The night sky rolled over the City like black paint being brushed over the white. Stars remained bright, but tiny in the field of darkness. An orb of reflective light took position over the sky, but broken was its surface as it rotted from within. The moon, once a beautiful reminder of the light was now a disguise for a sinister force. But a shape of a broken god remained still above the City, the only true source of light which the City could trust.
And the tall structure known only as: the Tower; stood over the City. It stood, a symbol of power and steadfastness in protected what little left there was to protect. It was a home to the defenders of the dream of the City, the Guardians who were chosen by the light and stand against the darkness which sought to bring only misery and confusion to a woeful people. There used to be twelve, potentially to represent the Golden Age glory that these people once managed. But now there stood only one, perhaps to represent where they stood now.
Avgust leaned against the railing which overlooked the rest of the bright City and the Traveler, wondering these things. He looked back at everything he knew, everything he had once hoped possible. There was a brighter time before all of this, according to the voice which lead the Tower. This Collapse destroyed everything that they could have ever hoped to know, brought great misery to the people who worked so hard to build a perfect world.
There was a hope for this City, even if it was the last light of civilisation that would ever remain. But from what Avgust knew, from what he had experienced; it was a far off dream. The Twilight Gap was won, but at a great cost. There was so much that was sacrificed to keep the City safe, to keep the people within safe. And despite their victory, this line had already been broken by the offence. It was a miracle that they won, it was something that should have been truly celebrated by the City.
But rather, it became a time of great panic and fear. The protectors of the City were split, pitted against each other as disagreements settled about the future of this City. Guardians perished, but the repairs to keep the City safe had to be made. The leadership of the Vanguard was broken, as Lord Saladin and many others resigned from their posts following disputes about the course of the Twilight Gap. Saladin left because of his disagreements with Shaxx, and so the friendship between the two soured.
Zavala took the helm as the Vanguard Commander for the City, and so did Ikora Rey following the departure of the previous Warlock Vanguard. Andral Brask disappeared to take the field again, leaving an empty spot at the table in the Hall of Champions. But perhaps the most damaging blows to the City, were from the ones dealt to the Speaker, Osiris and Saint-14.
Osiris fled during the Twilight Gap, rumoured to have been exiled by the Speaker for coming to close to understanding the Vex. And with him, he took the Sunbreakers and several other Guardians. Saint-14, the hope of the City, was said to have caved in the head of the Kell of Devils with his own, before departing to find Osiris.
Avgust couldn't begin to understand why Osiris had left, or what inspired other Guardians to abandon their position as protectors of the City to join the Warlock. But what he understood is because of it, he lost the last surviving member of his Fireteam. Pariah, the Hunter who had been assigned with him to break the Fallen offence during the Twilight Gap had abandoned him in hopes to follow Osiris to some distant world to work for what she claimed to be: 'the right.'
Avgust closed his eyes, falling back onto what Lord Saladin had told him before he left the City:
"For what it is worth, Avgust, we will hardly understand what should be more tempting than the pursuit of a corrupting knowledge. Titans stand by the wall, corrupted by their vigilance. The Warlocks with their libraries seek to understand it. And the Hunters, travel to find it. Only as Guardians do we stand a chance to liberate ourselves from it, but even as this City tears itself apart there is doubt we ever will."
Perhaps this explained Osiris the best, and perhaps the same did so for Pariah. Osiris sought to understand an enemy so dark it despised other evil, and Pariah sought to join him in his pursuit to do so. But if Saladin was right, then Avgust was becoming ever more corrupt for standing in vigilance against it.
The darkness grows only as the light dims, but the light dims only as it allows the darkness to grow.
The Tower seemed so empty now, from those who fell from the Fallen assault on the Twilight Gap to the ones who fled to seek their own path away from their responsibility to the City. Avgust could have sworn he was alone, that he should be the only one kept inside of it. Eventually he heard footsteps behind him, the sure footing and the loud step signified of who it was likely to be. Avgust turned to look back at the newly made Commander Zavala, who kept his cold eyes locked onto him.
Avgust stood at attention, saluting the Commander as Zavala spoke in a calm voice: "At ease, Lieutenant."
Avgust lowered his arm, allowing his hands to hold each other behind his back as his eyes quickly glanced at the decoration on his chestplate showing the navy and orange stripe. The Commander continued: "I am not sure what to think about the night, Avgust. For one, it is a time at which the people can enjoy a time where they rest and dream for the future. But even then, it is the absence of the light we so desperately need."
"It is a time of reflection, sir."
"Indeed. Perhaps I should take more time to appreciate it for that. A silent reminder of why we are here, what we sacrificed to be here and what we should do to ensure we remain here."
The two waited in silence, as Zavala looked up to the Traveler and took a moment to wonder about its shape. He then closed his eyes, and allowed himself to speak once more.
"I still think about those we've lost, Avgust. Those sacrifices we've made to keep the City safe, just so that we could see another bright day. I've had my hopes that they would serve as a reminder for all, to unify us even more and strengthen our cause."
"Those who have abandoned..."
"They abandoned because I could only assume they were afraid to see another Twilight Gap. Or left because they couldn't handle the responsibility of having to stand steadfast as we have, Avgust. That is what I believe. We've lost great Guardians at the time we needed them the most."
"Pariah said it was 'for the right' that she left. That she should join Osiris to help understand the darkness enough to defeat it."
Zavala sighed, before slowly approaching Avgust's side at the railing as he allowed himself to look down upon the City. "See the wall, Avgust? What is included to create a defence as magnificent as this wall?"
"A foundation, support, plating and Guardians." Avgust replied.
"What should happen if the Guardians were to abandon the Wall?"
"We lose vital defence, and the plating is left open to be stripped away."
"And what if the plating is stripped away?"
"Then the support goes next." Avgust replied.
"What good is a foundation without all of these?" Zavala continued to question.
"It is not good at all, sir."
"You see why Osiris undermines the efforts of protecting the City against the darkness? Even if he should have the best intentions to preserve the lights, his efforts are so that allow the foundation of the City to be trampled. The dreams here die as soon as Guardians abandon their post, even if there still is a wall." Zavala concluded.
Avgust nodded his head in affirmation of what was said, allowing himself to believe what Zavala had said. The Commander was likely right, it wasn't the just thing to abandon the City just to find a way to understand the darkness—even if you intended to destroy it with this knowledge. There was too much at stake to allow this, at least that was how Avgust understood it.
"You've witnessed the Battle of the Twilight Gap first hand as I have, Avgust. My order to send you deep into the Fallen offensive was to preserve this dream. You lost a comrade to see this dream protected, as well as seen one flee who didn't understand it quite as well as you or I."
"Indeed, I have." Avgust replied, looking down at the ground. It stung when Zavala mentioned the loss of Yurami-3, mainly because he felt as if the loss was his fault. The Commander seemingly saw this, and replied: "We've all had losses. But now, I think there is an opportunity to bring the fight back to the ones who afforded us this great loss."
Avgust instantly snapped to attention when Zavala mentioned this, the Commander seemingly smiling in response.
"The Twilight Gap was a combined Fallen effort in attempt to destroy the City, and from what we understand—there are several Houses which were under-equipped, and thus were crippled. One such House is the House of Iron, which had been on the brink of collapse even before the Battle. Immediately after, they broke and split into several factions—one of which still stands to this day."
"The destruction of a small remnant?" Avgust questioned.
"The Fallen seemingly still maintain level communication with each other despite being rivals. If we make a move on these remnants, we are sending a message to the rest of the Fallen that we may be bruised, but not broken. No matter how small, we still make an impact." Zavala concluded.
"Understood, sir." Avgust replied, looking back briefly over the City. He had indeed understood what Zavala had meant. They might not be quite capable of challenging a House now, but with this move and in due time—they might be able to destroy the House of Devils itself.
"Good," Zavala replied, "I am going to assign two other Vanguards to assist you in finding this House of Iron, and end it once and for all."
Avgust shifted uncomfortably from the news. His prior experience working with a prior Fireteam, with the losses experienced, seemed to mean that he should not work within that capacity. Zavala seemingly recognised this, but chose to ignore it for the time being as he removed a steel-covered missive and handed it to Avgust.
The Titan took it, before opening the sealing which allowed him to access the information inside. "Per audacia ad astra, Lieutenant." Zavala spoke, which quickly invited Avgust to reply: "Per audacia ad astra, Commander."
Avgust looked back at the Traveler, before looking down to the note in his gauntleted hand. Perhaps, it was indeed time to move boldly into the stars.
It was time to defend the wall, and defend the dreams of which it protects.
As the night passed and moved into day, the hangar of the Tower became incredibly busy. Frames, engineers and even a few Guardians scrambled across the bay as repairs and modifications were made—as well as ships being allowed to take off or to land. The sound of welders echoed through the chamber, the sparks which bounced off the metal hulls of the ships dancing across the floor before dying out completely. Avgust walked across the bay, holding under his arm the Thunderlord: the legendary machine gun which he was given during the Twilight Gap.
It was a weapon to behold, powerful 138mm caliber rounds which were charged with an experimental arc core which typically allowed the silver-like ammunition with an electric charge which could potentially cause explosive reactions. The blue frame of the weapon matched the electricity which danced down the weapon when activated.
Slowly, he approached the new-hire for the Tower: Amanda Holliday. It was suggested she had talent working with jumpships, which presented her the opportunity to work at the Tower. She was working alongside a frame, trying to mount something properly into a Regulus-class ship. It had been sitting in the hangar for quite some time, which Avgust took to mean that it was a personal project.
As she finished, the Shipwright looked down at the Titan before lowering her tool and wiping her forehead. "You looking for something, Vanguard?" She asked, placing the tool on a workbench before slowly approaching the Titan.
"I was instructed to meet other Vanguards here, perhaps you know where they are at?" Avgust inquired, as Amanda nodded her head. "Yeah, I've seen 'em. I'm guessing you're going out to find some Fallen, that right?"
«Da,» Avgust replied, "the Commander decided it was time we strike back, make sure we don't have to deal with anything like this in the future."
"Is that right?" Amanda asked, "In that case, I guess I was right to upgrade your jumpship."
Avgust looked back towards Amanda with a questioning look as she led him back towards the hangar where there were two Vanguards waiting by a workbench. She explained on the way there: "You were flying quite the rust bucket, Vanguard. Not even sure how the NLS drive managed to stay in one piece. Both engine's fan blades were bent, the port-side compressor was next to dirt and the starboard nozzle was indented pretty good. Communication wasn't speaking, and the computers aboard were severely outdated. Lucky you even survived flying that thing."
"Only flew it once." Avgust remarked, as Amanda let out a short laugh: "Yeah, I'm hoping its not just because you flew it. I would like it if I don't need to repair it every 'round trip."
"That would be good."
"Yeah. Well, fixed both engines and updated the thrusts. Enhanced the communications system for 'ya, allows you to receive Vanguard communication now. Made use of the small storage space behind the seat, so you can store equipment in there now. Added pulse weapons, allows you to engage armoured targets fairly well. Computers' updated, so you won't have to boot it up every five minutes. Gave it a new paint job as well."
"Fixed everything, I see." Avgust remarked in surprise.
"Even gave it a name: Outrageous Fortune. Describes pretty well the cost going into the thing, but you can change it if you like." Amanda replied, stopping a few metres away from the other two Vanguards. "I think I will keep the name," Avgust replied, «Spasibo, Amanda.»
As Amanda turned and walked away, the Titan looked towards the two Vangaurds presented to him. A Hunter and a Warlock, both wearing a navy and orange set of armour. The Hunter was a human much like Avgust, with a shaven head and a scar right above his left eye. The Hunter had a thick jaw-line, and dark brown eyes. The Warlock happened to be an Awoken, with pale white skin and yellow-toned eyes with sharp facial features.
"Greetings, Titan!" The Warlock welcomed, bowing a bit politely as the Hunter remained silent with his armed folded.
«Zdravstvuyte.» Avgust replied, "I assume you are tasked with locating the House of Iron as well?"
"Indeed, heading outside of the Twilight Gap out into the great beyond." The Warlock replied, "They are in quite an isolated spot, however."
"Siberia." The Hunter stated.
The Warlock looked over in a bit of surprise as the Hunter mentioned this, before asking: "How do you know this, may I ask?"
"I was the one who found them."
"Incredibly cold this time of year," Avgust replied, "But I assume the Fallen do not mind this. Where exactly are they, around the Sahka region?"
"Yes. At the very tip of the Chersky Range."
Avgust quickly ran through his memory, trying to pick out where exactly they could be if this is true. Finding it, he nodded his head before he replied: "Right beside the Verkhoyansk Range. Would provide ample space and cover if they intend to rebuild an adequate force."
"We shouldn't allow them to do so, then." The Warlock remarked.
"No, we should not." The Hunter replied. "We cannot drop directly on top of them, though. Too concentrated of a force to allow for that. We need to hike a short ways."
"I'm sure we can manage that." Avgust agreed, "Our target is an Archon, «da»?"
"If you can call it an Archon." The Hunter stated, "Doesn't have the proper armour to be considered an Archon, nor does it seem the size. Likely just a Baron or a Captain. Remove them, the rest of the House is scattered."
"How big is their force, exactly?" The Warlock asked.
"Small. A few Skiffs and Walkers. Got a sizeable foot force, though. Nothing to be too concerned about, however. A wasted effort, if you ask me."
"No matter the size of a victory," Avgust disputed, "it is still a victory. This is a show that we are bruised, not broken as the Commander has said."
"Should be going for the Devils." The Hunter replied, "Remove their Archon. But whatever satisfies the Vanguard, I guess."
"So we have our mission, then." The Warlock stated, "But before we do, mind I can get the names of the both of you? You may call me Orur."
"Name is Heinrich." The Hunter stated. Both heads turned towards Avgust, waiting briefly for him to say his name.
"Avgust." The Titan spoke.
"The one who went down the mountainside?" Orur asked, "Thought I recognised that gun."
"Sound of souls." Heinrich replied. "The Thunderlord. Anyone west of the mountain could hear it fire. Not a very quiet weapon."
"Yes, the Thunderlord. The only one of it's kind. Every bullet a sound, every death a song." Avgust replied, running his hand across the barrel of the weapon. "Did it's job just as it was supposed to. A fine weapon."
"Let's continue the song, then." Orur replied.
"«Da.» Until the song is finished."