First Gift

|| O listeners, open your ears! There are choices ahead that you must make for yourselves. I will not act for you. I can only help by giving what I have left: my voice. ||

Taranis hatches bathed in the light of the heliopause.

The solar wind dries his damp wings, and the depth of space gives him room to grow. There's no hint of the Ahamkara who crafted his egg, nor of how many of them there were. No dams or sires wait for him.

Taranis's first meal is the shell that nurtured him through his incubation. It snaps between his new teeth, a first taste of life.

Taranis grows his first sensory organs. He uses them to look for more life.

The universe contracts and expands with the force of will, the tension between what exists and what is wanted. Taranis learns to scent his way across these lines of tension, to navigate around other Ahamkara with no benign wishes for a little whim like Taranis.

An Ahamkara's life and power are bound in their voice. Taranis sneaks silently in to listen to his elders at their feeding, the twists of their tongue, their multiplicity of meanings. He tracks other Ahamkara by the strength of their power, watches them hunt, slips past them to their catch. Their meals are bitter: Taranis can't swallow his stolen bites.

Taranis learns he is plainspoken for an Ahamkara. What pleases his tongue is not what pleases others.

The first wish Taranis grants is to a Cabal soldier patrolling her firebase in honor of empire and emperor. Hot sand blows in Mars's winds, whipping against her pressure suit, scratching the enamel on her greaves. She wishes for respite. To put down her equipment for a single day. To rest without being derelict in her duty.

With a wish that broad, an Ahamkara could eat her whole.

Instead, Taranis nudges weather patterns. It's easy to whip the wind up higher, let it pick up more sand. Till the growing sandstorm triggers the firebase's hazard alarms.

The Cabal soldier hurries back to her firebase, hunched against the increasing wind. Her squadron leader is unprepared and has no plans drawn up for indoor duties. It is a failure he will answer for. But until he rectifies his failure, the soldier may go to her bunk and read a borrowed novel without compromising her duty. Her satisfaction grows rich and, hidden in the piping above her bunk, Taranis basks in it.

His belly isn't full, but the sip she's given him is sweet. Nothing bitter in it, nothing sour, light on his tongue the way no other food has been. It is a good end to his first hunt: a good meal from his first partner.


Taranis grows more slowly than his age-mates. The sustenance he finds doesn't fill his belly like their hunts fill them. They grow in strength; tongues long, teeth fierce. They lose patience for a runt with overly delicate sensibilities. Taranis finds himself in need of a retreat.

Taranis doggedly follows a faint trail—a hint of secrets in the air—all the way to a pinch in space. He makes his own door and enters. It is a place of life, lush with crimson flowers and trees speckled with water, trunks dripping sap. It is a place of potential, of possibility: a nursery for life itself. A garden, a grove.

A fine place for a nest. A fine place for Taranis to teach himself who he is.


There is something lacking from his nest.

The grove sustains him when the sips of his partners' dreams aren't enough. His belly is never empty enough to ache, cradled in his garden.

But Taranis tastes an itch in his heart and knows it is not enough.

He leaves his nest to hunt for it.


Taranis drifts through Venus's atmosphere on albatross wings. The Vex are a dull prickle, a flat endless weight. Taranis will make no bargains with them.

A drekh on patrol in water up to their knees wishes for growth, stumps itching under docking caps. They picture themself with a hundred arms, a thousand eyes, a spine like a tree. Tall enough to lift themself out of the water, to take their House by Skiff and Ketch back to their first home, a hero crowned in honor like Chelchis.

Taranis circles far overhead, riding on the thermal of their desire, till a brighter spark on the horizon pulls his attention away.

He follows the spark and finds Lightbearers. He has seen their kind before: Earth's Lightbearers get into every corner of Sol. They poke around for mysteries to solve. They pick fights with Psions. They peel Vex structures for prizes to wear on their belts. A Lightbearer makes a strong partner, with a firm will and steady belief in their own importance. A Lightbearer creates ripples through the world with the weight of their concentrated potential. A dozen walk alone or in small groups on Venus now, unbothered by decay and the threat of death around every corner.

Eleven Lightbearers dig through archives, battle Vex, and skim lightly over deep water, their desires shifting with circumstance. The twelfth Lightbearer sits unmoving under the spilling branches of a willow. His desires are faint, despite the firmness of his will. His presence is a cool taste in the back of Taranis's throat, pale as the light from the Lightbearer's lantern.

Taranis slips through the water to watch him from a distance, nothing but eyes and nostrils peeking out above the surface.

The sun sets, and still the Lightbearer sits. Venus turns, and the Lightbearer sits. Only the smallest threads of desire reach Taranis. This Lightbearer alone wishes for nothing.

Taranis sinks back into the water without a ripple.


Taranis drifts towards something new: a gateway tucked carefully into an asteroid belt. He eels through rock and debris to a city opalescent with dreams. He can feel the marks of its makers on it, a powerful Ahamkara with a powerful partner.

The city is filled with souls who know Ahamkara. All those minds, those wills, potential partners holding fragments of grit for Taranis to envelop in pearls. Something he could build to match this masterpiece of a city.

Mist curls in fractals around Taranis, leaving a faintly bitter taste on his tongue. There's danger baked into this pocket world, a risk its citizens are only half-aware of. The source of that danger is the source of the city and all its beauty. Taranis can't help but track towards it: a distant chiming, a laugh in the underpainting of the city.

Taranis slithers toward what he will later learn is the Spine of Keres, and a massive claw pins him to the ground.

"What do you think you're doing in my territory?" multiple voices inquire. The laugh emerges into the foreground. Leathery frills frame a massive head. An uncertain number of eyes glow bright with curiosity and malice.

This Ahamkara has gravity like a black hole. Taranis feels her grip on the warp and weft of desire encircling them and knows he can do nothing to stop himself from being drawn in.

Eidolon Pursuant Tunic

Category: Ahamkara

Greaves of the Great Hunt

Category: Book: Gifts and Bargains

Second Gift