Here’s the Lore: What’s the Story of Destiny 2 – Season of the Drifter?

Season of the Drifter's Messages from Aunor allude to something huge.

The Destiny 2 Postmaster mainly catches items players miss during in-game activities. But in the Season of the Drifter, players have discovered their postage also carries some interesting lore. Specifically, we’ve all received some Messages from Aunor.

Aunor is a member of the Praxic Order, an organization of Destiny Warlocks founded alongside the Last City. Its objective is keeping artifacts of Darkness out of the hands of Guardians. The Praxic Order believes that there is no value in knowledge of the Darkness and all resources should instead be spent fighting against it. Of course, that doesn’t stop everyone.

The never-ending struggle between Light and Dark takes center stage in the latest Destiny 2 expansion. That’s what the PvEvP modes called Gambit and Gambit Prime are all about. Everything in Destiny — even the default PvP mode Crucible — rooted in one kind of lore or another, after all. Gambit is no different!

It’s easy to see why Aunor is anti-Drifter and anti-Gambit. The very nature of Gambit is to use forces of Darkness to fight against other Guardians. When the Drifter set up shop in the Tower, both the Vanguard and the Praxic Order were aware of it. But when Season of the Drifter began, a message awaited the player Guardian in their Postmaster’s inbox. That’s when the mystery behind the Drifter (who runs the Gambit modes) deepened further.

Message from Aunor I

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

My name is Aunor. I serve the Hidden and the Warlock Praxic Order. You and I have never met, but I hold you in high regard.

You’ve accomplished wonders for this City, and humanity owes you a debt it cannot repay. A marvel for one so young.

But, in true Guardian fashion, nothing you did for the City came from generosity.

I think you want what everyone with power wants: more.

The man called Drifter knows this. That man has done what past influencers could not: manipulate Guardians into dabbling with the dark.

And yet the Vanguard stands by in silence.

Commander Zavala and Ikora Rey know who he is and everything he stands for.

They still let him bring his Gambit into the system. What’s more, they have forbidden the Praxic Order from interfering.

It’s against everything the Praxics stand for. We won’t abide it, and we’re looking into his activities, building a case against him even the Vanguard can’t ignore.

Do me a favor. From one Guardian of this City to another.

You’re free to keep your business with him. Just give me the chance to convince you the Drifter’s not to be trusted.

Up until this point, the player’s interactions with the Drifter were very simple. He offered Gambit as an activity to chase power and cool weapons like Malfeasance. It was easy to offer to accept, too. Drifter has a certain charming presence with many catchphrases. He seemed to be a likable fellow, at first!

But with this message, Aunor and the Praxic Order have raised suspicions about the Drifter and his motivations…

Message from Aunor II

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

Since its inception, the Vanguard has served as the City’s greatest deterrent against total annihilation of humankind. And for an Age, it succeeded without question.

But today’s Vanguard has never faced a threat like the Drifter. This man with no name and no verified history in the City’s files has brought an ideological war to our doorstep. He’s a greater threat than any Hive god or Vex Mind because I can’t walk down to the Annex with a shotgun and end him.

The Vanguard won’t allow it. They see a rogue element they can control.

I see a criminal in a place of power.

The Praxic Order has been surveilling Vanguard activities: Guardians like you are abandoning frontline duties so they can run rampant in the Drifter’s Gambit.

Every Mote of Dark they drop in his hands means another moment that the paracausal phenomenon in the Dreaming City is left unchecked. That our enemies in Deadzones across the Earth push our borders. In the absence of Light, even the Hellmouth on the Moon is stirring.

This cannot last. Ontological and genocidal threats aside, Gambit encourages the use of Darkness to fight Darkness… and other Guardians.

Since the City’s foundation, the Praxic Order has existed to keep Darkness and other banned assets out of the hands of City Guardians. Despite our best efforts, pieces like the Red Death, Crimson… and certain Weapons of Sorrow… continue to find their way into City arsenals. But even Guardian killers like those are nothing compared to the ideological threat of Gambit. Gambit leads to Darkness.

And Darkness is the Hive on the Moon, tearing our kind to pieces in the Great Disaster. The Darkness is the Red War, the tower-fall—when the Cabal silenced the Traveler and killed thousands of the last humans on Earth in a single day. The Darkness is the Vex erasing our allies from existence, from memory itself. The Darkness is one man, with the power to deal final death in his fist. The Darkness was the Collapse of the Golden Age.

The Darkness is peace by annihilation in myriad ways.

As a sword of the Praxic Order, it is my duty to seek out those who would consort with or study the Darkness as a religious or paracausal entity. Participating in Gambit is problematic, but Guardians will go to where the guns are. If the Order wants to win this, the Drifter must fall. If I can get solid evidence that bastard is causing demonstrable harm, the Praxic Order will descend on him like a second sun.

I know the Drifter has your ear, but consider this:

There’s more to being a Guardian of the City than power.

The second message from Aunor is quite meta. It implies that Guardians everywhere are shirking their responsibilities elsewhere in the galaxy to play Gambit instead — which is exactly what started happening once Season of the Drifter began. Gambit ties into all the best new gear in this latest Destiny 2 expansion, after all.

The message also mentions weapons like Red Death and Crimson. These are both used to absorb other Guardian’s Light (i.e. their magic powers) to heal the wielder, which makes using them ethically and morally gray. They are not sanctioned by the Vanguard, and using them in the Crucible is frowned upon in-world.

In a lore post on Bungie.net, Aunor revealed that the death of Cayde-6 was caused by a special kind of munition called a “Devourer Bullet.” That’s awfully similar to the one fired by the notorious hand cannon called Thorn. Thorn is a Weapon of Sorrow — a poisonous gun built from the ground up to devour a Guardian’s Light — similar to the others we mentioned. It was only available in the original Destiny, but came to Destiny 2 during Season of the Drifter.

And you can see why the Praxic Order might be concerned about something like Thorn.

Destiny Drifter Lore

Message from Aunor III

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

[The transcript has been bundled alongside the shattered remains of a Ghost.]

This Ghost belonged to a renegade Guardian, recently deceased in a shootout with Praxic elements in the City.

His Guardian, an equally dead Titan, went by another title:

Dredgen.

This pair were ideological followers of Dredgen Yor.

No reason for veterans of the Red War to brush up on late Dark Age history, so in case you haven’t heard: Yor was among the first of our kind to kill another with the heretical use of Darkness. Even a Guardian can’t come back from that.

All those who used his name in recent history belonged to an outlaw group called the Shadows of Yor. No two of them can agree on Yor’s true ideology, but all strive to consort with the Darkness for power. According to the testimony of his former fireteams, Drifter was one of them. And might still be.

The group hasn’t made an appearance in a long time. There are rumors of new “Dredgens” taking up the mantle at the behest of the Drifter. All relatively young Guardians: the Old Russian cohort or the Red War. Not the old blood of the original group.

You might be one of them. Or soon could be.

Just know that I’ve confirmed some, perhaps all, of the old blood are back in town. The Ghost you hold in your hand belonged to one of them.

And I would not be surprised if the renegade who hunts the Shadows, the Hunter who forged the Golden Gun itself, was close behind.

I don’t know why the Shadows have returned, but there are possibilities:

To Drifter’s chagrin I’m sure, it’s no secret City Guardians are playing with Darkness in the form of Gambit. Maybe the Shadows want to actively recruit. They’ve tried and failed in the past to put the use of Darkness into Guardian arsenals.

But the Drifter and the Shadows could be at odds. The man is a loner and a cheat, building as many bridges as he burns in the Guardian community. He has true allegiance to nothing and no one but himself. It’s possible he’s gathering Gambit regulars to defend himself from his own kind.

Or the Dredgens are here to help their ally, the Drifter, with the operation of Gambit or some new, unknown goal.

I share all this with you hoping for your confidence. The Drifter is not to be trusted. Involve yourself with him and the Dredgens at your own risk. Even if you carry their name, it’s not too late to make the right choice.

Don’t end up like the Ghost in your hand. He did not die well.

This message deals with Dredgen Yor and the Shadows of Yor, which we are led to believe Drifter was once a member of. This complicates things greatly. The short version is that Dredgen Yor was a renegade Guardian. It appears he has some philosophical followers who have taken up his name, too. And Dredgen, of course, is the in-game title awarded to players who finish an obscene number of Gambit challenges. So are players unwittingly associating themselves with this boogeyman from the Destiny lore?

The history of the title goes even deeper. You can get the full story on Thorn, The Last Word, Dredgen Yor, and more in this absolutely incredible video (embedded below) by MynameisByf and many equally passionate Destiny fans. It’s absolutely worth your time and attention.

The third message doesn’t stop there, though. In it, Aunor admits even they don’t entirely understand the Drifter’s motivations. But possibly the most interesting tidbit is that the player’s Ghost — your Ghost (voiced by Nolan North) — once belonged to a Dredgen in the past.

“The Renegade who hunts the Shadows” mentioned by Aunor is none other than Shin Malphur himself — a.k.a. “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Shin is the Guardian who killed Dredgen Yor and crafted the fiery Gunslinger weapon most Hunters know and love. So… he’s kind of a big deal in The Lore.

It’s likely that Shin will appear, or at least play a major off-screen role in Destiny 2 sometime soon. The events of Destiny 2: Forsaken have alluded to it for quite some time. You can find most of the specifics in the Malfeasance quest.

Message from Aunor IV

The Drifter’s playing you. Gambit Prime isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, it’s an experiment. And he’s luring all of you from the Tower as test rats.

Until today, the heads of my Order believed the Drifter was attempting to craft a throne world, much like the Scorned Baron Hiraks did. Off the death of the Hunter Vanguard.

It surprised me, but we’ve found no evidence in or around the City that the Drifter’s ever actually killed anyone (though there could be a mass grave aboard that destitute thing he calls a ship).

Your excursion today corroborated the stories of multiple Guardians still loyal to the Vanguard: the Drifter’s haul originates from the clandestine power known only as the Nine.

The Warlock orders have only trivial information on these beings, but it would seem the Drifter has been networking beyond forces of Light and Dark. Before him, the Awoken Queen was their only known associate.

As of this moment, I hope I can trust you to keep your eyes open and your reports honest. As one of Drifter’s Gambit Prime candidates, you are among the first Guardians to see what that bastard is doing.

You’re the Vanguard’s eyes and ears in this. I hope you do right by them.

Aunor’s fourth message confirms what players already knew, thanks to The Reckoning: the Drifter has some sort of association with the Nine. That is to say, he knows the mysterious organization that works with Xur, the limited-time Destiny vendor that only shows up to sell Exotic gear on weekends.

Drifter transports players to the Planes of the Nine in a new mode called Reckoning. It’s actually the same location winning teams were transported to after Trials of the Nine in Year One of Destiny 2. Both the Nine and this place are shrouded in mystery, however. But maybe we’ll learn more as Season of the Drifter continues! The trailers for the expansion certainly imply as much.

The Nine are one of the biggest mysteries in Destiny lore right now — both in the real world and in-game. Even the Vanguard want the player to keep an eye on things as they continue to explore both Gambit Prime and Reckoning. More information about the Nine, the Drifter, and their business together should be coming soon.

Message from Aunor V

TYPE: VANGUARD CASUALTY REPORT
PARTIES: Two [2]. One[1] Guardian-type, Class Titan [u.1]; One[1] Guardian-type, Class Warlock [u.2]
ASSOCIATIONS: Emerald Coast; Cathedral of Scars; Legion’s Folly; Kell’s Grave; “The Drifter”; Gambit; Gambit Prime
//AUDIO UNAVAILABLE//
//TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS…/
[u.1:01] What do you have? Arcite’s the only one watching up there.
[u.2:01] European Dead Zone, Earth: three Guardian fatalities.
[u.2:02] Dreaming City, the Reef: two Guardian fatalities.
[u.2:03] Nessus, Unstable Centaur: one Guardian fatality.
[u.2:04] Tangled Shore, the Reef: three Guardian fatalities.
[u.1:02] …I know.
[a sudden distortion in the feed from Light-based radiation]
[u.1:03] You missed. And you ruined my wall.
[u.2:05] If I wanted to hit you, you’d look like that wall. What happened to stepping on him the second something went wrong?
[u.1:04] Those Guardians knew the risks. We take them every time we raid the outer edges or run a strike. Gambit’s the same. These were not “Thorn” incidents. In each case, non-Guardian hostiles caught Ghosts unprepared. The Crucible’s for them as much as us.
[u.2:06] He doesn’t watch those arenas like you do. He’s reckless.
[u.1:05] We need him. It’s working.
[u.2:07] If we lose another Guardian, he’s out. Did you forget how many of us died that first night of the war?
[u.1:06] I buried all the ones I could find before the dawn.
[u.2:08] How about we stop burying Guardians altogether? Get him in line. Or I’ll kill him and his Ghost myself.
//END TRANSCRIPT

CORMORANT-ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

I stole that transcript myself. Thought you should see it.

Your friends are dying on the Drifter’s watch. How long before it’s you?

The Order is in a state of paralysis. Half of us want to restrain the Ghosts of the Vanguard and the Drifter all at once, and have them face Praxic justice. But that would shatter the peace in the City, irreparably.

Meanwhile, the Shadows of Yor continue to have a presence in this City. And no Golden Gun in sight to contain them. The Man must be busy.

It seems the fate of this town rests on your shoulders once again. The choices you make in the coming weeks could affect more lives than any bullet you’ve ever fired. Consider that.

And consider this:

The Drifter is polluting minds, driving Guardians away from what he nebulously calls the “Traveler’s dogma.” He’s turned a lot of minds onto the idea that Darkness is a tool worth using.

This City was built on a foundation of fighting the Darkness and everything it stands for: the erasure of order, individual empowerment over the common good. The Hive and the Taken live to serve their gods. The Traveler empowers humanity to live.

He says otherwise, but the Drifter is not above systems. That armor he’s offering you in his so-called “Reckoning” represents a choice in a system of his making. He’s just here to disrupt the natural order for personal gain, and he doesn’t care who dies for it.

The Vanguard is relying on you more than ever. Against the Drifter. Against themselves.

You’ll know what to do.

I have Dredgens to hunt.

The fifth message from Aunor continues to try to paint the Drifter as an evil entity. But this is where things get interesting, because the Guardian’s next course of action is important.

When visiting the Drifter, he offers the Guardian a choice between him and the Vanguard in the Allegiance quest. Choosing the Vanguard in this situation, basically siding with Aunor over the Drifter, will open up a questline that will lead to more messages from Aunor. Choosing the Drifter sets you on a different path.

The next several messages are a part of the Allegiance quest when you side with the Vanguard.

Message to Aunor

You compose an encrypted message to Aunor of the Praxic Order. Along with a brief statement of solidarity, the message contains transcripts of your conversations with the Drifter, as well as data packages detailing Drifter’s “Gambit Prime” and “Reckoning” operations.

Your Ghost has also provided specifications for the modified Gambit bank you saw while …within? …aboard? “the Haul,” and included engram prints of the ontological armor you forged at the Drifter’s instruction.

The Vanguard and the Hidden will want to know that Drifter’s material resources are expanding in scope: from Light and Dark to the cold unknown of the impossible world he’s found—or created—within the Haul. Ghost’s spectral analysis confirms that it’s unlike anything you’ve encountered in the Ascendant Plane. But the readings reminded him of the Third Spire, the trial grounds of the beings known as the Nine.

You don’t know what the future brings, but you know you will meet it with a clean conscience.

Message from Aunor VI

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

This is stellar casework.

And I’m glad you stayed the course. Having a hero of the Red War go rogue and side with the Drifter is not a scenario I wanted to consider.

You’ve provided critical information on the Drifter’s operation, but I need to know who his facilitators in this system are. Someone’s providing him with raw materials to build his gear, and I know his accounts with the City don’t have the kind of Glimmer to pay. Vanguard territory’s been flooded with rogues since Gambit became the Tower’s favorite pastime, so it could be anyone.

My Ghost made some microphones for you, infused with Praxic wards. We’ve put them through rigorous durability testing.

Anything short of the impact point on a Sunbreaker’s hammer, and these things will keep recording.

Bug the Drifter’s hovel in the Annex and find out who’s supplying him. I’m off to the lower boroughs of the City to see if I can head off one of Drifter’s jobs in person.

Praxic Flame be with you.

Message from Aunor VII

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

I got the feed from your Ghost.

Head to Titan if you’re not halfway there already. Drifter and the Spider have worked together on occasion. But it can’t benefit Spider to let the Drifter expand his influence in the system. So why help him? I wonder if the Shadows of Yor are involved—maybe pressure on the Reef at Drifter’s benefit?

Local Hunter dens are reporting renegade incidents across the Shore. I haven’t been out there since Cayde died. Gambit’s been generating a lot of paperwork for me.

I’ll check it out.

Message from Aunor VIII

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

Drifter wants a bullet to the head? If not for the Vanguard decree, I’d oblige tonight.

Your trip to Titan let me round up a couple wannabe Dredgens out on the Tangled Shore. No casualties, civilian or Guardian. And a half dozen perps and their Ghosts restrained. Drifter was paying them to transport Motes to the Shore.

If Motes of Dark stay in Gambit, there’s nothing I can do. Vanguard decree means Drifter is free and clear. As soon as I see anyone carry Motes outside that context, going to anyone but our rat in green? Their Light belongs to me.

Those six will face Praxic justice. Perhaps exile. We haven’t had to lock anyone up in decades.

If the Vanguard thinks the Drifter hasn’t changed things, I can’t help them. And we’ll continue to clean up their messes.

You’re doing good work. Praxic work. If you’re going to continue, I need you to keep attending Drifter’s games. You’re my eyes. He’ll allow it. The man’s desperate. Probably has been his whole life.

Meanwhile, I’m looking into the Nine again. The Haul was enough impetus, but that voice you heard? That was their Emissary. I don’t know much about her, but she’s wrapped up in this mess somehow.

Surveillance Transcript

TYPE: Survelliance Transcript
PARTIES: Two [2]. One Guardian-type, Class Multi [u.1]. One Guardian-type, Class Titan [u.2]
ASSOCIATIONS: Drifter, the; Derelict, the; Dark Ages; possible explosives link
//AUDIO STORED//
//TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS…/
[u.2:0.1] You finish your project?
[u.1:0.1] Yes, ma’am. Planted ’em all this morning.
[u.2:0.2] Tss.
[u.1:0.2] Don’t look at me like that. Why you lookin’ at me like that?
[u.2:0.3] There are simpler ways—
[u.1:0.3] Not everything’s got to be simple, darlin’.
[u.2:0.4] I think you’re a coward. Just look ’em in the eye when you do it.
[u.1:0.4] Heh. And if it goes wrong?
[u.2:0.5] Then it goes wrong! Blows up in your face. Who cares! You’re immortal. Not like it’s gonna kill you.
[u.1:0.5] This is some real Titan braggadocio right here. You know, back in the Dark Ages—
[u.2:0.6] “There were no classes,” blah blah “dogma” blah blah. Save it for the rookies. You get tired of this City or your bomb shelter up in the Derelict, the frontier’s always waitin’.
[u.1:0.6] It surely is, sister. It surely is.

//KEYWORD ANALYSIS//
planted them = to plant a seed, an idea, a bomb
look them in the eye when you do it = to behave honestly, to perform an act of violence
blows up in your face = to make a mistake, to trigger an explosion
bomb shelter = a structure designed to provide protection against the explosion of a bomb

//CONCLUSION//
No direct threat detected, but consistent use of explosives metaphor merits field investigation.

Message from Aunor IX

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

Your Ghost passed along another couple of transcripts. Broke into the Derelict, did you? You’ve got good instincts.

Seems to me that the Drifter’s picked himself a protégé. Probably another young war hero, like you. If he’s writing down his “lessons,” maybe he’ll write down the one scrap of truth that we need to nail him to the wall. Chase the rest of those “tapes.”

In the meantime, I followed up with my colleagues about the Nine. Used to be that every couple years or so, somebody would get to talking to Xûr, then they’d decide that they were going to be the great mind to crack the mystery of the Nine. Go off to find them. Bunch of Cryptarchs, mostly. A couple Guardians. Then the Light went out during the Red War, and one last ambitious mind went out in search of providence: a Sunbreaker by the name of Orin.

She came back as the Emissary. Set up the Trials, said the Nine were standing ready to judge the worthiest among us—for what, we don’t know. Seems they like strong warriors. The disappearances have stopped since then. I should note here that a couple people called those disappearances “abductions.”

Word of advice? Try to keep emotional language out of your reports.

To the knowledge of the Praxic Order, the Nine aren’t allies of the Darkness. We’ve got solid intel from Reef spies that the Awoken Queen’s working with them now beyond the system. Could be that they’re up to no good, but—whatever’s out there is apparently more important than all that suffering in the Dreaming City, and every Corsair I’ve talked to believes that through and through. I believe their belief. The Awoken have too much self-respect to live under a bad leader. Bad’s different than popular, of course.

Anyway, I don’t think the Nine or their Emissary intend to harm you—not right now, at least. It’d be helpful if we knew what they wanted with Drifter, but… That investigation is up to you. If you pursue it and you get a whiff of trouble, you tell me.

Just remember the rest of us when you’re out there changing the fabric of spacetime, or whatever the hell it is they do.

Message from Aunor X

CORMORANT-LEVEL ENCRYPTED MESSAGE FOLLOWS. AUDIO UNAVAILABLE.

Thank your Ghost for me. The analytical work you’ve both done is worthy of induction to the Praxic Order. It’s too bad the Vanguard keeps you so busy.

This is the end of our investigation.

Those tapes you found contain the scraps of truth that we’ve been hunting all this time. It’s just not the truth that I was expecting—I’ve been looking at that man expecting a dangerous criminal mind. Living, breathing, evil the likes of Dredgen Yor, and instead, I got… What. Tragedy? Pathos?

Well.

He’s pathetic, all right.

I’ve made my final report to the Order, and I am comfortable with the decree they’ve issued: the Drifter shall remain under close watch, but he presents no direct threat for as long as he cooperates with the Vanguard and Lord Shaxx. This brings us into consensus with the Vanguard’s standing judgment.

The Shadows of Yor that Gambit conned out of hiding have been thugs with guns and Ghosts, mostly. They have less bite than the Dredgens of yore. Little wonder Shin Malphur didn’t show up. These fools aren’t worth his time.

I’m trying to take this as a lesson in the dangers of presumption, but in my defense, the Drifter smelled like a rat. Still does.

I’ll see you out in the field. I’ve got paperwork to file.

The final three entries in the “The Warlock Aunor” lore book are lengthy lore entries that reveal more about Aunor, the Drifter, and even Shin Malphur. Take a look at them below.

The Salt Mines

In a campsite on a cliff above the salt mines of Trostland, a man with a Golden Gun held two Guardians hostage. Behind them, an ashen silhouette smoldered on the cliffside.

“I gave you every chance,” said the man with the Golden Gun. “Any last words?”

One hostage lifted his head and took a breath. Before he could speak, his skull erupted in a bloom of Arc Light. A Void arrow lanced through the air and lodged in the throat of the second hostage. He slumped over, falling against his dead companion.

The man turned to look in the direction of the shots. The Golden Gun blazed bright in his fist.

The Ghosts of the dead Guardians materialized to resurrect their fallen charges—but were cut short as two restraining bands whistled through the trees and snapped across their frames.

The Ghosts fell, enervated by Arc pulses flowing from their restraints.

Loose pebbles murmured down the cliffside as six Warlocks dressed in black dusters entered the camp single-file. They all carried Quitclaim shotguns.

The man did not move.

The woman leading the Warlocks stepped closer to the man. She held out a Cormorant Seal, fearless in the light of his ever-burning Gun. “Aunor. Praxic Order.”

“You’re interrupting important work,” he said.

“Stole the words right out of my mouth,” she replied. “These Ghosts are coming with us. No more killing. Your reputation won’t protect you.”

“Your jurisdiction ends in the City,” came the reply. “These two are my problem to solve.”

Aunor glowered. “They’re third-degree offenders. Consorting with the Darkness on a material level only, collecting and concealing illegal artifacts. We’ll rehabilitate and reeducate them if we need to.”

“And they will continue behind your backs. They’re already addicted. Power corrupts.”

“You’re costing us Ghosts—means to fight enemies of humanity. These Guardians represent more than potential Dredgens—”

“Men like this will destroy you from within.”

“Based on the sins of one man?”

“My struggle is older than yours, Warlock Aunor, and it will be here when your Praxic laws are forgotten and the Last City is dust.”

“You, and Shaxx, and the Vanguard, and all the deal-makers are going to get the City killed.”

The man traded his Golden Gun from one hand to another and sighed. Aunor racked the Quitclaim. Her Warlocks followed her lead.

The man stood. “Shaxx wouldn’t like it if you all came home in pieces. Take them. I’ll be watching. They so much as breathe wrong and they’re mine.”

He walked into the forest, fist still aflame. The campsite fell to darkness as he disappeared.

“Secure the Ghosts,” Aunor ordered her team, holstering her weapon to begin a thorough sweep of the site.

District 125

The Shadows had her Ghost. They had somehow gotten their hands on restraint tech—Praxic tech.

She’d have to follow up on that some time. If she lived.

No Man with a Golden Gun. No fireteam. No backup.

She had been chasing a lead on a group of new-blood Dredgens, taking her Sparrow over Veridian Bridge to a local Gensym lab. But the Shadows were waiting for her.

From a hidden vantage point on an overpass above, a single rocket from a shoulder-mounted launcher had obliterated the road in front of her. She’d been thrown straight off her machine.

In that split second, she saw Bahaghari had tried to catch her in a beam of Light, but with a telltale whistle and snap, a restraining band had silenced her Ghost. She was falling by then.

She leaned into the roaring wind, transitioned her fall into a dive. The impact and temperature of the water shocked and chilled her to the bone as debris rained into the lake around her.

She started the long swim toward shore, toward a road she knew would take her to the overpass.

**

She pulled up onto the overpass on a hijacked Pike and looked down at the smoldering wreckage of the bridge where she had fallen an hour ago. Bahaghari was nowhere in sight, but her helmet’s visor picked up an echo of Void discharge from a sniper’s vantage. It was consistent with the launch pattern of a shoulder-mounted Countess SA/2.

She patched it back to Drifter, and in return, he gave her the coordinates of three possible Shadow safehouses in the area. Without Bahaghari, she had to input them manually to her tracker HUD.

She selected the farthest one from her position and gunned the Pike.

**

By the time she pulled up to an abandoned warehouse in District 125, the Shadows had already ransomed her Ghost on several City bands. They wanted clearance to take their jumpships out of the system by midnight. Without clearance, they’d kill Bahaghari.

The Vanguard ignored the missive entirely. Renegades were not to be negotiated with. Not even Osiris himself. And these Shadows were no Osiris.

The maglev train coming from Core East roared on a rail above. The next train would arrive at midnight.

She could see a light on the top floor of the rust-red building, and the silhouettes of several people.

“I’m not on that floor,” Bahaghari said. Aunor started.

“How—”

“I hacked the restraint. It’s Praxic tech. We’ve got a renegade in the Order.”

“Worry about that later. You said you’re not on the top floor?”

“No. The basement. Under the street. Building’s empty except for us. Don’t even think about a breach, you’ll need a team. Or a Gjallarhorn.”

“Don’t have either, Bighari.”

“Don’t even think about it.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You never call me that unless you’re about to do something stupid.”

**

She had never driven a maglev train before. She liked the feel of power in the front car, watching the world hurtle past.

The train was empty. She had ordered all the passengers and the conductor off before she’d requisitioned it. You could convince people to do almost anything with a Cormorant Seal.

The turn came rushing up, and she keyed a control on her wrist.

A series of proximity mines on the rail and the barrier that supported it exploded, and the train hurtled forward through the smoke and fire—

Down onto a rust-red warehouse building far below.

**

She could see everything Bahaghari could see, even in death.

For those inside the building, it was like the world was ending.

But her Ghost was free, heading straight for the front car of the train that had impaled the upper floor of the warehouse. A pair of injured Shadows, the only survivors, were right behind her as she came up to Aunor’s slumped body, her eye blazing with Light.

Aunor emerged from a radiant column and ducked under the bleeding Shadow’s haymaker, slamming a blazing palm into his gut. She burned straight through him and rolled forward on the momentum, under a thundering shot from the second Shadow’s hand cannon.

She transitioned the roll into a stiff sidekick from the ground, shattering the man’s unarmored knee. She mounted him as he fell and bludgeoned him unconscious with a rain of burning elbows.

Bahaghari came up behind her. “There are three more bodies… somewhere under this train. What now?”

Aunor stood up, covered in blood and ash.

“We take their Ghosts. Alert the Vanguard. We have five renegades in custody.”

Aunor found her duster in the train cab, tattered and badly burnt. She put it on, clasped her Cormorant Seal in place, and sat next to the bodies, waiting for her prisoners’ Ghosts to materialize.

Her radio clicked.

“No casualties. You did well,” Ikora said.

“Are you speaking as the head of the Warlocks or the head of the Hidden?” Aunor returned.

“As your friend. You slipped, but you saved it. Zavala and I appreciate your help in this. It’s imperative—”

“That Drifter and Gambit continue, yes.”

“Aunor.”

“Yes.”

“Are we good? We’re asking a lot of you.”

“I don’t ever want your job. And the City needs that rat man’s connections and his means. If he can bring Orin back to us…”

“Mm. Let’s talk more in the morning.”

She looked out the viewport at the burning train rail above, and the ruins of the warehouse around her.

She supposed this was her life now.

Civilian Atrium South

Drifter rounded a corner in the Bazaar, and grabbed a cloth hanging from one of the stalls.

He ducked a gate, passing through a little-used doorway into a civilian corridor. As he walked, he wrapped the cloth around himself, covering his head and hiding his face. He changed his gait and his posture by degrees as he walked: moving a little slower, hunching a little lower. When he emerged into the next atrium, it was as though he had aged by sixty years.

Spotting a group of elders basking in the sun, he shuffled over to sit down as one of them.

“You new here?” one of them rasped.

“Always feels like it,” he replied in a reedy lilt.

“I know what you mean,” the elder said, staring at a squad of passing Titans whose armor reflected the sky. “They always stay the same,” he gestured at them. “Everything around them changes on their whims. For good or ill.”

“You’re not wrong.” It wasn’t what he had meant. Once traffic died down, he could head straight for the Annex. No Guardians to pester him about rules or payout changes to Gambit.

He hated going out there with the Lights. Their earnestness pissed him off. He only did it ‘cuz he had to eat. What he loved about Gambit was one thing, and one thing only: delectable Motes of Dark.

The bench creaked as someone sat down beside him. He didn’t bother to look up. They’d go away eventually.

“Turns out your info was solid,” a voice said. “To my surprise.”

He turned to look, and saw a woman: brown-skinned, crooked-nosed, with intelligent eyes and a hard stare. She wore a black duster, and light armor underneath. A Warlock. He didn’t know her. “You’ve mistaken me, my dear,” he quavered.

She handed him an intricately designed slate about the size of a Titan’s fist. A Cormorant Seal.

“The info you sold us on the Shadows was solid,” she repeated. “Are you switching sides?”

He blinked. No use pretending. He dropped the act, sitting straighter. “I’m on no side but my own. Are they alive?”

The elders to his right frowned and began talking lowly amongst themselves.

“All but one. We couldn’t get there before our mutual friend started his work.”

“Those three were idiots. Chasing legends. No danger to anyone but themselves.”

“I don’t think you have a good gauge for that. But they’re in custody now.”

“If you’re done, I’d like to spend more quality time with my blanket and these crusty fellows.”

“We listened to your protégé’s tapes,” she said.

“You bastards,” he said, with no fire in it.

“The Vanguard think they can use you,” she said.

“And what do you think?”

“You’re a criminal not to be trusted. But… Orin gave you a chance.”

He turned to look at her.

“And I think you think you can bring her back,” she continued. He said nothing, but he didn’t look away, either.

Aunor stood up. “As you were.”

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Scott Duwe

Scott has been writing about video games for the better part of a decade, with bylines at sites like PC Gamer, Dot Esports, Red Bull Esports, and more.

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