Chapter 1 – Insti|gate|
It was |supposed to be| a garden world. The phrase |will echo across quantified cross-sections of conflict|, uttered in confidence |had always been false|. The expanse above, a cup—rimmed in gamma-ink radiance—dammed against the Mercurian sky at the Kármán line. Against the howl of star-wind |the fountains of the Great Deep burst apart and the floodgates|, the black |screen of tomorrow| fell open. Within the rip |without form known nor ever to be seen| a monolithic hulk of fluid and steel convulsed |eternal and always| and excreted coils of shimmering |glorious| life. Probing |host of multitudes|, clattering tendrils |an ungodly horror that no time would accept| slithered down |the gullet of the Heavens| to make landfall. Chrome-hooked appendages |breached sky, counted in triplets| stretched for miles through sun-soaked atmosphere. They bored |with deepest intentions| into the marigold sands. From the great temporal chasms |wailing mouths of creation| flowed an ocean |a second conception| of radiolarian fluid. Across the horizon |of definitive sprawl| the scene was |super-imposed design| resonant and |uniquely| multiplicative. Each injection site |form mirrored in the hundreds of thousands| fostered a new lineage in stone and steel and fluid. |They would live| the new age in sub-routine |sleep| and observation. They would foster the |metallic| seeds of a generation in |twilight| time. From the sites bubbled pools |progeny| of |endless possibility| that murmured chaotic, |lullabies of change| and wrung the Traveler's Light from Mercury. The Light coalesced |imbibed| within the pools. The planet transformed |reborn| into a |sleepless dream| machine of prediction. The arms retracted |purpose fulfilled|, and returned to |space between time| temporal hovels, suspended just above Mercury's |last gasp| influence. With them |in compliant tone| rose the spires. From the core, threads of iron |dancing in coaxed animation| fused reinforcement into the spires and brought them high. A surface driven flat |prepared| by eons of solar erosion had |been resurrected| risen. A million open mouths |sang| curled plated tongues in |ritualistic| completion. Across the world grew |beauty.| a terrible consciousness that yearned to |establish the connection| find its progenitor. The hulking vessels |cried out| pulsed with light. The pools and spires pulsed dull tones in recognition, and the |starless| black sealed once more, restoring the sol-dominated sky |awaiting an angular shadow|. Illumination left the spires, |who had begun their work| and the Light was |sewn| erased.
Chapter 2 – Postexilic
"Curious," Osiris mutters to himself, running his fingers through the dry and dusty etchings inside the Spire on Mercury. "Sagira, record this. I'll want to cross-reference this pattern with any other constructs we come across." "Gladly. I was looking for inspiration for a remodel anyway." "I'm in no mood for humor today, Sagira." "So it's just like any other day." Osiris ignores his Ghost, fixated on the circular metal structure embedded into the ceiling above him. He stares intently, almost through it, pondering its function. The begetters are apparent to him. A cause for concern. "Dropship approaching, Osiris." "Cabal?" "I wish. Your devotees." Osiris shields his eyes from the marigold sand whirled up by the landing shuttle as he approaches, his frustration already mounting. "Turn back, fools!" He yells before the doors could fully open. "Teacher, we're here to support your efforts!" A woman dressed in an ornately patterned cloak appeals. "My efforts are none of your concern. Now go." Osiris's dismissal does nothing to dissuade them. They look to the woman for guidance as Osiris departs. She advances, and the group moves in lockstep. Like scolded dogs, they follow him back toward the spire. "Persistent bunch." Sagira scoffs. "I've noticed," Osiris turns to address them, catching them off guard. "I don't know what you hope to accomplish, but my work does not require zealots." "We seek only to help. The fashion in which you were ousted from the Vanguard… they were wrong to chastise you. They will come to regret their decision." She says with the conviction of solemn promise. "Is that a threat?" "They are the architects of their own destruction." "You misunderstand the events that transpired. I was not exiled. I chose to leave. There is no acrimony with the Vanguard. Go back to your lives." Osiris says as firmly and calmly as he can muster. "I'm afraid that's impossible, now that we have read your teachings." "My research is not gospel. It's science." "It's truth." Osiris considers this. "Truth seems subjective these days," Osiris says, finally observing his entourage for the first time. Among them, a small group of men and women, stand two wayward Guardians—Warlocks, it appears—and a child. Their forlorn faces resonate with him. Castaways and believers. The weeks since his departure from the Last City have worn on him. He was used to working alone, knowing he could fall back to the City's resources should he need them. Now, adrift in the expanse of purpose, he finds himself longing for a place he could return to. A sanctuary. "I have no intention of staying here. There are many constructs like this. They all require my attention." "We will follow." "No, you won't. I need to move quickly without burden or baggage," Osiris pauses, the irony in casting these people away is not lost on him. "But I can offer this. Stay here. Watch over this place. I want to know everything you can discover about it. Should anything occur, I will return." "We are at your service." She says, relieved, and bows to Osiris. He grits his teeth. "Unpack the ship." She beckons to the group. "Yes, Sister Faora," one of the taller men replies. "If you find yourself lost in the darkness, we will be your lighthouse." Osiris nods. Repressing a twinge of discomfort, he looks up to the spire.
Chapter 3 – The Cult of Personality
Vance had been sitting for the better part of an hour, waiting. Somewhere underneath what had been called the Lighthouse, a small chapel had been erected in which an open book lay lonesome upon a lectern overlooking a middling number of pews. He could hear a cast of attendees shifting in their seats from time to time, but mostly he heard wind and stillness. Vance had arrived early in the morning—as much as morning remained a concept on this blasted planetary waste. His impatience was starting to sweat through his face, loosed by doubt, time, and the meddling of his own thoughts. He feared the others would notice and pulled a small square of cloth to dab away the perspiration. No one seemed to know he was coming. He had yet to see Osiris, and none had spoken of the prophet beyond cryptic phrases or referencing texts he already knew. Vance faced back toward the haggard door that kept dust and sand from whisking into the Spire Chapel. He no longer felt sunlight casting through it as he had when he first sat down. Vance gripped the pew, preparing to leave. Whispers trickled from a passage at the front of the chapel like drips of condensation falling on echoing stone floors. The passage was small but twisted downward, deeper still than they already were. Vance could not see where it led, but from it, he heard measured steps and metallic chimes. A robed figure draped in symbology and smelling of fern emerged from the passage, flanked by two Guardians trimmed in gold. One carried the scent of warmth. The other, ozone and tang. "You are all in attendance to hear of our findings: The next directive brought to us through the divination of Osiris's own hand. I have seen his words, and I believe it is important for us to remember why we followed his path before we look to the future." Vance removed his hands from the pew and slid them into his lap. His eyes jittered in blackness behind a fresh cloth wrap, waiting for clarity. The two Guardians circled the chapel, lighting candles and torches that billowed incense. The air thickened. "Osiris tells us that the Darkness will return; that the Darkness will rise and choose its champions. Tells us that we must look beyond ourselves, beyond the City, if we are to combat such an evil. The Traveler alone will not save us. We are meant to save the Traveler and all of its people." Vance could not help his outburst. "The very same who would have cast us out? Who exiled the prophet?" Sister Faora allowed the murmurs to rise, simmer, and rest before speaking. "The Lightless are filled with fear. Fear is a seed of Darkness, working to compel them to its ends. Osiris sought the truth between the Light and the Dark through death and study. For their fear of his revelations, they cast him out." The laity nodded in agreement, and Faora continued. "The Speaker wishes to remain in ignorance, but ignorance is the shadow that welcomes in the night. It is the drop below the horizon where a star sinks into surrender. Lightless. We will not allow such a fate. Not here." Sister Faora takes a deep breath. "We must remain vigilant if we are to protect all the Light has touched." The proselytizing figure steps from the lectern. "You arrived only hours ago. Did you not, Brother? I believe I witnessed your arrival." He did not think his presence worth noting. "I did my…" "Sister Faora, Superior." "Of course, Sister." He should have known from her authoritative tone. "I have come to learn." "Then your first lesson is this: Listen. The choice to close their ears is what drove the City to fail. It is why we must conduct our work here. It is why without us, their walls will be for nothing." Vance fell silent. Sister Faora let his submission linger and then continued. "Each Risen Lightbearer, each Guardian is Light made flesh by the Traveler. They are Light, and Light is wielded. When we refuse to wield the Light as needed, we give ground to the Darkness." Sister Faora looked out over her congregation. "I'm sure many of you have grown curious as to what Light we could wield somewhere as desolate as this." Sister Faora allows herself a smirk and brief chuckle before inclining her head to the two Guardians now seated at the back of the chapel." "It is here that we will stand against the second eclipse of the Traveler's Light. It is here that the Collapse shall begin anew, should we falter. I do not know when, only what is and will be." They stared back at her, eyes full of conviction, faces bright with belief, hearts filled with assured direction. Their minds lacked nuance. Vance's chest swelled as he breathed in their stalwart faith coiled around sweetly smelling barks and spices that popped over torchlight. "The spires of Mercury shall be filled with the glory of the Traveler. Their Light will shine against the long shadow when Darkness reaches to snuff out the Sun. Mercury will sing when day finds night, and we will direct it. These are Osiris's words, by his own hand. We followed the prophet here to facilitate his preparations for the second coming, whatever they may be." She marinated in the energy of the chapel. "We will learn how the Light here is to defeat the Darkness. This is what he has asked of us. These Lighthouses are our deliverance, and now my brothers and sisters… there is much work to do." The herd stood in response to their shepherd, Vance among them.
Chapter 4 - Reflections
Entry 3 My days since arriving at this sanctuary have been blessed with acceptance and tranquility. Healthy debate regarding the Teacher's words is welcomed and appreciated. We all seek to understand the Light and the necessity for Darkness. Sister Faora has fawned over my interpretation of the texts. She said I could see what others could not. She has opened my mind to the consideration that my condition is a blessing rather than a curse. Time will tell. Entry 8 Our peace was disrupted today by an assault from the warmongering Cabal at our doorstep. I was ushered to safety at the top of the spire by Leanna, one of our Warlock sisters. Without a moment's notice, she jumped straight into the fray and began to push our intruders back. During the battle, something strange occurred. Leanna was fighting near-insurmountable odds—based on the amount of ammunition I heard discharged—and she was overcome. Of course, she was resurrected by her Ghost, but the spire reacted. There was a hum; the timbre consisted of two distinct resonating tones—one smooth and warm, the other sharp and cold. I thought I could have imagined it through the ringing of gunfire, but it was most certainly there. It was almost imperceptible, and I thought merely a coincidence until it happened again. Eremac, the other Warlock and student of the Dawnblade, was also temporarily disposed of. The roar of the Colossus's slug launcher tearing through Eremac's flesh was unmistakable, but so was the tone that followed. I have to know more. We were able to withstand their incursion, but not without suffering a few casualties. Now we must prepare for a funeral, but my thoughts are dominated by that mysterious tone. Perhaps later, we can try to replicate it. Entry 12 After explaining the phenomenon to Sister Faora, she has recruited the Warlocks to participate in thanatonautic death trials, in the hopes to recreate the hum and gain some clarity into its purpose. During these trials I had others accompany me to the top of the spire to see if they too could hear the tones. None were able to ascertain much—it seems one would need to be musically inclined or have some training—and the weight has fallen on me to decipher the code. I can't be sure of the intent, but I am certain of the cause. Every time one of our Warlocks sacrificed themselves, that same resonance would reverberate through my ears. What does it mean, and what purpose does it serve? Is the spire, in fact, an instrument? I need to expand my research further and see what tones this structure is capable of producing. Entry 22 Through countless debates, I have received permission to broaden the scope of my inquisition. We have designs to organize something more formal. Launching under the guise of a tournament or competition, we're leveraging contacts we've made to repurpose some weaponry as bounty. The Guardians are already killing themselves in Shaxx's Crucible. I proposed making our version more exclusive to draw out only the most adept fighters with the strongest connection to the Light. We can make them purchase entry to further fund our studies. They will literally pay for the privilege to kill each other for our "rewards." I've stumbled onto something grand. I will do whatever it takes to get the answers I seek, just as Osiris would. Should he ever return, I imagine he will be quite proud and pleased to meet me.
Chapter 5 – [Ambition]
"They're so eager to tear each other apart for guns and cloth." Brother Vance sighed. The early Trials match ran its course. A Hunter, cloaked in light gray and clutching Drang, pressed one hand to a bullet wound in his gut and slumped into cover. He winced as his Ghost spun Light into the wound, slowly weaving flesh together and extracting the bullet. He checked the remaining ammunition in his sidearm. Two hostile Guardians stalked his position in pincer formation and pinned him with suppressing fire. "Blood money runs cheap these days," Vance continued. He shifted toward the frame next to him. "Don't you think, Cheska?" "Perhaps the presented motive is flawed." Ch3-5ka, a repurposed Redjack and assistant to Vance, had expressed hesitation about their endeavor. It had expressed hesitation about using its uplink to patch into the Crucible monitoring system. It had expressed hesitation about the strangely coded sub-routine running in the Lighthouse spire's architecture. Some level of anxiety, Vance would jab, was intrinsic to Redjack programming. "In the Crucible, Lord Shaxx guides new Lights with positivity and—" Vance nodded for a moment before interrupting. "Most Guardians care only for power and glory. That is what makes Osiris so unique. Meaning drives us. Understanding. Knowledge. These are the marks of our work's importance." Gunshots rang through the arena's capture devices. Ch3-5ka's commentary singled in on the Hunter, last remaining of his fireteam. The Hunter twirled from their cover, propelled by a burst of Light, and flicked a tripmine grenade under the assailant on his left. The explosion killed her instantly, allowing the Hunter to shift and rattle off three rounds, Vance noted, toward his other opponent. One round struck the Guardian's helm and ricocheted off, splitting his visor. The Hunter squeezed the trigger again, which responded with an ineffectual click. The split-helm Guardian rushed him. The sandy Lighthouse alcove they had repurposed as observation room was abuzz with Ch3-5ka's match analysis and an inconspicuous droning. The Hunter dropped his sidearm and reached for a slung fusion rifle, but the rushing Guardian struck him solidly with a fist full of lightning. The droning hum shifted somewhat lower. Vance straightened against his chair back at the frame's vibrant description of Guardians spinning deeper into ruthlessness. He could feel a crescendo hanging just moments ahead. He noted the resonant murmur undulating through his skin and into his bones. Downed and stunned, the Hunter struggled to stand. The split-helm Guardian towered above him, pulled a hand cannon, and slowly discharged. Every. Single. Chamber. The hum spiked. "Fireteam eliminated," Ch3-5ka stated blankly, though Vance could barely hear its words. The victor stood over the Hunter's bullet-ridden corpse, and the Lighthouse sang to Vance. The Hunter's Ghost compiled into existence over his Guardian's body. "Someone needs an attitude adjustment," the Ghost sneered. The victorious Guardian craned his head toward the Ghost. He raised his hand cannon and sunk trigger to frame. The revolver's cylinder rotated, the hammer fell, and the piece gave off a heavy, empty click. "Are you crazy?!" "Brother Vance. I believe a Ghost is in danger. It is against Sanction-C2-1 to harm a Lightbearer's Ghost." Vance tuned the frame out, turning his ear instead to various audio playbacks from the match. He listened to distinguish gun caliber, Light affinity, and fireteam movements as the hum's tone changed. He traced them through sound cues and shouted, disembodied announcements. He pinpointed each variable for which he could account and directed Ch3-5ka to capture every analytic scrap. The Guardian dropped a round into the cylinder and spun it lazily. "Let's find out." The Hunter's Ghost discharged a pulse of Light, blinding the Guardian and raising the Hunter. The risen Hunter swift-drew a cannon of Light, as if reactively defending his Ghost. He cracked off a single golden shot from his flame-licked weapon. The shot pierced its target and sent ash snaking into the air. The Lighthouse played Vance a new song. It hummed, deeper than before. He took in the sensation as low bass rolled through his chest. The hums grew dull, darker, as if born from death. Vance sat straight up, spine rigid, with a wide smile on his face. He composed a harmony of similar tones in his mind, tracking their down-pitch trajectory with anticipation. He thought of Osiris, how his research had led him down less-traveled routes through less-practiced methods. The knowledge that Vance alone could interpret these tones focused his work and narrowed his inhibitions. Purpose persuades. "Cheater," Ch3-5ka blurted out. "Match-call misalignment." Vance's response ducked the conversation to start his own. "I heard the Light bend. The Lighthouse reached out to that Guardian when they died… and their Light reached back. They are harmonious." Ch3-5ka picked up his line of thought, adding: "Anomaly detected. There has been a transmission from the Lighthouse. Uplink time: 0.00019 seconds." "A random artifact, nothing more. Conclude this match. Archive the recordings. There is much to do." "Match-call misalignment." "Of course. We cannot abide cheating. Give the match to the team with the incinerated one." "If you believe that to be best." Vance tilted his head at Ch3-5ka's biting tone. It was sharp, unlike the lathering hum of the Lighthouse, unlike peaceful static from the structure's sub-routine channels. The frame was starting to sound like Leanna. Her doubt. "Deliver the prizes to the victors. You are no longer needed here."
Chapter 6 – Beguiled
The condensation from the air vent dripped in a near-perfect 4/4 time signature, a slow metronome, behind Brother Vance's shoulder. He nodded to the rhythm while he waited. "She'll see you now." He felt more like a prisoner than an esteemed guest, but he also considered how rare the audience he'd garnered was. Vance expected the red carpet, or whatever the Awoken equivalent of that is, to be rolled out for him. The information he'd amassed would surely warrant such pomp and circumstance. Perhaps after their conversation the tone would shift. How could it not? The Queen's Paladins escorted Brother Vance through the Reef's interconnected tunnels. It was musky and due for a cleaning as far as his nose could observe. He always took note of the paths he'd traveled, a useful device in case of a need of escape. Two rights, a left, a doorway, a long hallway, six stairs, and another doorway. The air here was much clearer than Mercury; probably filtered, he assumed. "The Queen of the Reef, Her Majesty, Mara Sov." Announced one of the Paladins in a rather boisterous manner. There were others in the room, Vance noted. "My lady." Vance said, paying her the obeisance he felt she deserved, genuflecting before her grace. "Speak," she commanded. Was he a dog to her? "I was hoping this would be more of a conversation than a presentation." Vance replied. He felt this was already off on the wrong foot. "I do not have time to converse. Do you have something for me or not?" "I have a great many things. Truths that must be acknowledged with ramifications reaching far beyond these walls. It requires your extraordinary insight." "Then speak." Vance curled his lip and let out a low sigh. "You seek something in return?" Queen Mara, perceptive as always. "I do. The information I have is extremely sensitive and I ask the room be cleared until we've spoken." Queen Mara considered this, put her hand up, and locked eyes with Petra for a second. The room cleared out. "We are alone. Say what you came to say." "I've discovered something quite disturbing, yet wholly revelatory. As you know, we've been running the Trials for some time now. On Mercury there exists a spire, one of many, that we've called the Lighthouse. Inside, a two-toned note resonates whenever Guardian death occurs. It's a strange and almost imperceptible sound, but I hear it as clearly as I hear your voice today. The tone tells me…" "…that Guardians have dangerous potential within them." "My Queen…" "Why do you think I allow you to stay here? You believe you have occupied my Reef without my knowledge of the studies you conduct?" "How did you…" Vance was awestruck. "We know this truth. We are Awoken. We are balance. Brother Vance, I would advise you to finish up your Trials with a defter hand and to destroy all records of your findings. You've stumbled onto something too grand in scale for your comprehension. Keep this to yourself." Brother Vance's head hung low, and his shoulders slumped. "You know everything, and yet I have learned nothing beyond what I came here with. I would like some clarity." Queen Mara looked over Vance. While she didn't feel compassion toward him, his situation was unfortunate. "Come closer." Vance's head slowly returned upright. Did he hear her correctly? "Closer, I said." Vance took several steps up to her throne. The air around Mara seemed to shift—it was more elegant, crisp upon his tongue. Her words carried more cleanly through it, somehow. "I cannot offer you any clarity. The Universe will reveal all when the time comes. There is, however, something you can do for me." "Yes, anything." Vance was desperate to get back in her good graces. She leaned in, whispering near his ear. "When you see our friend…"
Chapter 7 - Nyctalopia
Entry 58 I am blessed. While I have chosen to ignore her… suggestion… to cease my research, the Queen has revitalized me with purpose. To know my charge with such clarity is a divine offering. I alone have been receiving communications from the affectionately named Lighthouse. Not a single man, woman, or Guardian can interpret the complexity and nuance of the hums. The music of death. I always make sure to be near, so as not to miss a note. Each one brings a new revelation, answering a question, raising another. I am recognized within our congregation as well. "Speaker of the Lighthouse" they call me. A lofty and somewhat ironic title given the contemptuous feelings toward the heretic, but I'm honored nonetheless. Finally, I have chosen to decommission the frame Ch3-5ka. Its exhaustive knowledge could have compromised my standing in this matter. Queen Mara was correct in her assertion of the sensitivity of my work. Now, it is between me, the Queen, Osiris, and the Light and Dark itself. No more loose ends. Entry 63 The inevitable has occurred. For all their hubris and self-righteousness, they couldn't withstand the onslaught of the Red Legion. The Traveler's Light has been suppressed by Dominus Ghaul and his insurrection of the Tower. The timing was impeccable and offered me an insight I hadn't previously considered viable. Many lives were lost today in a barbarous skirmish across the Last City, but none as important as the life lost in our Trial. I believe Guardians have adopted the term "final death" for these such instances. A competitor was defeated at the precise moment the Light was stripped from him; his Ghost destroyed in the concussive blast from a pulse grenade. Then, the most marvelous phenomenon occurred: The Lighthouse spoke to me but changed its key. A D-sharp minor, if I'm not mistaken. Previously, I had been presented with only a harmonious two-toned note; the implications, as I made clear to Queen Mara Sov, could not be overlooked. Today, I am presented with a defining note that substantiates my theory and validates everything our founder stood for. When I speak now, everyone should listen, for I alone hold the truth. As it stands, I have no further use for the Trials and will be discontinuing the tournament indefinitely. I have what I came for. All I need now is council.
Chapter 8 - Idolatry
Vance had been waiting for this moment since his purpose was revealed to him. He'd often fantasize what it would be like to meet the fabled Osiris. He had imagined the exchange so many times… "Brother Vance, I'm indebted to your servitude. You have solved one of the greatest mysteries of our age. Your dedication, wisdom, and passion inspire me and reinvigorate my bourn." "No, great Osiris. It is you who inspired me to become the man you see before you. Together we can change the world." This was anything but that moment. "You've wrapped your mind around an idea of your own making. I have always tolerated this fawning 'movement' of yours, but this is a step too far." Osiris seethed. Brother Vance was awestruck. He stared blankly at Osiris, unsure of what he could say to quell his anger and dissolve his frustration. "What I have discovered…" "…is dangerous enough to destroy every man, woman, and child in existence. You're meddling with forces outside your grasp," Osiris reprimanded. "I warn you here and now, remove yourself from this Lighthouse. Find a simple life. Start a family. Write music. Leave Mercury and this fool's errand behind." Vance considered this. "I thought you would be proud…" Osiris's sullen grumble told him otherwise. "If you hold weight to my words at all, you will honor them. Your duties will be assumed by another." Vance's chest felt as if an avalanche had occurred, a cavalcade of dread filled his lungs. He turned away from the man he'd admired for so long, speechless and demoralized. Standing in front of the Mercurial vista before him, overwhelmed and listening—the lush marigold sand slopes sweeping over themselves with each breeze, rushing radiolarian fluid cascading down Vex emplacements, the distant pulsing of an unclaimed patrol beacon. His back now to the structure that once inspired him with its song. It mocked him with a deafening silence. How could he have miscalculated this erroneously? Osiris felt a pang of pity for Vance, but had greater matters to attend to, and left without offering a farewell. "That was rough," Sagira sneered. "But he was right. Everything he discovered… the implications…" "I know," Osiris admitted remorsefully. "Which makes this situation all the more precarious." "Osiris! Wait!" Brother Vance came vaulting out of the Lighthouse at breakneck pace. "Here we go." "Hush, Sagira." "Queen Mara Sov… wanted me… to tell you…" Vance struggled to catch his breath. "She wanted me to tell you, 'plant the seed.'" Osiris studied Vance quizzically. "I don't know what she means, but she said you would." Vance offered, apologetically. "I believe I do," Osiris replied, placing his hand on Vance's still-heaving shoulder. "Thank you. This is quite useful. Well done." With that, Osiris departed. Vance listened as the Sails of Osiris took off, the pungent smell of burning fuel from its turbine engine clogging his nostrils, and repeated to himself, "Well done," with a slight smile breaking across his lips.
Chapter 9 – In|spire|
The new Lighthouse obscured the silhouette of the sun. It cast a long shadow that wormed across Mercury's uneven terrain in orbital-locked perpetuity. Ships descended, some flawless, others to maintain what fragile holds the Vanguard claimed. Rust and sand baked, and distant space was alight with half-earned talk of posterity. No Cabal blemish remained in orbit. No shattered lines rewrote the landscape. There was only frenetic stillness. A discomforting itch unresolved. A knowing inclination that ignorance could not quash: unity is fragile. Vance stood in the old Lighthouse, frantically assembling the Infinite Simulacrum: a machine formed from bits of simulation seeds and connective Vex architecture to mimic a pocket forest. Textured notes and schematics derived from Osirian lore guided his hand. He heard stories from passing Guardians of increasingly frequent coronal mass ejections. Vast bursts of charged particles whipped into space and furled around a gravitational monster buried from sight and sense in the roar of the star-wind. Passage to Mercury had become more dangerous for the uninitiated. These unnatural motions were heralds of speculation, and he had read the signs. He knew the prophecies by heart and mind and intention. Ruin. Something new |and so very old| emerged, brother to a shriveling star: An angular |hungering patient yawning deep| shadow reached across Mercury. Uncounted |known| spires fell under its grasp |with uniform relief|. Dulcet tones brought low under lightless breadth and the weight of dark |salvation| hummed beneath the shadow. Their echoes spilled out |awakened| and flowed over crumbling spires |in conversation|. One singular spec of illumination blinked into being, |an end| seen by none, and then |many| spread as the shadow did. The old Lighthouse |spire's collective| beamed |rose| and flared as shadow overtook it |to meet the underbelly|. Vance |the implement| could hear |their inspired voices| weeping, not with tears, but in the |voracious| low |ceremonial| hum he had come to associate with death. He closed his eyes |and saw what was to come|. This day had many names. None would suffice.