It was during the period the Guardians called the Age of Triumph, so full of hope and hubris.
In the Cosmodrome–then, all but captured for the City–were a few places where enemies still congregated and tensions still flared between them. This was one of those places. Hive streamed out of the caverns they’d dug under the earth. Inside the shells of Golden Age buildings, the Fallen rallied and picked them off. Crashing into both sides like a ravenous tidal wave were the Taken, directionless since the death of Oryx. Not that he remembered that at the time; he was only raised after the Taken War was already over.
The novice Titan had died four times in the last ten minutes, and it was starting to get exasperating. This time he kept a bit of distance as he watched the battle, racking his brain for some way to fight through them. He paced back and forth like a frustrated predator, arc light tingling along his skin like static. Or maybe it really was static. Right before his last death, he’d attempted a Fist of Havoc, only to punch the ground ineffectually and promptly get swarmed by irate Thralls. It’s probably static.
The gentle voice of his Ghost murmured inside his helmet: “You could always go around them.” He immediately stopped his pacing, struck by the novel idea and feeling rather silly that he hadn’t come up with something so simple. After a moment of awkward silence, lingering at the edge of a heated firefight, he was about to find his voice when–
–a sparrow roared over his head, its Hunter driver leaping off in a flourish of brown and silver–
–and then he was gone. The sparrow clonked ineffectually against the side of one of the many derelict structures covered in Old Russian letters.
Despite the sparrow’s presence, the Titan wasn’t entirely sure its driver had been real. “What was that?” he asked of no one in particular.
“Getting out of a bad situation.” Before he could react, a hand clapped him on his back, making him jolt. The Hunter reappeared, speaking in a gruff male voice, craning his neck to get a good look at the Titan. “Good skill to have. Heading my way, Kinderguardian?”
“Why does everyone call me that?”
“You’re listless like one.”
“Ugh. Fine. Yes, I’m trying to get past these…” The conversation paused at the sound of the Hunter’s sparrow exploding. “…These.”
“Then c’mon.” The Hunter brandished a scout rifle, an older but well-kept Jigoku, and looked down the sights. “I’ll cover you. Give ’em hell.”
“We could just go around them,” the Titan offered, echoing his Ghost’s earlier advice.
The Hunter lowered his gun and stared back, struck by the novel idea and feeling rather silly that he hadn’t come up with something so simple. After a moment of awkward silence, lingering at the edge of a heated firefight, the Titan summoned his sparrow and the Hunter leapt on behind him. Together, they skirted around the edge of the battle, before slipping past and rumbling off down a snow-covered road.
“Couldn’t you just resummon your sparrow?” asked the Titan.
“Could. But you don’t get a free ride every day. Name’s Samsid, by the way. You?”
The Titan paused. “…Rrrrreynault. I’m Reynault.”
Reynault could feel Samsid’s scrutinizing gaze on his back. “…Traveler’s knickers, how green are you?”
“Green? I’m not green! I’m human!”
Samsid paused, clearly not expecting that response. When he spoke, his voice was laced with mirth: “I mean, how recently did your Ghost first scrape you up?”
“Two months ago. Why do you ask?”
“Curious. You get to pick your name?”
“Yeah. Didn’t you?” Reynault briefly looked back at his passenger.
“Kind of. Long story about backwards names and mistaken identities.”
“That is a joke. You are joking.”
“Wish I was.”
Reynault did a doubletake, his sparrow slowing down a bit as he did.
Samsid shrugged. “Cayde’s dumb,” he said, as if that explained everything.
It didn’t, but it did get a full-bodied laugh from Reynault as he shifted his focus back to the road. “Oh, mon Voyageur. He can be a bit…a bit…a lot? A bit of a lot.”
“A bit much?” Samsid offered.
“A bit much! That’s the phrase. He…wait, don’t you report to him?”
“Yeah. Still dumb.”
Reynault made some noise between a chuckle and a sigh. “Fine. I don’t think the Traveler has knickers, though.”
“How do you know? You an expert on giant space gods or somethin’?”
Another chuckle. “No, but–“
“You a Warlock now?”
Reynault decided to play along. “I’m actually three Warlocks inside a suit of armor.”
“How’s that work?”
“Well, one Warlock rubs the other two together until their robes get all static-y, right? Then the first Warlock punches something, and it looks like arc lightning coming out.”
Samsid cracked up, gripping Reynault’s pauldron with one firm hand as he doubles over with laughter. “Hoooooo, good one! I like you, Rey.”
“You. You one of those full-name guys?”
“Look. Rey.” Samsid pulled one hand off Reynault’s pauldron, only to replace it with the other hand. “You gotta establish your nickname policy up top. Get it out of the way and settled. Else, it’s gonna get wild. Go to uncomfortable places, Rey.”
“Reyn. Rey-rey. Nault. Reysin. The Juggernault.”
“Reyn in Spain stays mainly on the plain–“
Much to Reynault’s surprise, Samsid fell quiet. They drove on for a full minute in an uncomfortable silence, as the road took them past old, rusting structures looming silently overhead. “…Isn’t Rey the Warlock Vanguard?”
“Yeah. I know I said I was three Warlocks in a suit of armor, but not her.”
“How’s Reyn, then? With the N on the end?”
“Reyn is fine. Nault is fine. The rest are garbage.”
“And that’s the nickname policy covered. Pull over a sec.”
Reynault slowed the sparrow to a stop amidst the dilapidated buildings. “What is it?”
“Got a target in there.” Samsid slipped off the sparrow and drew his old Jigoku in one single, fluid motion, before he started meandering toward a dark, gaping doorway in one of the buildings. “Some Knight’s mucking things up enough to make the Big Z want to show him a good time.”
“The hell’s a ‘qwuh’?”
Reynault shook his head, mostly to himself. “I mean, what did you say? In English?”
“Ughhhhh.” Samsid stopped in his tracks, not even bothering to turn around as he rests his scout rifle against one shoulder. “The Vanguard put a bounty on a Hive Knight, so now I’m going to go kill him. Traveler’s pants, Nault, you even look at a patrol beacon before?”
“Of course I have!” Reynault puffed his chest out indignantly. “I have a bounty to….” He paused as his Ghost muttered the details of his until-now-forgotten mission inside his helmet. “…Kill Hive. Get their chitin armor. Dead Orbit.”
Samsid pivoted on the ball of one foot to spin around and face Reynault. “We both need Hive. Headin’ my way?”
After a second of processing, Reynault nodded. “You know what? I think I am.”
Together, the two Guardians turned toward the yawning, dark doorway. They entered with little hesitation.
Inside the long-abandoned structure was a dim and dusty mess of corrugated metal walls, occasionally pocked with the telltale chitin of Hive bioarchitecture. Reynault’s footsteps echoed around the metal maze; Samsid’s were almost unnaturally silent.
When they heard the claw-scrabbling and screeches in the dark, when they saw the sickly green glow refracting around the corner, they simply looked to each other and nodded.
Reynault rounded the corner first, drawing his blocky, modest Häkke auto rifle and unloading on the first target he saw–a hapless Acolyte. “Haha! Hey, you three-eyed monsters! Nice day for it, huh?” From the direction of an old, broken Hive seeder, embedded within the otherwise dark, low-ceilinged room, came a shrieking chorus with a volley of return fire and a swarm of Thralls.
He ducked behind a square structural support pillar and let the Thralls come. The first leapt at him, eagerly trying to bring its claws down in a vertical swipe; he blocked it with his thick vambrace. The second made a horizontal swing while he was distracted, raking the side of his helmet. The third lunged low, sensing an opportunity, but by now the entire swarm was close enough. Reynault dropped his rifle for just the split second he needed to smash his fists downward. This time, it wasn’t static, but a brilliant bloom of arc light–a textbook Fist of Havoc.
The Thralls vaporized, he retrieved his rifle and turned his attention back to the Acolytes, only to see more flashes of arc light. Samsid was in the thick of them, flickering in and out of sight to a staccato rhythm only he could hear. On every other beat, another Acolyte corpse spilled from behind a structural support, until the dance was done and Samsid fell back to his position.
“Fresh out of super. You?” Samsid didn’t even sound winded.
“Same. What was that?”
“Never seen a Bladedancer dance? Traveler’s ‘stache, Nault.”
“You keep naming these things the Traveler doesn’t–” The banter was cut off by another shriek as a Knight lumbered out of the trashed Hive seeder, sword in hand.
Samsid raised his scout rifle again, looking down the sight. “That’s our man.”
Reynault didn’t need to be told twice. With no hesitation, he did what any good Striker would do: charge in. He barreled past the supports, an indistinct battlecry in his throat. The Knight readied its sword, but at the last moment, Reynault pounced and wrapped both his arms around the thing’s neck, barely holding on to his auto rifle with one hand.
Samsid lowered his gun and stared, flabbergasted, as the Titan swung onto the monstrosity’s back and hung on for dear life as it tried in vain to shake him off, reach around and grab him, or anything. He continued to stare when Reynault got gutsy and tried to wriggle his auto rifle around so the barrel was pointed at the Knight. He continued to stare when the auto rifle went off, a little too early, and the Knight staggered back into a pillar. When he asked, his Ghost informed him the whole thing lasted about twelve seconds. He was impressed.
He raised his scout rifle again, just in time to see the exhausted Knight bring its sword down on the prone Reynault with a bone-shattering crack. There was a second crack barely a heartbeat later, and the Knight fell backwards, dead.
Silence. Stillness. Then, the gentle blue glow of a Ghost resurrecting its charge. Reynault hauled himself back to his feet.
Samsid strode over the carnage toward his new friend, glee in his voice. “I’m buying you a round later. You drink?”
“Quoi?” Reynault looked at him, then down at the Knight, then back up at him. “…Oh, you mean alcohol? Yeah, I drink. Wait, you’re buying?”
“You rode that thing like a mechanical bull! ‘Course I’m buying!”
“Like a what?”
“I’ll show you a vid later. Got all the Hive parts you need?”
“I think so….” Reynault looked to his right, probably still expecting his Ghost to be out. “…Yeah. Yeah, I have enough.”
“Great. Let’s.” Samsid spun on his heel and started leading the way back outside.
He wasn’t going to come out and say it, but no one had ever bought Reynault a drink before. He hadn’t really made any close friends yet, not among the other Guardians. Now one was offering to go drinking with him. How could he say no?
Samsid was human, too, all bone and sinew, with short, deep brown hair and sunken eyes that could all too easily be hidden by the shadow of his pronounced brow. He clashed with Reynault’s blonde hair, broad shoulders, and open, youthful face. But the way they laughed over their drinks that night, no one would have guessed they had met earlier that same day.
At closing time, they staggered out into the streets of the Last City, one arm around each other’s shoulders as they swayed drunkenly.
“You, you’re a good one,” Samsid slurred. “Good pal. Nault.”
Reynault looked his way with a stupid grin. “Yeah, Sam?”
“I’ll show you ’round the Tower. I mean the real tour. Not the…the…the Vanny-guardy one. The real tour.”
“There’s a real tour? Why didn’t I get that?”
“Vammaguard gotta look good.” Samsid snickered. “Vammaguard. Vangeeerrrrrrd.”
“Vargardarar?” Reynault offered.
“Yeah, them guys!”
Reynault broke into a full on laugh. “My English is better than that!”
“Pah. You’ll get as bad as me. You wait.” Samsid gestured at nothing in particular with his free hand. “Better hope you don’t…get that bad. Yeah.”
“Hope shines brightest in the dark,” Reynault replied with a shit-eating grin.
Samsid tried to muster a dirty look, but couldn’t quite do it. “Don’t you quote random bar song lyrics at me.”
Reynault replied by throwing his head back and breaking out into joyful, drunken song. “Hope shines brightest! In the dark! Where nothing’s ever seen!”
After a bout of laughter, Samsid joined in. Together, they shambled down the street. The night was clear. The air was crisp and cool. Above them, the Traveler hung in the air, the city lights dancing across its surface, helping it shine against the dark.
(Author’s Notes: The lyrics are taken from a song that can be heard on an ingame jukebox.)