Previously on Exos of Destiny…
With Titan in recovery and Warlock still confined to research, Hunter returns to the field. Stealth Codes in hand, he enters to the Temple of Crota to fill the stolen shard with Crota’s Soul Essence. Once retrieved, his disguise fails. Hunter fights for his life to escape. If not for a spell by Eris Morn, Hunter would not how made it out alive. The final battle looms; Titan and Hunter are in no condition to fight…
“I remember our first encounter.”
Warlock recognizes the voice of The Speaker.
“You were eager to prove yourself in battle. To get a chance to show you belonged with Hunter… possibly even Titan. Do you remember?”
Warlock nods, quite happy to put his mind on something else:
“Did you think I would make it?” Warlock asks.
“Ah. Still care so much about what others think of you? After all that you’ve proven?”
“There are so many others…”
“Yes, but Ikora Rey must have chosen you for a reason. Your Ghost chose you for a reason. And you have the blessing of every Mentor of the Vanguard. Should that not be enough?”
Warlock is where it all began, looking over the city at the edge of The Tower near The Speaker’s Quarters. “What if I let them down?”
The Speaker stands beside him, “You will, only if you don’t go.”
Warlock extends his hand.
They shake hands. “Fight. Win. Push back The Darkness with the lethal combination of knowledge and power. Like a true Warlock.” He walks away.
“Well, I’m happy they let you out of the cave,” Tess Everis states as she approaches Warlock.
“I’m sure my brother has spoken with you.”
“Hardly. Or does the occasional glance count?”
“Yes. But the entire city is more important.” She pauses. “I don’t suppose you can take a modified Sparrow to The Dreadnaught?”
Warlock shakes his head, “No. Try fitting it with weapons.”
“Hey, we need something to do for fun!”
Warlock agrees. Fun. Such a radical idea.
“They’re waiting for you. Amanda’s got your ship ready, I’ve heard.”
Before Warlock can finish, she hugs him, backs away, and takes a deep breath. “No mercy, Warlock. No mercy.” She leaves.
He needs some time alone. He walks towards Tower Watch giving Eva Levante a salute, returning her gesture as she holds tears back. He can’t speak to her. She’d only talk him out of leaving. Up two staircases, Warlock takes in the familiar space. Banshee-44 catches his eye as he gives Warlock a nod. Does Banshee ever worry about anything?
After a few moments, watching the city lights flicker against the evening sky, Warlock heads for Tower Hangar. Lost in his thoughts along the way, he barely notices other Guardians sporadically moving about, ships coming and going. Up the stairs. Down the hall. He descends into the Tower Hangar.
Warlock stops in his tracks as he sees a large group waiting for his arrival.
“Come on, Guardian. Don’t be shy!” Cayde-6 calls out as Warlock resumes his approach.
He looks at the group, “Why does it feel like you’re sending me off to the death?”
The Cryptarch, Master Rahool, comes forward. They shake hands. “I’ve tried to study your Order, Warlock. Very secretive. If you can give the Cryptarchs a rough time, Oryx has his hands full.” With a nod, he walks away.
“I don’t mince words, Hive Bane,” Lord Shaxx begins. “Show that monster what a real Guardian can do.” A stiff pat on the arm, Lord Shaxx stomps off.
Commander Zavala’s stern look is expected. “I trust your findings will give you the edge you need to win this battle. We’re not of the same Class, but we want Oryx destroyed all the same. Do it.” A nod. He’s gone.
Cayde-6 is surprisingly reserved, “Awkward, yes. You mean a lot to us, Warlock. There is no Vanguard without brave Guardians, like yourself. So… thank you. The City thanks you.” Cayde clears his throat, “I’ll be on Comm,” and strolls away.
Warlock bows as Ikora Rey walks towards him.
“I’ve said all I need. You’re ready for this moment.” She gives an unexpected hug. “You send a Warlock on missions like this.”
He sees the pride in her eyes as she walks away.
Three remain. Amanda Holliday can’t hold back her tears. As for Titan and Hunter, Exos don’t cry. Group hug.
“You’re Ship is ready, Warlock,” as Amanda backs away. “You punch him in the face one good time for me!” Off she goes.
Titan and Warlock grasps forearms. Normally reserved between Titans, a show of strength above all other Classes. But this time, Warlock understands he’s just as strong. Titan walks away.
Only Hunter remains, staring at his brother. “Instincts. Warlock. Use your instincts. Because out there, the head knowledge and power can only get you so far. When your back is up against the wall, only your wit remains. At the end of the day, Oryx is just a brute trying to intimidate the universe. Don’t back down.”
Warlock bows, a gesture reserved for others in the Order.
Hunter pulls his blade, lunging at Warlock’s throat. Warlock stops his momentum before the blade pierces his exo-skeleton.
“Good. Very good,” Hunter admits.
“Your Class has a strange way of showing respect.”
“Thanks. I like it, too.” Obviously feeling better, Hunter struts up the stairs toward Tower Watch.
Warlock sees Amanda in the distance motioning her head towards his ship. “Alright, then. Let’s see where this goes.”
From The Tower to the inner city, eyes look to the sky to watch Warlock’s ship ascend into space.
“The coordinates are set for the rings of Saturn,” Ghost says.
After pressing a few buttons, Warlock’s ship, the Aries Ascendant, darts through the sky. “Status report.”
“Gear. Weapons. Ammunition. In order. Only the Vanguard shipment arrived.”
“Understood. This place is heavily fortified. Auto Rifle?”
“Decent impact for the high Rate of Fire,” Ghost continues. “Impressive reload speed. A bit bulky, but that should help with Stability.”
“That will be my Primary. What of the Heavy Weapon?” Warlock asks.
“As you know, the Diluvian 10/4X is the standard model for Vanguard. This Machine Gun has an incredibly high Rate of Fire, which makes it quite unstable,” Ghost concludes.
“The Dreadnaught is at our rear, sir. You can teleport inside when in range.”
“Thank you, Ghost.” Warlock whirls around in his chair to his hovering friend. “You’ve always been…”
“I would leave the sentiments until after we leave this dreadful place,” Ghost finishes.
“After?” A moment of silence, “So be it.” Once in range, Warlock disappears and his ship leaves to orbit the planet at a safe distance away.
The Dreadnaught is as Warlock remembers it. A nightmare floating about in outer space. The Cabal are still emboldened as they take on the Hive patrolling the entrance of the beachhead. Two small pockets of Taken, but nothing like the swarm on Earth. He pushes forward.
The Comm cracks to life, “Feeling spunky today, Guardian?!”
“You have a way with words, Cayde,” Warlock points out.
“You can return hope to your Order. To everyone. End this,” Eris concludes.
“She’s right, Guardian. No time like the present. Get him,” Cayde finishes. The Comm goes silent.
“We have to return to the Portal,” Ghost adds. “It’s best to go through the Mausoleum. Not much in the way of enemy presence on the way.”
Warlock had read over the fairy tales of such a place. Fairy tales. As he runs through massive halls, feeling the mushy ground beneath his feet, the smell seems visible to him. This is too real.
Perhaps, Ghost knows what he’s thinking, “Keep your helmet on. Please. Some of these fumes may be corrosive.”
Warlock slides to a halt as he reaches a large opening. He can see the Portal atop an enormous pedestal in the distance. Hive patrol the area. Taken beacons hover in mid-air. Get too close, they sense your presence and summon Taken minions.
“I don’t suppose we could sneak passed them all,” Ghost says.
“Where’s the fun in that, actually?” Warlock asks.
“Oh my, Hunter is affecting you.”
“I’ll need his shooting skills from here on,” Warlock admits. The rattling noise of the Auto Rifle alerts all enemies in the area. Warlock closes in on the Portal. A few giant leaps and he’ll be there.
Taken Hive spring out of thin air. A Taken Captain roars, shooting fire out of its mouth towards Warlock.
“Careful!” Ghost warns. “It will burn through your shield faster than I can regenerate it.”
Warlock feels the intense heat as he finds cover. The blazing fire wears off as his shield regenerates. That was close. He feels a blow to the back of his head. Taken minions have surrounded him. One after the other, Warlock nails them in the face with a crushing blow.
Hive Acolytes fire at him in the distance. With the toss of a grenade, they try to scatter, but are caught in the explosion. More streams of fire rain down on him. Machine gun. It fires so quickly, Warlock has a hard time keeping it under control. However, the Taken Hive Captain is down.
Two Hive Wizards hover next to the Portal sending waves of energy pulses at Warlock. Back to the Auto Rifle, he picks them off while coming in and out of cover. Another leap. The Portal pulses with life.
“Yes. I sense it. The Portal believes you’re Ascendant Hive! Enter. Quickly!” Eris calls out.
Her voice begins to fade as Warlock passes through the Portal.
“And uh, after you kill him, Guardian… shoot ’em again just for fun,” Cayde adds with a short laugh.
Blinding light. Disorienting. An empty space. No enemies in sight. Remarkable high ceiling. Warlock suddenly feels so small.
“Cayde… Eris… It seems as if we’re on our own from here,” Ghost says.
Ghost pauses. “I don’t pick up anything, sir.”
“We are, in fact… somewhere.”
Warlock jogs cautiously through the long hall, an extra tight grasp on his weapon. “Bluish white. The light up ahead.”
All of a sudden, the dreary facade of The Dreadnaught is replaced by a more regal appearance. Tall columns of pale blue, light emanating from within them. He looks down over a balcony, two rows of stairs descend to the foundation below. “Could be an entrance to a Throne Room,” Warlock concludes.
“Definite Taken signature, sir,” Ghost interjects. “I don’t recall any tales of this place.”
Probably because no one has ever made it this far. Warlock begins his descent down a staircase when Taken spring up around the room. “Vex. The nasty ones!”
When Taken Vex Hobgoblins are killed, they release three target-seeking energy pulses that do massive damage on impact. Now, there’s a room full of them along with two Taken Fallen Captains. Minions also begin their ascent up both staircases to close in on Warlock.
He fights back. The rattle of the Auto Rifle pauses as grenades fly through the air. He returns to crouching on the balcony to reload. Minions, having reached his position, swipe at him. One punch after another, he counters.
“Good move, sir. You’re Solar Shield is active for a while.”
With this extra protection, Warlock jumps off the balcony to ground level, firing at the Hobgoblins in the distance. He leaps out of the way as tracking pulses bear down on him. An impact knocks him backwards.
“Solar Shield is gone,” Ghost calls out. “Recharging.”
Warlock wants to keep his momentum. He charges up the final staircase firing at two Hobgoblins. One explodes, then the other. His shield reading on his HUD flashes red.
“That was dangerous.”
“You’re Solar Energy is at full capacity,” Ghost points out.
The entrance splits open. Warlock pauses before entering. “He must be waiting for me. Hiding?”
“Nothing on radar. He could be cloaked,” Ghost adds.
Warlock jogs through. “What is that?” The area is less prestigious. Rocks protruding from the foundation all about the space.
“Guardian, I don’t think we’re alone…” Ghost says.
This isn’t an Echo of Oryx, this is the brute, himself. “I have Taken entire worlds,” his voice reverberates through the Chamber.
“It’s another Portal,” Ghost interjects.
“You are not worthy to face me,” Oryx finishes, then disappears.
Ta’aun, a feared Cabal Champion taken by Oryx, appears in front of the Portal. Warlock fires away, but more Taken spring up and create a protective shield around the Champion. He’ll have to kill the minions first to take the shield down. He heads for the Portal, taking cover along the way.
“Warlock, another signature!” Ghost calls out.
“I’m looking at them, Ghost,” Warlock says.
“A Hive Champion. Baxx is…”
The giant Ogre roars his introduction as he’s sent through a Taken Portal. Baxx stomps toward Warlock firing energy pulses from his eyes.
Titan is standing in front of the Gunsmith at The Tower. “You didn’t see him off.”
Banshee-44 scoffs, “Why would I do that?! It’s not like he’s not coming back.”
“I should’ve gone, instead,” Titan says.
“Not looking like this.”
Titan is taken aback.
“Ikora knew what she was doing. Biding her time.”
“Warlock had a lot of research to do.”
“Ha. Research! Who’s ever been that deep in The Dreadnaught and lived to tell about it? Even as a fairy tale,” Banshee points out.
“There are stories…”
“She wanted a Warlock on the job from the start. You and Hunter take the brunt of the heat because you can. But when dealing the final blow, the Warlocks lower the boom.”
It all makes sense to Titan. “Don’t say anything to Hunter.”
“Don’t have to. He’s not you, but he can take a pounding better than Warlock can. Better not tell Warlock.”
“Hm,” Titan rubs his jaw. “I think Warlock already knows. Thanks, 44.” He walks off.
The Taken minions are sparse. Warlock made quick work of them. Yet, he’s been running around the Chamber trying to keep Ta’aun and Baxx at bay. “Who’s first?”
“It appears Baxx is growing weary,” Ghost answers.
Warlock flings a grenade right at the eyes of Baxx. Boom! The rattle of the Auto Rifle ensues. With a screech, Baxx is in flames and disintegrates. Suddenly, Warlock is knocked forward by the Cabal Champion, Ta’aun. He’s shields are down.
“Watch out..!” Ghost warns.
Ta’aun picks up a protruding rock and wacks Warlock across the room before Ghost has a chance to regenerate his shields fully. Warlock’s regenerating shield breaks on the initial hit. When he hits the wall, he dies.
Ta’aun growls in victory… Until Warlock springs to life, engulfed in flames, wings of fire! He hits Ta’aun with a barrage of fiery grenades. The brute buckles over. Warlock’s Solar Energy is spent; out comes the Auto Rifle to finish him off. A loud growl. He’s gone.
The Portal comes to life.
“Well, I guess we’re worthy, now,” sarcasm evident in Ghost’s voice.
“A second Portal,” doubt in Warlock’s voice.
“Warlock, if we don’t end this, who will?” Ghost asks.
He checks the status of his Gear on his HUD.
“You brought yourself back. Your Solar Energy will take some time to recharge, as you know.”
“We cannot wait. Let’s move.”
Ghost doesn’t argue as they head through the second Portal. Blinding. Disorienting. But Warlock is ready for it this time. Down another gloomy hall, they reach another opening…
A familiar voice breaks the silence, “Come, Guardian of Light. Come…” Laughter fades away as a bridge forms above the chasm and the entrance opens.
Stating the obvious, “We have an invitation,” Ghost concludes.
“Indeed. Almost at full power. I can feel it.” Warlock heads for the bridge.
A knock at the door.
Ikora Rey doesn’t look back, “Yes?”
“How you feeling, Ikora?” asks Cayde-6.
“Fine,” eyes focused on a page.
“You’ve played a dangerous game,” Commander Zavala adds.
Ikora closes the book she’s sifting through. “Game?”
“Don’t pretend to be innocent…” Zavala begins.
Cayde puts up a hand, “We get to see what he has.”
“He has the least amount of experience…” Zavala continues.
“Not anymore,” Ikora interjects. “Not anymore.”
“What if he fails?!” Zavala stomps forward. “I can’t send Titan in his condition.”
“Titan won’t need to go,” she answers boldly.
“Your pride will kill us all. Oryx will be on alert. He’ll come straight for us with two of our best worn out by you!”
“Warlock is my best! And he is fully capable to take on this challenge!”
Zavala steps back.
“I want Oryx destroyed, as well. This is the best chance we have.” Ikora takes a deep breath. “Is that all, Commander?”
Zavala shakes his head and storms out the door.
She looks to Cayde.
“You guys get along so well…”
She raises a brow, “You have a complaint?”
“No, no! No complaint. Just don’t want you to think I’m naive,” Cayde answers. “Shrewd. I like you even more, Rey.”
“Just saying, if you’re wrong… No one will be laughing.” He closes the door calmly and walks away.
Ikora bites her lip. Cayde’s a loose cannon, but he’s not stupid. She whispers, “Please, Warlock. For me.”
The Hive patrols have retreated giving Warlock free reign to walk through a bleak area. He is unnerved by it. Enemies have never intentionally backed off with intruders approaching.
“Nothing, so far, Warlock,” Ghost adds as he scans the area. “If he’s here, I can’t pick up a single hint of him. I’m sorry.”
Warlock pauses as he enters the next area. Pitch black. “No. Ghost. You’ve always done well. Solar Energy…”
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” Warlock concludes. He summons Ghost in front of him and places his hand on top of it. “Thank you.”
Ghost’s light flickers for a few moments. “I chose correctly, Guardian.” It disappears.
The last jolt of confidence is welcomed as Warlock steps forward into the darkness. A light springs up on the floor and bolts down what seems to be another long hallway. A door. The symbol of The Taken King illuminates as it splits open.
He knows this is it. The Throne Room. The end. “Brothers. If I fail. Forgive me. I… I love you, both,” Warlock finishes. He walks forward to whatever awaits him…