned with all manner of pumps and wiring. "This…" she slides a viewing port open on the front-most vat. Rabid Scorn eyes lock with mine through the view port. Dark fluid roils as the creature flails and fumes muted shrieks into the liquid. "Natural connection to Darkness made stronger. Their minds, linked like ours, but without Barons, there is nothing to fill them." I watch it claw frantically against the vat wall until I hear the grating tone of bone-raw fingertips digging into the metal. "A touch more violent than I'd expect from a mindless thing," I say. "They subsist off the last thought imposed on them. Kill for Fikrul. For the lost prince. But…" Qinziq presses her hand to the tank. She fixates her eye on the Scorn, and it mellows. Her words are strained. "…with effort, their psyche is a vessel. Through which many expressions can… commune." She releases the Scorn, exhausted, and it drowns again; eyes shrieking terror. "Too many for this one to inhabit." "How does that help us?" "Calus will draw the Darkness into them, and we will squeeze from them all they know." "How?" I insist. "When we arrive at the anomaly, you will see." FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Fungus choked off the turbine maintenance deck. If you find a way in, throw the switch.
ENTRY 5 - Feast Your Eyes
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS… Six hard weeks in the Reef. Scorn, Hive, and horrors enough. I still prefer the open Shore to the Glykon, but it's earning its keep. We crossed the belt and anchored our gravity off Phobos: an old Cabal base still holding an operational tether. I volunteered to clear the base of Taken. Get out a bit. Didn't even get a fireteam together before we realized the damn things were docile. Against the anomaly, our little serpent ship was a worm, a speck, like a distant star you squish between your fingers. The bottomless pit where Mars used to be fills every starboard porthole. Crew stand in the viewing chamber for hours. Some get dragged out. The immensity of it, a planet-wide fathom of hissing dark… boundless, and us: planted on the edge of reason… It defies you. Calus docked with us yesterday, his Scribe not but two steps behind him. Perused the stock. Picked out the first one for what they're calling communion. They brought something on board. Scorn haven't shut up since. Qinziq is getting it ready in the viewing chamber. Gilly's eyeing it too; looking through portholes. I hear him at night, whispering: "It's the same… all the way through. You were right, Katabasis: it's all just a cage, a prison, but so much bigger than we thought." What are we doing here? FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: You can rest midway above the turbine grinder. The noise covers your moments.
ENTRY 6 - Excess of Avarice
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF CALUS THE CACOETHES… A crowd has gathered to stand with me, their emperor, soon to be so much more. Amsot spread word of my arrival, and they clamored to be first in my presence in the viewing chamber. I spot the Guardian and his little Light as well—an extra morsel of bait. The Ghost watches while the Guardian resigns to the rear. Pity. All come to view the zenith of my labors. I am omnipresent. Every angle that can be seen is seen by statues at every corner. My plated carriage monitors the Crown for aberrations. It is adorned with gold from the Castellum for my viewing. I paid many lives to pry it free from Hive clutches, but it bent most agreeably… its ability to bridge minds… and bring them to submit. I see my tributes, Scorn gibbering nonsense in unison, lashed and plugged to the Crown—a thorn made tool in my brilliance. My daring Councilors anchor their psyches and prepare to begin the communion. Greatness is before us. These watchers: I shall thrill them. I clap four monumental pairs of hands. "Let it… begin." I turn all my gaze to the chamber's expansive viewing window as shutters unveil the grave of Mars. Tendrilic bands of phasing Darkness spiral from the anomaly's core, enrapturing all of me… beckoning into the depth of its core with whispers like hooks through nervous flesh. I gape into the stimulating writhe. "Yes…" My Councilors place their hands on the Crown and focus cognition through it. They pry open the Scorn's collective synaptic pathways and sew them into the fabric of the anomaly's memetic sphere. The Glykon strains against the pull. Velocity surges forward to the anomaly; the surrounding reality tears away. We hold, suspended before the writhe. It fills all sight; Nothing just beyond the bend. Time ceases, and the cosmos arcs to accommodate my will. Now. "Delight in me. I emulated all of me in your image; stretched my mind to live through so many… I reaped the pleasures and experiences of every vessel. But despite my sundry perspectives, I still only see through my own eyes—and I want more." I peer into the Dark nothing. "You are… oblivion. Not a destruction, but a melding of all that has come to pass. I wish to become as you are. To gorge on existence. To collect your promise to elevate me." My laughter is wild. All of my forms transfix on the swirling anomaly. "LOOK UPON ME!" The cosmos bends and snaps as I stand, returned to my feeble reality. Ignored again. The Scorn shriek nonsense in unison. It drowns out of the whispers. It is all any of me can hear. I reach out, as you showed me when last we met. I split open each Scorn mind from my carriage, searching for you. Nothing. Every time. So I tear open their bodies. Fitfully pulling limb from socket, mind from skull, scouring them for your presence. I search until the shrieking can only be heard from distant pens. I meet the eyes of each crew member who would not look away. In them, I see it. You. Peering back from behind the tension: An Observer. FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Dug out a spot under the refuse pit. It's still running, so be quick.
ENTRY 7 - Ire
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS… Restless sleep plagued by the nightmare. I am in the streets when the sirens start. I lay watching the Traveler for a long time. Disbelief. The gap in thought of a semiautomatic mind. Red Legion sweeps. I see their harrowing fusillades tear annihilation through the Tower. Everyone is standing but me. Debris falling. I am separated. I reach for Gilgamesh and he is gone. The cage chokes our Light. Fire chases me from street to street. No Light. No ammunition. The City is burning. Faceless zephyrs screaming to me beneath a pitiless god. Red-plated death lines the walls, and The City is burning. I flee. I flee. I flee. I flee. I flee… my steps weighted down by guilt. The City is burning and you did nothing. . . . Gil's broken star finds my shame. There is only us, forging survival. Together we crawl to exile. FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Nightmare's back. Took months, but it always comes back—in force this time. Every night since we took on our cargo, they've been howling. I swear they're three decks down, but you can still hear 'em. Gil's been wandering the ship more. Time to start making go bags. Think I'll carve out a spot near the hangar… opposite side from Qinziq's lab. Place is swarming now.
ENTRY 8 - Acheron's Wall
This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory… The words seep experience into your open mind… THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS… Calus's tomb-carriage overlooks the viewing chamber once again. All his forms stand around a garish mass of metal and apprehension: the crown, as he called it. Fewer crew members attend this communion after so many failed attempts. Gilly and I stand above a host of chattering carcasses. Plugs can cables run from them into the flesh of an Ether-logged Scorn beneath an ugly crown. The gold from the Castellum is flush with tarnish, stemming from some kind of lichen that had burrowed its way into the precious metal adornments since the last communion attempt. "I thought gold doesn't stain," I say to Gilly. "It's an expression of purity." "Like the Light?" "Mm," I grunt. Gilly fixates on the crown, on the viewing window and the depth beyond. Bahto takes the spot next to me and leans against the railing. "Are all Guardians ruled by uncertainty?" Councilors approach the crown. "Bahto, in my experience, people who are too sure of themselves tend to die." The Councilors place their hands to the crown, and suddenly, I am greatly aware of this room's stillness. Our tilt. Bahto raises his voice over the intensifying chatter. "Your Ghost speaks to the Scorn, as much as they can." "Curious, that's all. Looking for an angle, something we can use. Ain't that right, Gilly?" I ask, trying to hide my suspicion. Gilgamesh says nothing, iris frozen ahead as the viewing curtain completes its retraction. Velocity surges forward to the anomaly, tearing away the surrounding reality. The sound of Calus's feverish multi-fold laughter drowns the hull's groans for mercy. It's different this time, not a passage. It's a wall. We crash hard—but not all at once. It's a steady tumbling impact. Always down. The cosmic bands bend around us and shutter as they're drawn into thin bright needles of diminishing relevance. Peripheral obliteration mainlined and burnt through. The space between each needle of light expands until. It. IS. The transition is like a reluctant membrane; a depth of souls frozen over and wailing. The ice grinds against itself at the ecliptic barrier between form and expression. We cross: sunless. Adrift on empty currents with no direction. . . . "Where's the emperor?" FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: They keep an offshoot of the hangar locked. If no one's using it…