"Huh." Sagira patches a strand of Light into the jumpship's control deck as they tumble through the black-drop, stars twinkling out beyond reach. "Something's in the static out there…"
"What is it?" Osiris asks.
"Some kind of subspace transmission. Hang on." Sagira boosts the jumpship's comm receiver. "It's Cabal."
"From?" Osiris absentmindedly pushes a sack of candy corn aside with his foot and leans forward.
"Somewhere outside the system. Some pretty heavy encryption at work, but… there's a repeated phrase. A name. Caiatl?"
"How many Cabal leaders still vie for dominion atop Ghaul's grave? Let them grind each other into dust."
"There are responses from Nessus, the Reef, the EDZ. She's calling the Legion home… or, no… back to her bosom? She wants them to capture Calus to prove their loyalty, but it sounds like the Leviathan is missing."
"Their bloody feud continues. If Caiatl is stirring up the Legion, the Vanguard will want to know their plans."
"One of the response signals is offering Caiatl tribute from somewhere near Sorik's Cut. Some other weird noise too."
"This message here," Osiris says and points to the on-screen readout of Sagira's scans. "Caiatl sends an emissary to receive their tribute."
"The Shore . We're not far behind," Sagira says. "Eavesdropping or crashing?"
"We'll hit them after the offering is made. I don't want the Cabal Empire to know we're tapping their communications."
A horde of Cabal crowd into a crude shelter, assembled from several decommissioned drop pods. Green light shines through the cracks. A royal blue banner of Cabal make lay cast in squalid bubbling mud. Sagira and her Guardian survey the scene, perched on Fallen ruins high above the Boil. The bulk of the evening is spent silent. The only exception: Sagira's repeated affirmations. "They're still just huddled around that rock."
"Patience is a virtue, Sagira." Osiris closes his eyes to the Reef sky and waits for signals to guess at the Darkness's plans. The stars watch, all the weight of jet-black space upon him. He is extinguished among their lightyears.
Screams in the night.
Osiris stirs awake. His eyes open to the nebulous drift of the Shore. "Sagira, report."
"They're all still in there. Eighteen life signs. No shots. No one's even moved. I don't like it."
Tired hours flit by. Morning rises. There are no Cabal skirmishes against the Scorn, no metallurgists patching Phalanx shields with molten slag, or Psion lookouts tracing firing lines.
"They're on the move!" Sagira leers over the edge of their perch. The escape latch on the frontal pod dome bursts open and slams against the pod wall. Ten leave: nine unsteady forms in dull red, one vivid blue. They disperse out into the Shore.
Osiris rubs his eyes. "Finally." Through the cracks he sees them; the remaining ring of Cabal kneel in a tightly wrapped circle. A stony protrusion centers them.
"What is that stone's constitution?" he asks.
"Pretty stoic, I'd say."
"Sagira… this reeks of suspicion."
"You're right, and I hate saying that." A moment passes as the tiny Ghost directs long-range sensors to the stone. "Oh, it's not a rock. It's Hive; biological."
Osiris floats down to the acrid pools on feather-Light; Sagira follows close behind.
He bounds through the open pod door. A celestial flame dances in each palm. Eight Cabal sit dormant.
The Cabal huddle around the protrusion. Their massive bodies form a bulwark of trembling flesh. A soulfire pitch blisters through their turgid pressure suits. They are fixated—bulged eyes rabid and screaming of rancor. Frontal plating blighted by Hive barnacle growths. Hands tightly grip their throats. Slug Rifles lay prostrated before the idol.
Osiris steps among them without their notice and lowers his hands. Sagira breaks the Cabal perimeter to scan the protrusion.
"Creepy. They don't even notice us. Keep those spitfires ready." She turns to Osiris. "This is the most vascular rock I've ever scanned."
Osiris peers into the Hive protrusion. Metallic flecks shimmer, and he sees a long and empty road. Meandering. He wishes to plant a great banner over it, so that all may see. A beacon, alight with Phoenix flame. Looming in the nascent flamelight hangs the terrace of blades. The terrace dominates the road; its precipice at his throat. He raises the Dawnblade to meet them. Rupturing cacophony ravages his senses.
I AM THE WAR YOU CRAVE. PURPOSE ETERNAL. A LEGACY IN BLOOD.
"It's full of soulfire veins." Sagira's voice is wind to Osiris. She nudges him.
WHEN YOU DRAW BLADES, YOU DRAW ME.
"Do you hear the whispers?" Osiris's words slur.
YOU CANNOT RESIST WITHOUT INVOKING MY BANNER.
"You're hearing something?" Sagira floats near him.
EMBRACE ME, LIGHTBEARER, AND BE A GOD OF DEATH.
"Whispers." His mind clouds.
One of the Cabal stands and turns to Osiris.
"Snap out of it; they're waking up," Sagira says and decompiles out of danger.
CONSUME OR BE CONSUMED.
The Cabal trundles forward. Osiris billows incineration. The blaze cooks the interior of the pod. Kneeling Cabal break free of their trance and stand in the scalding air. Of the remaining seven, two fall immediately to a hail of celestial firebolts. Osiris grounds himself and unleashes a cascade of Arc across the mass of lumbering Legionaries. Lightning bends inward against the pod's magnetic shielding. He holds the storm on them until pressure gel hisses and spits from their suits.
Osiris exhales. Their smoldering bodies invade his nostrils. The scene clarifies. Horror, scorch, and char.
"You ready to tell me what that was all about?" Sagira asks. She hovers just above the jumpship's control deck, piloting.
"I wish I could. I remember tracking Caiatl's emissary. Finding the Cabal. The night sky. Then… flame and rage. It took everything in me to push those thoughts from my mind." Osiris slumps in his seat. "There is one clear memory. I felt the Dark whisper that we've been chasing. Like a needle in my spine. It must be at the root of all this."
As his thoughts fixate on senescence, old iron words from the past ring in his ears.
"Soon the City won't need men like us. Lone wolves, Osiris. We die.
Make sure when your end comes, it's something worth your Light."
"Okay," Sagira says. The concern is thick in her voice, but she buries it. "I sent out scans. Long range, short range… anywhere that has a prominent Hive presence. There's no way this is isolated to the Reef."
"Petra, how were we so blind?" Osiris muses. "The Hive swell in Darkness as Guardians run to Europa. The warning fell between her words, and I did not see it."
"That's enough moping. We're on this early. Maybe it's a good thing."
"I can't pull the Vanguard's eyes from Europa with hazy recollections and guesses. They have just begun to see me again, and trust is so thin."
Resonance pings blip onto the ship's monitors, catching Osiris's attention. "Signals from your scans."
"The Moon. That's a much stronger signal than the one we found near Sorik's Cut."
Osiris shifts and raises his head. "You may be right about our timing. We can end this before it begins. Open a channel to Eris."
"I've been trying. She's uh… well, she's not answering."
"Then we go to her."
"Oh no. First that, and then it's a suicide mission into the Hellmouth. You're in no condition. Recuperate and we'll talk."
Osiris stews in thought. Sagira's words are true. He is bleary from lack of sleep. "Then turn around."
"Osiris, I already sent everything we have to Petra and the Vanguard. I'm taking us to Earth."
"Whatever we are dealing with is spreading through the system's underbelly. There is one on the Shore who knows those pathways. Surely, I'm not too fragile to have a conversation, Sagira."
"I'm sure there are plenty of people in the Tower who would be just as helpful."
Osiris glares at her. "I am not some doddering invalid!" He grabs the flight stick. "Turn around, or I will."
"This Spider guy better have answers," Sagira says.
"From what I've heard, it's just a matter of how persuasive we are," Osiris says and follows an Eliksni Associate through plum curtains and into the Spider's abode. The massive Don of the Shore lounges before them.
"Welcome, most esteemed Osiris. Though you have not graced my chamber before, your reputation precedes you." Spider trellises his eight fingers togethe r as his voice breaks into a series of gaseous staccato slurps. "The literature you sent me… very interesting, but behind the times ."
Spider chuckles. "I already have top men working on these… cryptoliths. But I'd never, what is it? Ah yes, ‘look a gift horse in the mouth.'"
His Associates rush around the edges of the room. Cargo exchanges hands at a frenetic pace. Osiris follows their movements. A decorated Associate approaches the Spider and waits at his side.
"What is it, Arrha ? You know better than to interrupt our guest's audience."
Arrha glances to Osiris before quickly speaking in Eliksni. Spider slams down a meaty fist. "Then go find it!"
Spider turns back to Osiris as Arrha scuttles away. "Apologies. Business interruptions in the aftermath of these…" he gestures half-heartedly upward, "… trying times." He stifles a cough and clutches at his Ether rebreather.
"Cabal aren't the only ones having troubles, eh?" Sagira asks and jets in front of Osiris. "You know I speak Eliksni, right?"
She plays snippets of Cabal distress transmissions and orders from Caiatl's scouts to lock down encampments; she displays images of slaughter, graves, and empty Cabal fortifications. "If it's hitting them this hard, your Associates must be, what's the phrase? Dropping like flies."
"Wise Osiris and his brilliant little Light," Spider muses.
"Sagira," the duo corrects.
"Of course you are. I see no reason why this… can't be a mutually beneficial partnership."
Osiris steps forward. "What matter do you need addressed, Spider, sovereign of the Shore?"
Spider giddily laps up the title. "I know the cryptoliths are of the Hive. I know the broods here burn Oryx's banners. And I know his Worm's skeleton , the one in Saturn's rings, is awake." Spider throws his four arms into a shrug. "My jurisdiction ends at the banks of the Shore, of course… but not yours."
Osiris impales a Wizard's head upon a stunted spike, surrounded by a freshly bloodied Hive sigil. The Dreadnaught console sputters to life, accepting his tithe.
While Cayde's old transmat zone is no longer in operation, the massive breach left by the Dantalion Exodus VI's impact remained agape. Entry had not been difficult despite the halls crawling with newly spawned Thrall. They were young, and nearly a century of navigation through the Infinite Forest had honed Osiris's ability to remain unseen.
The Dreadnaught's systems present as living memory —chronicles and hymns recounting histories. It is a rat king of fading ideas, wracked with failing connections and dying interpretations as Akka suffers a slow, final death, damaged beyond repair. But there is knowledge to glean here. Osiris directs Sagira to rip spokes of data from the console for Vanguard High Command.
"You found the most disgusting one; I'm not touching that. Dictate it to me."
Osiris sneers and grasps the head. He navigates the recounting of the Hive from Oryx's death. They are fractured, broken by internal power struggles. It leads into a recounting of Savathûn: banished, branded as heretic and set to burn. Many Hive turned to her when Oryx fell. Many of those same broodlines defected as the Darkness invaded Sol, sending Savathûn into hiding. She is still hunted by the hounds of war. Her pursuer has no local story to recount here, for it is yet to be written in blood. War's Celebrant rides to wrest Crota's lost foundlings from the Witch Queen's schemes. To bring unity. To bring reckoning. To bring glory. Luna will be reformed in her image. All tithes to Xivu Arath. All tithes to the black edge of her singing blade.
I AM THE DIN OF RAPTURE. I AM THE HERALD OF PEACE. MY BANNER IS KNOWN TO YOU.
"Xivu Arath," Osiris says. Words spoken on compulsion. He takes his hands from the Wizard's head as emerald smoke wafts from its orifices.
Osiris slumps to his knees. "This must be the echo we've been chasing. An omen of her voice, resounding through the Darkness, heralding war."
"A Hive war god. This is bad," Sagira says.
"The third sister . She has finally come for us, and her champion seeks to supplant Crota's remaining daughters on Luna. That is where we go."
Into the chasm on Luna. They follow the trail of signals down into the Enduring Abyss . Through the Nightmares of so many.
He stands at the face of it for what feels like hours. The Great Angular Thing —the edge of night that plays behind his mind.
"Speechless?" Sagira teases. "Maybe they're not so bad." Her chuckle is thin .
They press on.
Osiris swipes away silken threads of webbing above the shadow of Luna's Pyramid. Braziers illuminate a synod of Witches and Wizards deep in the chasm. All point in alignment toward a monolithic sigil of Xivu Arath set atop a cryptolith adorned in blades: her will, projected from some far-off, unseen cosmic hollow . At the base of her visage—a monstrous Knight, adorned with tapestries charred by scorching brands.
"There it is," Osiris whispers.
"Along with the entire Scarlet Court," Sagira's voice crackles.
"Crota's remaining children, and their spawn, can be destroyed in one fell swoop."
"What is it with you and suicidal ideas? We can't transmat out of here, and they won't just kill you. They'll rip out your Light, Osiris."
"They're all here, Sagira. In one place."
"You're worth more than a bunch of Hive nobles. Wait for backup. Let me go topside and call for help."
"No. We stop this now. Halt her here." Osiris looks to the convocation below. "It is decided."
"You can't just decide that!"
Osiris turns to Sagira. "Go for help, but I can't wait for the Vanguard. I'll see you soon with reinforcements."
"If you're going, I'm going." She decompiles safely beneath his armor. It is decided. Together they make war on the Hive.
Solar wings combust from Osiris's back. In each hand, he wields a blade of dawn. The calamity of his inferno sends Hive scattering in every direction. Voshyr and her two daughters, Yishra and Ayriax, turn to confront the Phoenix. They are ashen before their first incantations complete. He paints the scene apocalyptic. Fifteen noble-brood are reduced to cinders before a defense is mounted.
LAUGHTER LIKE CLASHING SWORDS.
Osiris sails through the air as daggers of dark power whistle past him. Golden echoes split from his body to cut down fleeing Hive and soak reprisals. Kinox, last daughter of Crota, scurries through cracks between the rocks as her son, Ulg'Urin, and his cohort of lesser Knights raise shields to defend her. Osiris extinguishes a blade into his palm to form a singularity of Void and hurls a Nova Bomb that consumes them. With his other blade, he dives. He drives it into the ground, erupting a Well of Radiance surrounded by a phalanx of gilded echoes .
Nobles shriek for their Thralls to charge. Bolts of flame and Arc tear through them as Osiris blinks through the Void from one echo to another. Their advance breaks. He steps over their smoldering husks and turns the blaze to their masters.
Osiris revels in the slaughter. Xivu Arath's sigil drinks in his fervor and the nobles' deaths.
LAUGHTER LIKE SCREAMING FEAR.
Her visage emboldens. The Celebrant waits at the foot of Xivu Arath's cryptolith, unburnt.
Osiris's echoes reconvene into him. "FACE ME!" he exclaims and steps forward.
Xivu Arath's visage emits a shockwave that thunders through the chasm. It rips away Osiris's Well and throws him across the stone floor. His back slams against the cliff face behind him.
"What is this?" Shock punctuates the question. He pulls against an unseen force to no avail.
YOU BURN OFFERINGS; I ACCEPT THEM.
Xivu Arath's will crushes the pressure of his Light. Seals the flames into his flesh. Stakes his body to the stone on paralytic pins. Her image distorts in a concave canvas around him, the Celebrant at its core. Shadows encroach, dousing the borders of his power.
Osiris focuses his mind on the spark at his core. Flames billow from within. Countless gilded echoes ripple from him, testing Xivu's hold, pressing vulnerabilities. The Sun sings to repel the shadow. He finds a moment, wrenches a hand free, and unleashes the Reach of Chaos. The beam of Arc tears through Xivu's sigil. Soulfire shards rocket away as cracks fork through Xivu Arath's projection.
Unfazed, she does not relent.
RESIST ME, LIGHTBEARER.
Her will overcomes him, stronger than before.
The Celebrant steps forward. A massive cleaver dangles from its hand, weightless. The beast carves a rune into the stone on either side of Osiris, its eyes locked with his. It nods to him, and then turns to the sigil.
"All tithes to Xivu Arath. War Dominant. Endless." Its tone is soft rasp and soot.
The runes kindle in harlequin gleam.
"Osiris." Sagira's voice statics in his ear. "One of us has to make it out; warn them."
"I'm sorry, Sagira… Run…" His words are thin from duress.
The Celebrant drives its sword into the cliffside stone above Osiris's head. The cryptolith erupts in neon flare.
"Die well, Osiris." The Celebrant bows and withdraws from sight into Luna's depths.
Wisps of Light hemorrhage through his skin, trimmed in blood and drawn around the blade embedded above him as if it were a nostepinne spike.
Sagira's voice is a whisper. "I'm not letting them take you."
YOUR STRENGTH LIVES ON THROUGH ME.
"Give Saint… my private drive," Osiris exhales and closes his eyes. He sees himself in a million permutations. Each path: a life in glimpses. He takes what he can from them. Not enough to savor, but enough to be immortalized in nostalgic haze. In one, he is a blazing warrior, driving back the horrors of the longest nights. Another, a vigiled gargoyle atop the Infinite Forest. A grizzled elder overseeing keen disciples.
In so many, he is dead.
But there is one where Osiris finds happiness. He finds a time away from strife. He finds Saint—a dream of warm serenity. The peace to his purpose. With Saint, there is a future that could have been enough.
So many unlived moments lost between calls to action. He wishes Sagira had not come to watch him die. His faithful companion. His guiding starlight. His hope, his humanity. "Sagira. For as many lives as we had… you were always my better."
His Light is breaking.
"Osiris, why don't you ever listen to me?" She compiles in front of him.
"What are y—"
"Shut up! Listen to my words!" Her iris is bright with Light. "There are great things still left for you; don't lose hope in the darkness." She is luminant.
Osiris breathes the word, as if he could hold it back: "No." He would understand in time. She had seen it.
Blinding Light erupts from Sagira's core as she splits apart. A wave of Light surges and tears across the chasm. Her sacrifice cleanses every trace of Xivu Arath's presence. The sigil: erased. The cryptolith that supported her projection: destroyed.
Osiris draws breath. Alone.
The aegis of Sagira's Light stands strong in the shadow of the Pyramid for days.