Frontier – Act07 Chapter30 – Sinister

Chapter 30: Sinister

Audiences with Mara Sov of the Awoken, Queen of the Reef, were often very small. The Queen herself, her Prince and brother, some guards and whomever was being granted the audience. Almost without exception, audiences were only a single person, and if they were representative of a group, that group would only send one person to represent them. No attendants. No servants. Such things were distractions that the Queen didn’t allow in her throne room.

This time, however, there were three. Three guardians. A human warlock, a human titan, and an Awoken hunter. This irked the guards, but Mara Sov saw the necessity of it this time.

The Techeuns stood in seemingly random places around the room, seeing things useable and saying things without saying. They sensed this was a pivotal moment, but for all their efforts could not yet see the shape of it.

Uldren looked out of the large windows towards the Awoken people. His people. His first duty was always to them. Did Vatyr represent a danger to them and their ways? He did honour the Batchall challenge. His second duty was to his sister, the Queen. Did Vatyr represent a danger to her? The Queen loved him and trusted him implicitly. His third and final duty was to his own honor, and in that, Vatyr had shown some new and unexpected value. The guardian saved his life when all the Prince wanted was revenge for a slight that perhaps never existed. He turned his head to see his sister had pivoted her throne directly toward him, her eyes peering into his soul. Sometimes she could still drive fear into his core, but this stare was one of sibling compassion, though her expression was the stone and perfection that her station demanded.

Uldren turned and walked towards Vatyr, who was flanked by his team on either side. The guardians bowed deeply, as was custom. Uldren signaled with a twitch of his hand that they could rise, and they did so slowly, as was custom. Uldren and Vatyr stared at each other for a few long moments, trying to discern each other’s heart.

Without breaking the stare, Uldren brought up his hand and opened his palm to reveal a small data stick. “This will lead you to the ship and get you past the automated sentries we’ve set up around it. You’ll find it anchored to 1143 Odysseus, trailing in the orbit of Jupiter.” Vatyr looked at the device and slowly took hold of it. Uldren’s other hand shot up and grasped Vatyr’s wrist tightly, holding it in the space between their faces. The guardian’s eyes returned to Uldren and he was brought in close. “There is a great deal between us that remains unresolved. If you die, I’ll consider it your loss of the Batchall and a forfeit of whatever honor you have left. I expect you to return, alive and successful.” Uldren whispered in a low growl. Vatyr nodded, and the grasp was slowly released.

“Go. Now.” said the Prince, turning his back and coming to a deep kneel before his sister. Another bow given by the guardians before they departed.

 

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Frontier – Act07 Chapter27 – Murder of Crows

Chapter 27: Murder of Crows

Telemica was going to scream.

Sure, she trusted Vatyr to do what needed to be done, but how long was it going to take? She had exhausted her patience trying to make conversation with Arrenn, who seemed to be content to float there like an empty shell, and going through strategic simulations and lessons with Squire had worn down every other nerve. She needed to get out and know what was going on. It had been a full day since they had been thrown into this forsaken pod and the titan was not sure how much longer she could handle it.

She was about to ask Squire for the umpteenth time what the time was before the pressure changed and the pod shifted back into its dock. The doors opened just as the gravity kicked back in, throwing the two guardians at the feet of two royal guards. “Get dressed quickly,” one said before throwing a package at each of them. Within were clothes, but not their clothes.

“This is formal attire. The kind that Awoken nobility would wear to a special occasion,” noted Arrenn as he began to follow the guards’ orders. Telemica was so eager to get out of this cell that she’d wear a clown costume.

The two guardians were led to a grand multi-floored ballroom filled with nobles and dignitaries from across the Reef, all dressed in what seemed like the most formal of formal attire. The room itself seemed carved out of massive pieces of crystal that ranged from transparent to opaque. At the far end of the gleaming and ornate room was an unobstructed view of 4 Vesta in its entirety, and a stage just before it. A loud buzz of gossip filled the air, as not a single person knew what was going on. All anyone was aware of was that the Queen would be making a snap proclamation and it would be important. Telemica and Arrenn were led to a balcony to the right of center stage to view the event from. The balcony was suitably isolated from the rest of the room. It would have been inappropriate for guardians to mingle with Awoken nobles.

Minutes later, the crowd hushed at the sound of singing chimes, signaling the entrance of the Queen. Flanked by three guards on each side and trailing a long procession of Paladins, Techeuns and Corsairs, she wore a much more ceremonial outfit than usual, mirroring the clothing of onlookers. A vast and ornate violet gown flowed around her and rebelled against gravity in twists and curls, never really touching the floor. Military medals that gleamed and moved holographically adorned the left breast while insignia proving the loyalty and fealty of all the noble houses to her reign covered her right.

At the very end of the party was Vatyr, wearing a noble suit that gleamed like polished white marble woven into cloth. The hunter’s knife sat ceremoniously on his hip. Telemica nearly called out to him but was stayed by Arrenn. Whatever this was, it would be unwise to interrupt at this point. Vatyr looked up at them for a brief moment, but his eyes quickly returned to the front.

As Mara Sov took center stage amid music reminiscent of Awoken heritage anthems, her presence claimed the room completely and silence took hold. The Techeuns performed a blessing on the crowd in the name of the Queen and cast a blue cloud of sparkly mist over the attendance, but few of the nobles reacted to it with more than a token gesture of thanks. Telemica guessed that it was all for show, but instinctively twitched as it passed over her.

The Techeuns made way for the Queen to take center stage and make her announcement. Not only could you hear a pin drop in the silence, but one could also guess the attendees would kill whomever dropped it.

Her hand raised into the air to make her proclamation and her mouth opened.

“Stop!” came a voice from the rear rafters of the room. The Queen’s entourage quickly took defensive positions around their leader as everyone turned to see who was so brazen. Uldren Sov leaped down from a hidden gantry and floated to the stage a few feet from the Queen, coming instantly to a low kneel before his sister.

A breath passed, but nobody dared to breathe.

In a flash, Uldren dove to tackle Vatyr to the ground. Vatyr let his knees give way and dropped under the charge, grabbing the lunging prince and using his momentum to toss him to the rear. Uldren spun and landed on his feet, removing his dagger and crouching. “This will not happen! This traitorous dezgra has no place here anymore!” Uldren yelled with as much venom as he had in him.

“If you would stop such an event, do it in accordance with our ways, brother,” spoke the Queen in that even tone she was known for. Telemica had noticed that she had yet to move a single foot during the commotion, or even pivot to view the battling men. Was she so supremely secure in her power, or did she know this would happen?

“Very well.” conceded Uldren after a moment of forced calm. The prince straightened his back and pointed his blade at Vatyr, who lifted finally from his own defensive posture. “I am Uldren or the Clan Sov and I challenge you to the batchall, traitor. To the death.”

The room erupted in commotion. A true batchall challenge had not been issued in so long, some wondered if it was even legal anymore. What’s more, nobody knew what still-undisclosed announcement the Queen was about to deliver that caused this turn of events.

“I accept.” Vatyr said calmly. “One on one bladed combat. No champions or representatives. The battleground will be the Fortuna Plummet.”

Uldren’s face twisted into something between an angry snarl and a righteous sneer before transmatting away. The Queen’s entourage escorted her off the stage, leaving one Techeun by Vatyr’s side to assist him. The room was now a cacophony of loud gossip as the Awoken nobility strained to understand what had just taken place, a state that was no doubt quickly spreading through the entire Reef.

 

Frontier – Act07 Chapter26 – Neverland

Chapter 26: Nevrland

The bed seemed impossibly soft, but sleep was at most an elusive concept to Vatyr.

The hunter stood nude in the center of the huge cylinder-shaped bedchamber, taking in the singular mural that took up the entire wall. It depicted the mighty Queen Mara Sov as she rose to power in the Reef Wars. Most would much rather look at the naked form of that same Queen on the bed, pale and drenched, a far cry from the embodiment of power immortalized in the painting, but Vatyr knew how terrifying she truly was. The conquering and idealized entity rendered in the mural was far less intense.

The Techeuns had easily stopped the murder-fueled Uldren in mid-flight with their psychokinetic gifts; the Queen herself ordered him and the witches to leave, not even deeming the scene unfolding worth her gaze. She was clearly displeased with his actions but could not possibly be surprised, and neither was Vatyr. As the visage of fury soared through the throne room at him with a pure and deep violence singing from his aura, Vatyr considered letting the Master Crows’ blade sink into his heart. At least this dance would end after so long. He knew fully all the levels of antithesis that the guardian represented to Uldren, and Vatyr couldn’t yet bring himself to war over it. Had she commanded it, he would have embraced the steel looking to rip the life from his body without hesitation.

Numerous veiled attendants appeared and scurried off with Vatyr, removing his bodysuit, bathing him and scenting him with perfumes to the Queen’s liking. He was then led to her bedchambers, where she awaited him.

The night had been long and exhausting. There was no love in her actions, only lust and the joy in being worshiped. His every movement, exertion and word intended to placate and satisfy the goddess that straddled him commandingly. Even now, she merely lay there in her afterglow, letting her plaything recuperate for the next round.

He loved her. Endlessly.

He was not sure why he adored her, and he couldn’t possibly be sure that his devotion existed purely because she bent his will to it with her own. Nobody was quite sure where the borders of her influence lay, nor how she came by the power that bent spacetime and souls. Most were certain that she was the source of whatever encapsulated the Prison of Elders, and that was more than enough to fill most sane people with fear and awe.

Yet, he still loved her.

“My Queen, may we converse in the time between…” Vatyr was not quite sure how to properly describe what had filled the last few hours.

“No doubt you came back to me with purpose more serious than your need to venerate me most directly,” she purred as her naked body arose from the mountain of sheets and pillows as if carried upon libidinous dreams. She stalked slowly towards Vatyr as if the hunter was prey, “Are there not more enchanting focuses of your attention?”

When she pivoted around him and met his gaze, Vatyr was awestruck. Such power housed in such a faultless form, and yet he was the only one to find the softness in her eyes. He dropped to his knees and began to kiss her body deeply, speaking as he went. “A dear friend has sacrificed himself in a colossal battle against the Vex, no doubt saving Earth and the Reef in the process. His deeds alone won the day.” He kissed her feet, her calves, her venus, her belly and her breast. A smile crawled across her lips. With a slight hesitance as he met her gaze again he cradled her head softly in his hands and for a fleeting moment his fear was elsewhere, seeking that softness in her eyes that only he knew. He kissed her lips in the long and tender way that took him back to what seemed like another lifetime.

“My Queen is powerful, and benevolent. She rewards those who serve her people, and so I come to her now to beg for her guidance. If there was some way to bring my friend back, surely my Queen would know of it.” Vatyr had hoped he would be more eloquent in his plea, but his reason for being here was being quickly overshadowed by the divine creature before him.

Vatyr’s body suddenly shot into the air, 20 feet above the bed, and hung there inverted. Mara’s outstretched hand pointed at him, holding him in place. Static filled the space between them, her face stoic and timeless. Her eyes locked on to his, staring into his soul. Guardians were used to seeing impossible things, but Vatyr had never seen such a display of power put on with such ease. To Queen Mara Sov, bending spacetime to her will was as easy as breathing. Vatyr could feel her mind pressing on every inch of him. The world around him echoed a low thunder at the edge of his perception, like the atavistic thrum of a black hole, threatening to shake him to quantum potentials.

“You come here seeking a boon which only I can give, and yet you denied me what I sought from you all those years ago.”

“Yes, my Queen.”

“A thing that I could have easily taken and, one would have thought, came from a mutual place.”

“Yes, my Queen.”

“And in response to my invitation, the likes of which no other being in the cosmos would not covet, you left to scurry around in the dirt and fight a war that is not your own.”

“Yes, my Queen.”

The pressure increased. The thunder rolled. It was if he was being driven deep into the Earth’s mantle.

“Are you willing to give me what I still seek, in exchange for what you seek?”

A split-second of hesitance is all Vatyr could allow himself. “…Yes, my Queen.”

Vatyr’s body slammed down into the vast bed with purpose, dazing the guardian. Gathering himself, he found he was already set upon by the nubile form of the Awoken queen, moving not unlike a pouncing cat playing with her kill. “I always knew my pet would come back to me one day. Tomorrow I will grant you your boon. Tonight, we play.”

 

Frontier – Act07 Chapter25 – Starseeds

Chapter 25: Starseeds

On any other occasion, Titan Telemica Magna would have strongly advised against such an insane course of action, but after the loss of Solas, she was willing to entertain any ideas.

On any other occasion, Hunter Vatyr S’Jet would have been denied his request to fly out to the Reef with the express intent of confronting Queen Mara Sov, but as Fireteam Warden was on leave, no permission was expressly sought or given. Plausible deniability, as Cayde-6 would have put it. Vatyr had simply asked Telemica and Arrenn to suit up for a jaunt-type campaign. Arrenn seemed quietly nervous about it at first, but given the option of simply staying behind, he chose to follow.

Vatyr and Telemica had tried to learn what they could of Arrenn in the time they had. He was certainly becoming known as the quiet type, not prone to voicing himself unless directly confronted, and even then, it was short and to-the-point. Likewise, his ghost Gnome only spoke to Arrenn and even then only on a pure telepathic level. Calling the ghost shy would have been an understatement. On the other hand, Arrenn’s skills as a warlock seemed to be beyond what a new guardian would usually have, especially one that had not aligned with any of the covens or other organizations. Inherently talented, they’d say.

Any ship approaching the Reef was immediately set upon by the Queen’s patrols from the fleets, or by Corsairs. In the past, guardians were forced to either turn back or be destroyed, but that had changed recently. The Reef was beginning to open to Earth, but security was still extremely tight and the air of clandestine machinations along with general mistrust continued to hang thick in this part of the system. Guardians were expressly prohibited from communication with anyone but chosen representatives. Contact with the general populace would be a grave error, and attempting to contact the higher-ups was tantamount to insulting.

“Earth ships bearing zero-two-zero-mark-one-two-zero, you have entered the realm of the Awoken. State your business.”

“Say nothing. Glitch will handle this,” said Vatyr on a private commline.

Minutes passed and Telemica’s sense of impending danger grew with every humming cycle of her ship’s engines. These days, the Tower and Vestian Docking Control handled the comings and goings of guardians. It was all very official and locked-down. Whom was Glitch communicating with? She was about to ask Vatyr what was going on until the patrol ships cut in.

“Vatyr S’Jet, by direct order of Queen Mara Sov, you and your companions will conform to my trajectory. Any deviation or communication from this point forward will result in your destruction.”

“From this point forward, do whatever they say. Answer all questions and submit to every demand. Otherwise we’re pretty much dead.” said Vatyr before cutting comms.

Fireteam Warden brought their ships alongside the Awoken patrol, who then banked hard to starboard. Telemica had visited the Reef before. She knew the way to the Vestian Outpost where all guardians were routed to, and they were headed nowhere near it, or even the Awoken military headquarters at 5560 Amytis. The escort took a winding route, ending up at the heart of Awoken space, 4 Vesta. The staggering sight of one of the system’s largest asteroids fused with hulks of civilization-moving ships and teeming with Awoken life was a sight that few outside of the realm would ever behold.

Landing at a small hangar bay, the guardians were immediately taken into custody and separated. Telemica kept a close eye on Vatyr for signs of agitation as they were relieved of armour and weapons, but this appeared to be entirely part of his plan. They dared not communicate even via ghost, as it was known that the Queen’s Techeuns would hear it and relay it to the Queen instantly.

Telemica and Arrenn were shackled and led down dimly lit passages, leaving Vatyr on the pad surrounded by the majority of their Awoken reception. The sounds of civilization and movement fell away until the deep silence of vacuum surrounded them save for the clang of boots on metal walkways that they themselves created. Eventually they were deposited in a small spherical holding cell with no windows. The door closed with a hermetic hiss that separated the atmo of the complex from the cell, and artificial gravity quickly bled away. It was obvious they were being held in a module that was simply tethered in space, no doubt ejectable at a moment’s notice and reserved for the most dangerous of beings outside of the Prison of Elders.

Once the titan and warlock were out of view, Vatyr was given more space, a level of charade lifting. A number of the royal guards entered from the far side of the hangar and took over. “The Queen has agreed to your request for a meeting. Follow closely.” said one of the guards with a curt bow of the head, her hand resting on her sidearm. Vatyr was led across the hanger and through the door that the guard entered from. They traversed halls bustling with activity, mostly of the military variety. As the entourage passed, people stepped to the side, speaking in hushed tones about those that passed. It had been a long time since Vatyr had seen so many of his people, and it plucked a lonely string within him.

The group turned down a corridor and entered an elevator. Vatyr could feel the air pressure and gravity change as they took speedy but prolonged ride into the modified ship hulls that encapsulated the asteroid. As they exited, Vatyr noted a distinct change in scenery. Wide halls ornately decorated. Murals and other artwork depicting the history of the Awoken. Well-dressed nobles, ornately armoured guards and hurried functionaries. Everything was spotless and just so. Vatyr was led down the hall as he listened intently and with a sense of grim satisfaction to the whispers around him, most were not as well hidden as the commoners’ gossip was below.

“Him? Is he suicidal?”

“Never thought…”

“…a lot of brazen nerve…”

“…dead within the hour.”

“Prince Uldren will have his head.”

“How dare…”

Large doors opened to let Vatyr and his accompanying guards into a vast open space overlooking the Vestian Web. At the end of a long walkway was a raised throne, turned to look out over the realm. Three robed figures stood by the throne, speaking without words to each other and whomever occupied the seat. Sedia was the first of the Techeuns to notice the newcomers. Shuro Chi and Yasmin Eld joined Sedia and moved from the throne to meet them a few feet from its base. With a waved hand, Sedia dispersed the royal guards, sending them back the way they came. The Awoken witches surrounded Vatyr, peering intently at every detail of his form. They lifted his arms, felt his stomach, and peeked inside his mouth, all the while conversing with each other via their jewel-like augmentations.

“Why have you returned to me?” spoke a haunting voice from the throne.

Before he could respond, Vatyr turned to see Uldren Sov, The Master of Crows and brother to the Queen, flying through the air at him with rage in his voice, pain in his eyes and blade in his hand.