"If you learn nothing else, learn this: when a Hunter takes up the cloak of a dead comrade, this is a vow."
The sand danced lightly across ground in small waves as the wind moved across the surface of Mars. In the distance the Sun was rising in the East, casting long shadows across the ground from even the smallest of rocky outcroppings. The temperature remained as chilly as ever, with the atmosphere both too thin and too far from the Light to really ever be warm. None of this mattered to Abrihet, however. All that mattered was the body before her, lying propped up against the back of the cliff wall.
The cliff behind the body was was marked with holes and dark spots, each the result of a high caliber round or missile impact. The armor of the Guardian before her, once immaculately adorned with the blue, gold, and purple of the Jester Apogee, now lay in ruin. Scorch marks adorned multiple sections of the armor, and several spots on the chest, abdomen and upper legs were clearly breached. Blood soaked in clumps upon the already red sand, standing out in dark clumps that refused to catch the wind. The Hunter's cloak was tattered and stained in blood, but fluttered still as it caught the wind. Held tightly in the Guardian's left, a Hand Cannon was lain across the legs. Shell casings from the powerful weapon lay all across the ground near the body, testament to its final usage. A short distance away the shattered remains of a Ghost lay sparking upon the ground, the Light gone from its eye.
Abrihet moved carefully to the Guardian's side and squatted down to put herself at eye level with the deceased Hunter. Turning her head to the left she looked upon what would have been his last sight before death took him for the final time. The bodies of dozens of Cabal littered the ground that sloped down before her. Legionnaires, Centurions, and even several Psions were scattered all across the waste. She took note of the glassed sand etched in a zig-zag pattern further down the slope, as well as the cut and cauterized bodies of over a half dozen slain Cabal at every point a directional change was made. The Bladedancer had certainly made a fine accounting of himself before he fell.
Turning her head back to face the Guardian, she stayed silent as she looked upon his masked face. Her Ghost moved up quietly from the other side, its eye darting from the dead Hunter to its master and back again.
"Guardian, is it as you feared? Is it him?" the Ghost asked quietly.
Stirred from her thoughts, Abrihet turned and looked straight at her Ghost, her face unreadable behind her armored helm. The Ghost backed up a bit, its back half whirling nervously before it steadied itself.
"It's him," she said, and turned again to look at the mask of the fallen Guardian. "It's Rajanikant."
"Hello there! I am Rajanikant! It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance!" a cheerful voice announced, rather loudly, beside her.
Abrihet groaned internally as she turned her head toward the source of voice and found another Hunter, at least if that cloak was anything to go by, standing there with his hand extended and ready for a handshake. Ignoring the proffered hand, she turned back and faced the Hall of Guardians, waiting for their mentor to show up. Rajanikant merely let his hand fall back to his side as he too took position and waited.
"Abrihet," she said flatly several minutes later, hoping to mollify the overly curious Guardian beside her.
"Abrihet, is it? What a lovely name. Where do you come from?" Rajanikant asked, quick to pick up on the opening given to him.
"Where do you come from indeed, hmm?" a voice behind them said. Passing between the two startled Guardians walked a third, who arriving before them turned with a flourish of his cloak to face them.
"Why, if you don't know where you come from, how will you know where you're going? You might end up dead. Again. Permanently, even," said the newcomer. It was immediately apparent to both that he was not a human, but an Exo. "Now let's introduce ourselves. I'm Cayde-6, Hunter, Vanguard, mentor to new Hunters, and all around good guy."
Seeing that his new charges were not about offer any information about themselves without prompting, he pointed to Rajanikant. "You go first," he said.
"I am Rajanikant! I was revived in the Indian Subcontinent Wasteland. I am eager to make use of my abilities in the service of mankind," he said with enthusiasm.
"And how about you?" Cayde-6 inquired, gesturing towards Abrihet.
"Abrihet. Sub-Saharan Jungles, African continent," she said.
"Well then, now that we're all on a first name basis, welcome to 'The Tower'," Cayde-6 deadpanned. "And yes, we capitalize both words and put them in quotation marks. We can't understate the importance of 'The Tower', after all."
Behind Cayde-6 Abrihet noticed a dark skinned woman with buzz cut hair standing beside a long table shake her head briefly. If Cayde noticed the motion he didn't comment on it. Making a sweeping gesture with his left arm and turning towards the inner part of the room, he continued with his spiel.
"And this is the 'Hall of Guardians', where we Vanguard stand and watch over all of you as you do your stuff. Over here we have Ikora Rey," he said, pointing to the near end of the table in the hall, "Vanguard of the Warlocks. If you have a question on some matter not even I can help you with, she'll be the one you'll want to talk to next."
The dark skinned woman, now identified as Ikora Rey, took the briefest moment to turn her head and nod at the two before turning back to the datapad in her hand.
"In the back there is Commander Zavala, Titan Vanguard," Cayde-6 continued, pointing to the end of the table where a tall, muscular, and completely grey skinned bald male in formidable armor was standing. His luminescent eyes, marking him as an Awoken, never lifted from the map of the Last City in front of him. "If you find a threat to the City, inform him and he'll see that it's taken care of. Now then, any questions?"
Abrihet turned her head towards the other Hunter, meeting his gaze before turning back to face Cayde-6. With a brief shake of her head she indicated that she did not. Rajanikant must have done the same, for their mentor appeared to smile a moment later.
"Ah, excellent. Now then, let's get you briefed and ready for your first Earth patrol together, shall we?"
Abrihet sighed mentally. It didn't look like she was going to be able to avoid further interaction with Rajanikant after all.
The jungles of Venus were dense, full of foliage from ancient trees and young fern like plants alike. Winding roots covered the ground and thick vines drooped from canopy. Rain drizzled down from above in a light sheet, yet the sunlight made its way through it all well enough for everything to be visible. A comparison to the wild jungles of Sub-Saharan Africa would have been apt, were Abrihet to have paid it mind. As it was, she was otherwise occupied.
Ducking around behind the thick trunk of one of the trees, she turned her head back in time to see the red traces of Slap Rifle fire from the pursuing Harpies slice through the air where she had just been. Bringing her Auto Rifle up and around the tree she took aim at the nearest, sighted on its glowing eye, and fired a burst before she traversed to another target and fired again. The high caliber rounds found their marks and easily tore through the pair of Harpies as they floated in the exposed state they required to engage her. Each exploded and fell to the ground, forever lost in the consuming jungle.
The remainder of the Harpy patrol retracted their wing-like appendages and rolled off to her left in an attempt to flank her. Redeploying their wings, they opened up with their Slap Rifles once more. Abrihet was forced to take cover behind the thick trunk of the tree once more as the beams sliced past her or into the tree. Hidden for the moment she stopped to consider her tactical options while she checked her ammo count. Her Auto Rifle reported that her magazine was a little less than half full; enough for a couple more bursts but not enough to drop all four Harpies that remained without changing magazines.
In the end she needn't have bothered. Four concussive shots rang out from further out to her left, each followed by the explosive sound of a Harpy dying. Stepping back out around the tree she ran a swift visual check of her surroundings. Twenty yards away and fifteen feet above the jungle floor Rajanikant stood on a thick tree branch, smoke rising from the end of his Hand Cannon as he opened its chamber to empty the spent shells. Quickly reloading, he dropped down from the branch and swiftly made his way over to her position.
"That appears to be the last of the Harpies," he said, looking back towards the jungle they had come from. "The Goblins were not terribly far behind them, though. We should keep moving towards the rendezvous point before they catch up to us."
Grunting in approval Abrihet slammed a fresh magazine home in her weapon, making sure to store the spare rounds from her previous one. She nodded in the direction they had been moving towards before they stopped to deal with the Harpies.
"About a hundred yards that way and we'll be out of the jungle and at the edge of the outpost," she stated, bringing her rifle up to rest back on her shoulder.
The outpost in question was where the two Hunters were supposed to meet up with a Warlock that had requested aid in extracting a relic. Unfortunately the approach had been too tightly watched by the Vex and Abrihet and Rajanikant had been forced to transmat several miles away at the outer edge of the jungle. Their bad luck had doubled down on them as well for they had been pursued by bloodhound like Harpies and tenacious Goblin patrols the whole way across.
"Right then, let us get going. We shall not make our fellow Guardian wait for us much longer!" Rajanikant proclaimed.
The two Hunters fleetly wove their way through the remaining bush, careful to avoid tripping themselves in the entangling root systems. They reached the edge of the jungle and stopped to scan the terrain before them. Rising in the distance about two hundred yards before them a three story building stood. Once a sophisticated place of learning and research, the formerly white walls were streaked with yellow mildew. Nearly every window on every floor was totally shattered, leaving it completely exposed to the elements. A small path led to the main entrance where only one of the transparent sliding doors looked to still be attached to its track.
"I don't see any hostiles ahead of us. Stay here and watch for those Goblin patrols while I move up and secure the entrance," Abrihet ordered. "We should be able to deal with them easily if we can establish a position in the building."
"As you wish," Rajanikant responded as he turned to face the jungle, weapon at the ready.
Abrihet raced towards the entrance, her head turned left and right as she went to sweep for signs of Vex that might lay in wait. Halfway across the open terrain she caught a flicker of motion up high. As she looked several Hobgoblin's materialized at the edge of the roof, their Line Rifle arms extended and their baleful red gaze upon their prey. She quickly extrapolated their intended target as Rajanikant, his back turned to this new threat as he watched for the pursuing patrols.
Time slowed for her as she fought to think of a suitable action to take. Even if she shouted a warning, there was no guarantee that her fellow Hunter would move in time to avoid taking shots to his back. Were she still in cover she would have employed her sniper rifle and dealt with them at range, but that was not a feasible option now. Her Auto Rifle had the range to reach the targets, but she would be hard pressed to force them all into a stasis lock before at least one of them fired. The solution came to her as fast as Light. She dropped her weapon from her hands and trusted the strap tied to it to keep it from hitting the ground.
As she extended her foot before her to arrest her momentum in a slide, she brought her hands up, a light shining forth between them. Through exertion of her will she coalesced her Light, gave it form, and weaponized it as a Golden Gun. Faster than thought she lined up her shots on the bright white lights centered in the Hobgoblins' torsos. Sunlight lit up the shadows as each pure beam struck forth and annihilated the would be snipers.
As quickly as it had started, it ended. The flow of time returned to normal as Abrihet slid to a halt. The Golden Gun faded away as she grabbed her slung rifle and proceeded to make a sweep of the surrounding area. As she came around she saw Rajanikant run towards her.
"What happened?" he inquired as he too slid into position near her and conducted his own visual sweep, Hand Cannon extended before him.
"I saw- I saw Hobgoblins on the roof," Abrihet replied. "There wasn't time to warn you. I needed to act."
Satisfied that the visual sweep had discovered no new hostiles, Rajanikant turned and put his free hand on Abrihet's shoulder. Turning her head she found his looking right at her.
"Thank you, my friend. You have saved my life today! I am in your debt."
"I-, I-," she stammered. She paused a moment before she spoke again. "You're welcome."
"Come now," Rajanikant said as he stood. "We must get into the building before the Goblin patrol arrives. We shall let them approach us and render them so much scrap for their follies!"
Abrihet stood and quickly followed him up the path and through the door.
Abrihet reached up and untied her cloak. She quickly folded it and stored it in a satchel on her hip. Reaching gently she untied the tattered cloak from Rajanikant's still form and stood up with it in hand.
"Yes, Guardian?" the floating Light made manifest asked.
"Mark the body for transmat." She gestured towards the sparking remains of his companion. "His Ghost too."
"At once, Guardian." The Ghost turned towards the still body, a bright blueish-white light reaching out from its eye as it scanned and marked the fallen Guardian for retrieval. It repeated the process for his Ghost. Its task completed, it turned back to its master in time to see her finish tying Rajanikant's cloak about her own neck. She hefted her Auto Rifle in her hands and started to walk down the sandy slope.
"What do we do now," it asked.
Abrihet stopped in her tracks and turned her head back to face her Ghost. The battered cloak fluttered in the wind behind her as she spoke.
AN: Abrihet is supposedly a Tigrinya of Ethiopia female name meaning "she has made it light, she emanates light." Rajanikant is supposedly a Hindi name meaning "lord of night." At least according to the websites I took them from.