Here's Part 20 of Into the Hellmouth! As usual, if you like it, give it a bump, and I'll get more out soon! Here's part 19 if you missed it: https://www.bungie.net/en/Forums/Post/205263376?sort=0&page=0
See you soon, Guardians.
Eris’s eyes widened as she realized what Toland was saying; that their destruction had been cast in stone long before the first human had lifted it’s eyes to the stars. I can see why they banished you now, she thought. Guardians were loyal, and devoted to the cause. But how many would stay if they realized that their cause was pointless - that the destruction of everything that they sought to protect was a question of when, and not if? How many would desert the City? How many would flee? But if everything that he was telling her was true, then that left one question.
“Is there truly no other way?” she asked. “Can we not decide our own fate? Can we survive without being the most ruthless?”
Toland snorted. “Of course,” he said, “it might be that there was another country, with other queens, and in this country they sat down together and made one law and one tower and one army to guard their borders. This is the dream of small minds: a gentle place ringed in spears.” He seemed to smile at the thought. But the smile faded as quickly as it had appeared.
“But I do not think those spears will hold against the queen of the country of armies,” he said. “And that is all that will matter in the end.”
The two stared out at the city, at the dead Traveler above their heads. And Eris began to wonder, for the first time in her life, if this ancient war could ever be won.
Toland sighed. “Eris,” he said.
She turned towards him. “Yes?” she asked.
“Catch.” And with that, he produced the strange orb from his cloak, and threw it at her.
She reached out to grab it, but never felt it contact her hand. Instead, the orb simply floated an inch away from it.
But it connected with her all the same.
Eris’s eyes widened, and her pupils contracted. All of the sudden, her head was filled with whispers. Whispers of things that crawled in the Deep, retching at the sight of the Light, yet also hungering for it’s destruction. She heard whispers of ancient rites, of civilizations turned to funeral pyres, of countless worlds, now under the dominion of -
She gasped, and the orb fell to the ground. She kneeled, breathing heavily and clutching her chest, as though she felt her heart was about to leap out of her ribcage and begin running a marathon. When she had regained some sense of calm, she looked up at Toland. “What was that?” she whispered.
Toland extended a hand, and the orb floated up to it. “You have taken up a great burden,” he said. “Now, you understand. You understand the Darkness in it’s entirety. You know Why it is, if not What. And understanding, my dear hunter, is the first step to communing. Communing is the first step to meeting. And meeting,” he said, his cold eyes meeting hers, “is the first step to fighting.” He extended his other hand to her, and she took it. He pulled her up, and looked her in the eye. “You have proved a worthy student,” he said. “Now come. There is so much more for you to learn.” And with that, he began to escort her back inside, but Eris pulled her hand back.
“Wait,” she said.
Toland looked over at her, confused. “Hm?”
“If you truly believe that our fight against the Darkness is futile, then why agree to help us?” Eris asked. “Why risk your light fighting for a doomed cause?”
Toland was silent for a moment. Then, he spoke. “Two reasons,” he said. “First. I know more about the Hive than anyone still living. That’s not hubris, it’s fact. However, to say that I know everything would be a grotesque understatement. In the depths of the Hellmouth lies knowledge - terrible, terrible knowledge - but knowledge nonetheless. And if I am to die - if my light is to fade for all eternity - then I wish to die knowing.”
Eris was unnerved by this statement, but she did her best not to show it. “And the second reason?” she gulped.
Toland smiled, and looked out onto the city once more. “When the first refugees came here,” he said, “when they saw the first Guardian kneeling before a fire beneath a dead god, what did they feel?”
Eris frowned. “Thankfulness?” she guessed. “Relief?”
“Wrong,” Toland said, “They felt fear. Here, before their very eyes, was a strange, human-like creature clad in armor, a weapon of sorts clutched in their hands. Relief? Bah! They probably thought they were about to die. But, nevertheless, they approached that fire. Do you know why?”
Eris frowned. She opened her mouth to speak, and then closed it. “No,” she said. “I don’t.”
Toland looked over at her. “Because buried beneath that fear - buried beneath that angst - was a sliver of something. A tiny sliver, mind you. But a sliver nonetheless. And do you know what our name for that sliver is?”
Eris realized where Toland was going with this. “Hope,” she said.
“Yes, hope,” he said. “A most powerful drug. One that has had humanity in it’s grasp since the first of Us looked up at the stars and wondered what lay beyond them. Despite the odds, despite the fact that there was a ninety-nine percent chance of death, those first refugees pressed forward, and found a savior.” Toland chuckled a little. “That was the hardest lesson I ever learned - the idea that sometimes, one is greater than ninety-nine. That is why I’m helping you and your friends, Hunter. Because even though I believe that we will perish, and even though I believe that we will fail, there is a spark. And where there is a spark, there can be a wildfire.”
He walked over to Eris, and grabbed her shoulders. “So,” he said. “Let us create our own fire. Let the thralls and acolytes be the kindling, let the wizards be the twigs, let the knights be the logs, let Crota be the tree, let the Hive be our forest. And as for your hope,” he continued, “let your hope be the spark. And your desire for vengeance? Let that be the Fire.”
Edit: part 21: https://www.bungie.net/en/Forums/Post/206084371