Where Loyalty Lies

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Variks's experiment succeeded, but not how he expected.

Ingestion of the Etheric concoction still resulted in Fallen death; it was not, by any means, a life-sustaining substance. It was, however, a life-GIVING substance. Though the dark Ether lingered like a heavy fog, it also seemed to reach out toward empty vessels. In this case, it found the dead Dregs that littered his floor. It slipped inside the corpses like a slow inhalation, inflating them, stretching them to the point of boils and bursting, pulling them to their feet. The dark Ether gave these lifeless Dregs… new life.

They seethed. Their breathing was steady, but hard and fast. They rumbled as if volcanoes lived inside their chests. A black fire rose from their skin as they burned this dark Ether like a jet engine burns its fuel. What Variks really saw before him was hate-fueled rage incarnate and the beginning of another Whirlwind. They were no longer just Fallen. Fikrul called them his Scorn.

Behind him, Fikrul laughed and laughed and laughed until—he abruptly stopped. At that exact moment, the Scorn dropped to the floor, dead once more.

"Your scribes, your Kells, your Houses—they will all soon be forgotten, like the Elders and the Skaith before them," Fikrul growled in Variks's precious High Speak of Judgment. This drew Variks closer, face to face through the cell's porthole.

Fikrul turned his ear upward, listening. Brought his attention back to Variks. "Father says…" The pause hung heavy in the air. "Father says… You know where your true loyalty lies."

The Fanatic stepped back from the porthole and waited.

Loyalty. True loyalty.

He expected a memory of Mara to appear in his mind. But instead—

Instead he found himself thinking about the prophecies of House Rain.

Kell of Kells.

Days later, Variks performed his duties for the last time. He visited central control. Ran a test sim on the security systems, made some adjustments based on the results. Revised and signed off on the daily roster rotations. Finally, he had a private conversation with the prison's sole remaining High Servitor: The Prison of Elders would not go without a warden.

He did not speak to Petra.

By the end of that day, the Prison of Elders descended into chaos.

"Your time WILL come, Variks."

Uldren sits in his favorite spot, gazing in his favorite direction. "She told me so. She has but one last wish of you."

"No, your grace." Variks' voice was gravelly with emotion. "It is I who has one last service for you."

Variks left before he could change his mind.

A klaxon blared. The voice of the prison's High Servitor echoed over the loudspeakers—in Variks's voice. "Security systems malfunction. Emergency shutdown and reboot commencing."

The place dropped momentarily into darkness, but emergency lighting quickly illuminated the cellblock. All around him, alarms sounded, warning lights flashed, pneumatics hissed, and cryogenic fluids evaporated to fog as the cryo-cells lining this cellblock began to open.

Variks moved as quickly as he could toward the exit, not bothering to look back, for he knew what he'd see.

The Scorned Barons and Prince Uldren were free.

As was every single resident of the Prison of Elders.

Variks slipped out, under cover of prison anarchy, through the same secret passage in which Petra and Cayde had smuggled Prince Uldren. There, a ship waited, loaded with the Prison's Ether stores.

As he walked, he made two recordings to be sent out by the Prison's relays once he was away. For the first, he disabled his voice synth and began, in the deep resonance of High Speak, to give commands.

He didn't know how many would answer Judgment's call. But he had to try.

For the second, he turned his voice synth back on. "They call me betrayer. I who was most loyal. They do not think I hear the words. Bug. Insect." He paused. "Fallen."

Up, long strides, fast now, along the ramp into the ship. Toward the bridge. A vandal in Wolf colors saluted him as he passed.

"I hear the words. House of Judgement always hears. No choice. To keep the Houses together." He paused again, as he reached the bridge of his ship. "Judgment always hears."

"The Great Machine stood in Judgment. Eliksni fell to fighting. Fell to hate." Emotion caught in his voice. "Cannot stomach this hate." As he spoke, the ship's engines rumbled to life. On the screens, Variks could see explosions resonating through the Prison. His former charges running rampant. His ship passed through the bay's barrier and began to move off.

"Nowhere else to go. No one else to be, here." He drew himself up to his full height. "And so I become Variks, the Kell. House Judgment envoy to the Eliksni people."

"No choice." He repeated, chuckling deep in his throat. His voice was calm. "Eliksni must rise… yes?"

Vanguard Armor

Category: Cayde-6

Wing Contender

Unknown Space

Category: Eliksni

Ghost Fragment: Fallen 5

Chain of Souls

Category: Book: Most Loyal

What Makes Us One

Category: Queen Mara Sov

Will you smile?

Tyrannocide V

Category: Prince Uldren Sov

Wrong Side of Right

Unknown Space

Category: Variks

Challenge of the Elders

What Makes Us One

Category: Petra Venj

Wrong Side of Right

Unknown Space

Category: Whirlwind

Ghost Fragment: Fallen 3