Bite-sized Backstory 57: The Showdown at Dwindler's Ridge

For decades, Shin Malphur hunts the man who killed his friend, mentor, father figure. Shin and Yor finally met atop a place called Dwindler’s Ridge. And… this is how it played out. I don’t often quote large portions of Grimoire Cards, my goal is to summarize and make available, not to copy and paste, but this showdown is one of my favorite scenes in all of Destiny’s lore. It is a scene that deserves to be read:


We stood silent, the sun high.

Seconds passed, feeling more like hours.

He looked different.

He seemed, now, to be weightless – effortless in an existence that would crush a man burdened by conscience.

My gaze remained locked as I felt a heat rising inside of me.
The other spoke…

“Been awhile.”

I gave no reply.

“The gunslinger’s sword… his cannon. That was a gift.”

My silence held as my thumb caressed the perfectly worn hammer at my hip.

“An offering from me… to you.”

The heat grew. Centered in my chest.

I felt like a coward the day Jaren Ward died and for many cycles after.

But here, I felt only the fire of my Light.

The other probed…

“Nothing to say?”

He let the words hang.

“I’ve been waiting for you. For this day.”

His attempt at conversation felt mundane when judged against all that had come before.

“Many times I thought you’d faltered. Given up…”

All I’d lost, all who’d suffered, flashed rapid through my mind, intercut with a dark silhouette walking toward a frightened, weak, coward of a boy.

The fire burned in me.

The other continued…

“But here you are. This is truly an end…”

As his tongue slipped between syllables my gun hand moved as if of its own will.

Reflex and purpose merged with anger, clarity and an overwhelming need for just that… an end.

In step with my motion, the fire within burst into focus – through my shoulder, down my arm – as my finger closed on the trigger of my third father’s cannon.

Two shots. Two bullets engulfed in an angry glow.
The other fell.

I walked to his corpse. He never raised his cursed Thorn – the jagged gun with the festering sickness.

I looked down at the dead man who had caused so much death.

My shooter still embraced by the dancing flames of my Light.
A sadness came over me.

I thought back to my earliest days. Of Palamon. Of Jaren.

Leveling my cannon at the dead man’s helm, I paid one final tribute to my mentor, my savior, my father and my friend…

“Yours… Not mine.”

…as I closed my grip, allowing Jaren’s cannon, now my own, to have the last, loud word.

“Yours… Not mine.” is easily my favorite quote in all of Destiny. It was already a powerful line, but knowing the history of it, how it was both a confident, forceful statement, and a memorial to a lost friend, makes it so much better. It would make a great ending… but this is not the end of the story of The Last Word!

Unless killed in unusual ways, Guardians are immortal, meaning Shin does not just grow old and die happy. Similarly, the call of the Darkness and the Hive did not go away just because Shin put an end to Dredgen Yor. From here, Shin Malphur takes it upon himself to put a stop to any Guardian who would dare meddle with the powers of Darkness like Dredgen Yor did. And, once he becomes known as a feared boogeyman restlessly and ruthlessly devoted to the Light, Shin goes a step even beyond that…

I hope you’ll join me next time as we begin to delve into the frightening Legend and thought provoking truths behind The Man With The Golden Gun.

Bite-sized Backstory 56: Thorn vs The Last Word

For the next several years Jaren Ward stays at Palamon after freeing it from Magistrate Loken. We know that Shin Malphur thought of him as the town’s savior and eventually came to think of Jaren as a friend and father figure.

The Fallen were still a major problem for Palamon, however. It sounds like the town gets hit hard by Fallen raiders again. Jaren Ward and a few of the toughest survivors leave to give chase and possibly to prevent that group of Fallen from coming back. Four days later, someone new comes to what was left of the town. This man is tall and dark and solemn. Shin recalls that there was an intense sadness about him, but that he was polite and took up a room. This is Shin Malphur’s first time meeting Dredgen Yor.

Something happens soon after and we find Shin and a few others out in the wilderness having put Palamon’s “ash” to their backs. The lines get a bit hard to read between, but we learn that Shin and those with him were seeking vengeance for something. Could just be the fallen attack, but I think there’s a strong chance they are hunting Dredgen Yor. We have another transcript featuring the corrupted Guardian being drawn into a loud conversation with some local bandits one of which wants to see his gun, Thorn.

[u.1:0.1] Can I see what you got there?
[u.1:0.2] Yer cannon…can I see it?
[u.2:0.1] I know you?
[u.1:0.3] Not that I can say.
[u.2:0.2] And you wanna hold my piece?
[u.1:0.4] Just that I never…seen one like it.
[u.2:0.3] No, you haven’t.
[u.1:0.5] Looks dangerous.
[u.2:0.4] Seems, maybe, that’s the point.
[u.1:0.6] Suppose so.
[u.1:0.7] Can I see it?
[u.2:0.5] Not likely.

Dredgen Yor banters with the leader of this group of four men for a bit and takes it unkindly when the leader states as “fact” that no one has ever been to the moon. The men begin to threaten Dredgen Yor and after warning them off in his own sort of way Yor finally has enough of their tough guy acts and guns three of them down. He saves the leader for last. This man who had wanted a look at Thorn now gets to stare down its barrel as Dredgen Yor explains to him about the nightmares of the Hive and how they will soon be coming for them all. And then the leader, too, is murdered.

Now, there is nothing that directly says this sorta old west bar room “conversation” happened in Palamon, but just nine days after Palamon is reduced to ash Shin Malphur and his group of Palamon survivors encounter Dredgen Yor again. I don’t think they were hunting Fallen because Shin notes that they had accidentally wandered into Fallen territory as they tracked the trail of something or someone. Along the way, some of Shin’s group are killed, “gunned down”, we’re told. But, what’s left of Shin’s group also meet up with Jaren Ward, and together they continue tracking their target. Jaren has an intense confidence that keeps the group going even though hope seems to be lost. But then, everything falls apart late one night.

A crack of gun fire then several more echo through the woods… These shots sound familiar, perhaps even comforting to the group. They’ve come from Jaren Ward’s prized hand cannon, but, tragically, they are not the last word this time, as one sickly, unfamiliar shot answers Jaren’s several. Afterward, there is only silence.

Everyone back at Shin’s camp knows what has happened. Jaren had gone out alone to engage “the other”, the same thing Shin termed Dredgen Yor when he met him, but this time Jaren Ward was not coming back. Those with Shin soon leave fearful for their lives. Shin, though, stays and searches for his mentor. Shin doesn’t find Jaren Ward, at least not at first. Instead, he finds Jaren’s still very much alive Ghost. The Ghost has something for Shin: Jaren Ward’s hand cannon. Dredgen Yor left it for Shin. How do we know? Because Dredgen Yor and Jaren Ward’s Ghost have a little conversation after Yor permanently kills Jaren Ward with a single shot from Thorn. The conversation between the two is interesting for a few reasons:

  1. Both the Ghost and Dredgen Yor agree that Shin Malphur is special. We know that of course, since we know Shin’s history of being revived in the Light by his long lost Ghost when he was nothing more than a baby. But we’ve also gotten some little indications that Jaren Ward and his Ghost knew Shin was special. We now learn that Dredgen Yor knew, as well.
  2. Dredgen Yor tells Jaren Ward’s Ghost to give his Guardian’s gun to Shin Malphur. Yor calls it a gift. He calls it giving the apprentice his master’s sword. The Ghost thinks that Yor is mostly just trying to further anger and sadden Shin.
  3. Jaren Ward’s Ghost calls Dredgen Yor a monster. Yor responds by alluding back to when his own Ghost called him that before they parted ways.
  4. Jaren Ward’s Ghost also argues that Dredgen Yor is not just a monster or an evil force of nature, but that he’s still a man that can be killed. And Dredgen Yor agrees that, yes, in that there is a sliver of hope.

Now there are two ways to look at this forth point, and I think both are valid. On one hand, Dredgen Yor is someone we have quoted as saying “Nothing dies like hope.” He is probably gifting Jaren Ward’s gun to Shin Malphur to fuel that hope so he can crush it too.

But, and we’ll get into this a whole lot more very soon, Dredgen Yor is also agreeing that there is hope that maybe he still is a man who can be stopped, who can be killed. It will take someone very special to stop him, Dredgen Yor knows, and maybe he thinks he’s found that person in Shin Malphur.

Next time I get to take y’all through one of my very favorite encounters in all of Destiny: The Showdown at Dwindler’s Ridge!

Bite-sized Backstory 55: Rezyl Azzir & Dredgen Yor

If Jaren Ward was the embodiment of Light and Hope, Dredgen Yor was what you get when that hope dies. You see, long before the Titan we know as Dredgen Yor became perhaps the worst, most corrupted Guardian in history, he was a man known as Rezyl Azzir.

Rezyl was one of the Risen. One of those found by their Ghost before the Iron Lords, or The City, or the concept of Guardians existed. Rezyl, along with legends such as Zavala, Ikora Rey, and Lord Saladin saw to it that The City’s great walls were built in the first place. Rezyl was a hero, a bringer of hope. I love this quote about Rezyl Azzir:

The noble man stood. And the people looked to him. For he was a beacon – hope given form, yet still only a man. And within that truth there was great promise. If one man could stand against the night, then so too could anyone – everyone.

There are some great stories of Rezyl’s accomplishments. In one, he charges an entire Fallen Ketch on his sparrow knowing he’d be killed in the process. But he has a plan. He had his Ghost hang back. When the Fallen Kell and his troops came out to parade Rezyl’s lifeless body as a prize, Rezyl’s Ghost slipped into the crowd and quickly revived him. Alive again, Rezyl unloaded on the Kell with his hand cannon Rose and then:

In one motion, Rezyl rose from a crouch, his fists clenched and raised high as a storm of Arc Light built within him, his full might raining down on the Kell’s chest. The shockwave of Rezyl’s attack hit like a meteor, shattering the Kell’s body and any Fallen within the Havoc storm’s radius.

Through cleverness and strength, Rezyl had managed to kill a Fallen Kell, one of their highest ranking leaders!

In another story, Rezyl tracks a group of Fallen to a small town nestled in the snowy, tree covered mountains. Although it is not named, the town is almost certainly Palamon. Rezyl saves the town and leads those that are willing back to The City, but some stay behind. This might very well be the event that set Magistrate Loken down his bad path. And for Rezyl, this is yet another time that he does good and saves lives, but only after evil and suffering occur. We learn here that Rezyl is tiring of the endless war and is realizing that the good that he does is never enough.

By this point, Rezyl is a hero known far and wide beyond The City, but there are shadows growing in his mind. Shadows coming from a specific place. From the Moon! There were stories and legends of an evil far worse than the Fallen pirates that Rezyl and other Guardians had been fighting. This is a man who is already slowly losing hope after centuries fighting the Fallen, but Rezyl is also a proud man who is trying to push forward and be the hero he is expected to be despite his fears. So, at some point, Rezyl goes to investigate the strange calling he has been hearing from the moon.

On the moon, Rezyl soon finds and begins to investigate the Hive structures that have long been silent. This is long after the Hive emerged once before and killed thousands of Guardians, and long after Eris Morn and her fireteam managed to kill the Hive god Crota which banished him temporarily from our world. Rezyl’s Ghost notes that the Hive are all supposed to be gone. Once they lost Crota they fell silent… and yet the giant doors of the Hive structure Rezyl is investigating creek open for him as soon as he arrives. The Hive have been waiting for him. They have been calling to him. They invite him in.

Rezyl leaves his Ghost behind with instructions for it to run for help if he doesn’t return. He then proceeds down and down into the depths of the Hellmouth until he encounters waves of Hive being lead by a Hive Wizard. Rezyl does his best, but even his Rose is not enough to save him… and yet the Wizard and her Hive do not kill him. Instead she taunts him, goads him, and plays upon those fears that have been growing in his mind. She show him that the Hive are preparing to reemerge and that there’s nothing he nor The City will be able to do to stop them this time. And then, cruelest of all, she lets him leave.

Two days later, Rezyl emerges back on the lunar surface, but he has been permanently changed by his experience. One of the first things he does do is begin to affix some of the tough, cursed bones of the Hive he fought and killed to his hand cannon Rose. Later, perhaps after warning The City about the reemergence of the Hive, Rezyl spends one last day looking up at the moon while struggling with himself. He was a hero. Someone who spread hope wherever he went. He saved towns and killed alien leaders and helped establish a Last Safe City whose walls now guard millions. And yet, all he can do is look up at the moon in fear of what is coming.

In that cool evening air, as dusk was devoured by night, the noble man ceased to exist. In his place another stood.

Same meat. Same bone. But so very different.

The first and only of his family. The sole forbearer and last descendent of the name Yor.

In his first moments as a new being, he looked down at his Rose and realized for the first time that it held no petals: only the jagged purpose of angry thorns.

And so, the man that was Rezyl Azzir dies, and in his place stands Dredgen Yor. As Yor, Rezyl leaves a gash of death and destruction in his wake. We don’t hear a lot about his deeds, one of the few acts we do know about is that he uses his corrupted Rose, now called Thorn, to permanently kill Thalor, a famed Crucible Champion. It is clear from surrounding context in Destiny’s lore that Dredgen Yor becomes infamous and feared by even Guardians of The City. After that Crucible match he is likely driven out of The City after which he continues to wander and continues to sow destruction wherever he goes.

Interestingly, Dredgen Yor’s Ghost stays with him through everything he does. But, eventually, Yor even sends his Ghost away. We have a transcript of the final conversation between Yor and his Ghost. We learn that his Ghost never even really considered leaving his side, not because it agrees with the terrible things he is now doing, but because, as his Ghost says:

I rekindled your Light, it falls first to me to aid in its survival.

Ultimately, though, Dredgen Yor convinces his Ghost to leave by talking up how he now only inspires hope so he can crush those that have it all the more. “Nothing dies like hope” he is quoted saying. But there is one very interesting thing at the end of this transcript that needs to be pointed out. Something important for the future:

[u.2:5.5] If you cannot let that man go, you will forever taint his legacy. All the good I have ever done will be washed away in the fire of who I have become. (Note: u.2 is Dredgen Yor speaking)
[u.1:5.3] If you care, there is still some promise within you. (Note: u.1 is Dredgen Yor’s Ghost speaking.)
[u.2:5.6] If I am being honest, I care only to give hope to the frightened, huddled masses so that when I come upon them they will have more to lose. Their pain will be greater. Their screams more pure.
[u.1:5.4] You…
[u.2:5.7] Nothing dies like hope. I cherish it.
[u.1:5.5] You’re a monster.
[u.2:5.8] Finally, you see the truth.
[u.1:5.6] [REDACTED] is truly dead.
[u.2:5.9] So I’ve said. Long live Dredgen Yor.
[u.1:5.7] This is farewell, but you can only run from your sins so far. In the end, you will die alone.
[u.2:6.0] Maybe so. But I gotta tell ya… I tend to like my odds.
[u.1:5.8] Your tainted “Rose” will not always save you.
[u.2:6.1] Old friend… It already has.

Yes, Dredgen Yor wants to be remembered as the hero Rezyl Azzir for the sole purpose of crushing the hopes of those he next murders, but that one final line, “Old friend… It already has.” is very curious. We’ll come back to this transcript in a bit. For now, I’ll just tease by saying that Dredgen Yor’s Ghost was right the first time.

We don’t have anything even close to a timeline of what Dredgen Yor does once he and his Ghost part ways, but we do know he eventually returns to Palamon, the town he once saved. By doing so, one of the darkest, most twisted Guardians we have record of will come face to face with Jaren Ward, one of the best and brightest.

Next: The Last Word vs Thorn

Bite-sized Backstory 54: Jaren Ward

Even though he is the gun’s original owner, Jaren Ward is really just a minor character in the story of The Last Word. He came to the town of Palamon nestled in the snowy, tree covered mountains one day like a heroic gunslinger out of an old western. He walks in from the south and everyone stares but no one talks. That is, until someone we recognize, Shin Malphur, the child of light, now a growing boy, breaks free of his adopted father and races out into the street to greet the newcomer.

Jaren is described as a Hunter that wears a racing helmet with thick tinted visor. So, shift your mind from straight western, to something with a little more sci-fi. He silently greets this kid that ran out to him, but also knows there’s something special about him. Shin, for his part, looks Jaren over in awe, but his gaze is soon fixed upon Jaren’s golden hand cannon. Jaren notices this and instead of chastising the boy or driving him away, he leans down and holds out his gun for this kid to inspect and hold. This is the first time Shin Malphur ever gets to hold The Last Word.

No one really moves after that. You have this sorta high tech western gunslinger with a Ghost floating over his shoulder standing in the street. You have towns people all crowded around waiting for something to happen. You have a young boy in awe, holding a very special gun for the first time. But they’re all waiting on someone. On Magistrate Loken. Loken is someone who started like all the other people who founded Palamon. He started out as the town’s overseer. He was someone who helped enforce the rules they’d all agreed on. But, over time, Loken became stricter. He began to enforce his will over everyone instead of just maintaining order. We’re told he lost people, but unlike most others, unlike Shin who barely remembers his parents and a small spark of Light that he tries not to dwell on, Loken’s losses eventually broke him.

As Loken grew more and more dictatorial people left. Palamon shrank. Soon, its people lived under one man’s rule… Loken’s rule… until Jaren Ward shows up. I don’t think we see Jaren and Loken’s first meeting, but we do catch up with Jaren Ward after he has done something to set Loken off. I’d like to think Jaren Ward took a few days to understand the situation in Palamon then decided to change it. In response, Loken sends nine men to surround Jaren in a courtyard and then he comes to confront the Hunter himself.

Loken does the classic villain thing. He struts and taunts and threatens Jaren all while Jaren just stands there calmly with his hands on his belt. The exchange ends like this (as recounted by Shin):

“This is our town! My town!” Loken was shouting now. He was going to make a show of Jaren – teach the people of Palamon a lesson in obedience.

Jaren spoke: clear, calm. “Not anymore.”

Loken laughed dismissively. He had nine guns on his side. “Those gonna be your last words then, boy?”

The movement was a flash: quick as chain lightning. Jaren Ward spoke as he moved. “Yours. Not mine.”

With those words and Jaren’s quick movements, Loken falls dead in an instant, and his men back down almost as quickly. From then on, Palamon is a free town. Jaren stays and helps. We don’t know a lot about his activities after freeing the town, but we do know two things:

  1. He becomes a new father figure to Shin Malphur, watching over him and teaching him for several years.
  2. He would sometimes lead hunting parties to track down and kill Fallen who got to close to town.

It’s while Jaren Ward is away on one of these hunts, several years later, than a second stranger with his own very special gun strides into Palamon. If Jaren Ward was the embodiment of the Light, this new man is his opposite, someone smothered in Darkness. And nothing good will come of it when these two meet.

Next time, we’ll work our way through the long history of the man best known as Dredgen Yor.

Bite-sized Backstory 53: Child of Light

Destiny has a lot of lore. There are so many good stories that you can pursue and so many different types to read. Sci-fi, drama, epic fantasy, political intrigue, you can find all these and more, you just gotta pull on the right thread. But one of my favorite stories, and one of Destiny’s oldest and longest, has all of the above. I want to tell you the story of The Last Word, an iconic exotic hand cannon that itself has been a huge part of Destiny’s gameplay and was, at least at one point, at the top of Destiny’s multiplayer meta game. The story of The Last Word begins with a ravaged Earth and a new wave of alien invaders.

In the Dark Age, that time period after the Darkness was driven away by the Traveler but before The City was well and truly established by the victory at the Battle of Six Fronts, much of Humanity was spread across the remains of our world. Some cities, like London, apparently survived the Collapse. Probably they weren’t well off, but they were still places people could live. Then the Eliksni came. These “Fallen” aliens were fleeing their own equivalent of our Collapse. They too had barely survived an encounter with The Darkness. They were beaten and bloodied and desperate from decades or centuries of fleeing from their homeworlds all the way to our star system. They were looking for the Traveler which had abandoned them and they were looking for any advantage they could give themselves. No matter the cost. Sentient lives? Plundering the ruins of a civilization in need? The Fallen were far too desperate to give such concerns any attention. We even have some references and reports saying that the Fallen would eat humans when food ran short!

What was left of Humanity was furthered scattered by the Fallen. Cities like London fell to an enemy that still had ready access to starships and high technology. Smaller towns lived in fear, and were often forced to run for their lives when the Fallen found them. But, over time, Ghosts began searching the world for their Guardians. As decades passed, Ghost who had yet to find their Guardians took it upon themselves to help the pockets of humanity they could. A Ghost can fabricate. It can scout. It can deliver food to the hungry. We find one such Ghost assisting a small group of humans on the run.

When this group first sees this Ghost they are wary. To them, it is another alien. But, in time, they come to see it as a helper. They name the Ghost Tiānshǐ, which is Mandarin for Heaven’s Messenger. Some even think the Ghost is an actual angel! The Ghost is quick to deny this, but it keeps the name, nonetheless. Along with this small group of Humans, living presumably somewhere in or near China, is a single very young child. The child’s mother and father, and the groups as a whole, did their best to care for this baby despite the tough times they found themselves in. And the baby? It had a fascination with the Ghost. After gaining their trust, Tiānshǐ began the long task of leading the group in the directon of the The City, but one day, while hiding in a cave in order to avoid a Fallen Skiff, the worst happened. The group, some thirty strong, had lost two thirds of its members in a recent Fallen attack. And then they lost one more. We not told if the baby was sick, or malnourished, or injured, but it died there in that cave in his mother’s arms.

Tiānshǐ, who was outside keeping lookout, heard the mother’s and father’s cries and turned back and saw something new. This Ghost had been sad for a long time. It had given up fining its Guardian and had turned to help this struggling group of Humans in an effort to do at least some small amount of good. This Ghost had never seen even a hint of the Light it was looking for… until now. Back in the cave, held tightly in the grieving mother’s arms, was the Spark Tiānshǐ had never been able to find! This makes sense. Ghost only revive the dead. This child could have been the Ghost’s companion all this time but the Tiānshǐ would never have known it.

The Ghost approaches, but hesitates at first. Tiānshǐ wonders what kind of life it will be imposing on a child that was not even old enough to talk. But, quickly, Tiānshǐ remembers that its true purpose is to deliver hope, and almost as a reflex it ignites the dead child’s Light. The baby that was lifeless moments before begins crying once more stunning the eight others huddling in the cave. Tiānshǐ is proud of what it did, but the small… enormous… act of reviving the child is not something that will save this group of humans. Not all of them.

Just a few months later Tiānshǐ’s group is on the run from the Fallen again. They’d been spotted and soon they were chased down and began to take losses. The reborn child’s mother is killed. Then his father. We’re told this group had developed a bond tighter than that of a family after having shared so many close encounters, so as a matter of course, others in the group pick up the child as they continue to flee. Tiānshǐ flees with them, but it soon makes a choice. It is all but programmed to protect the child any way it can, so, when there is no other option, Tiānshǐ veers away from the group it had been guiding the last few months and makes itself a target. It successfully leads the Fallen away, but is unable to escape them. Tiānshǐ notes in its final transmission that by this point the Fallen have long learned that killing a Ghost can save many, many of their own lives in the future, so they hunt Tiānshǐ relentlessly!

In Tiānshǐ last moments, it notes that no matter what happens the child will be safe. That he has been adopted by a brave but careful man and woman who will look after him. Tiānshǐ final message, apparently picked up and archived by some other Ghost nearby, is joyous and heartbreaking:

I am not sorry for the choice I made. The child gave hope, though fleeting. What comes next for him is unknown. But there is promise in him, should he find sanctuary. Should he find guidance.

This is not a confession. This is my hope. This is my—

The next time we see this child he is now a boy named Shin Malphur who survived that fateful encounter with the Fallen and who has grown up in a small settlement called Palamon. It’s there that he meets two men, one Light, one Dark, who change the destiny of his life.

The story of The Last Word is tied to these two men at least as much as it is tied to Shin. To understand this story we need to take a look at both of these men. So that’s what we’ll do next time.

Bite-sized Backstory 52: A Power Unknown

Once the dust settled and the fires of the Fallen attack were put out, Mara takes stock of her Awoken. One in three of them are gone, either killed in the Fallen’s attack or else they left and have gone to try and aid the Humans on earth.

For the Awoken that remain on their ships with Mara near the large asteroid Vesta, new work begins. As Mara says to Uldren,

…never again can I allow my people to be divided. We must offer them more than shielding ice and cold habitat cylinders and the warrens of Vesta. We must make a culture, a thread that binds us all in pride and wonder at the mystery of ourselves. Nowhere does culture flourish better than in a city.

But do the Awoken have the population or spare resources to build a city? Perhaps not. Even before the mutiny, Mara was insistent that the Awoken’s first goals were to restart their industry and grow their population. Now, with a third of her people gone and their fleet even more smashed by the Fallen attack, the Mara’s Awoken are stuck in a venerable position. Uldren is quick to voice this, nothing that gathering in one place, like a city, will just make them a target.

That when Mara gives one of her most fateful orders of all time. An order that will lead to her own death and the death of her brother. An order that will trap her Awoken in an endlessly repeating cycle of heartbreak and carnage. An order that we still have not yet seen all the implications of. She says:

Go forth and find me a power unknown to all the other powers of this world. Return it to me, and I shall make of it the cornerstone of my new city, where the Awoken shall dream of all they have been and all that is yet to come.

Uldren does so, and when he returns, he has with him a tiny lizard-like creature barely bigger than his hand. He say to his sister:

Behold, Sister, the lie that makes itself true. This is an Ahamkara.

The Awoken continue on from this point. They build a great network of cities and stations spread among the asteroid belt. At Mara’s command, they put themselves in harms way not once, but twice, in order to save Humanity. And, of course, Mara Sov, Uldren Sov, Sjur Eido, Petra Venj, and Mara’s Techeuns continue all the way up to Destiny’s present day.

There are still some great stories to tell about the Awoken, but next I’d like to tell perhaps the greatest Destiny story of all. Next I’d like to lead you through the great twists and turns of The Last Word.

Chapters Referenced:

Revanche II
Telic I

Meet Magma

“I think they know we left…” Magma hears one of her companions say. A quick glance at the three rock-walled tunnels behind shows that to be one fabulous understatement. Coming down each tunnel are elite guards with weapons drawn and torches in hand. And ahead of them, backlit by the flickering flames? Spiders! Thousands of them! Maybe tens of thousands all spilling forward down each tunnel like three dark waves.

“Just how are we supposed to fight that?” One of her companion asks.
“Well, what else can we do? I can just see the exit, but no way we’re makin’ it…” another says.
“Yeah… but… but, uh…” a third trails off fearfully.

“No worries. This is why I never let the rest of you make me take a night watch. Being well rested has its advantages!” Magma says cheerfully to the others.

“Mag… what could you possibly…”
“No… she’s got this… but we may want to all step back. And cover our ears.”

“Yes. Thank you,” Magma says with a hint of sarcasm. “I know I’m talented and you all think the world of me, but I’ve got one shot at this, so no distractions or we’re all spider food…”

Having said her warning, Magma slowly walks towards the approaching threats. The distance, where the three tunnels merge into her group’s one, is just about right. And she is well rested, despite her companions goads and complaints about her needing a “beauty sleep.” And… she’s tried this before. Several times. Was even successful a few of them…

With a few seconds to go, Magma works to control her breathing. On each inhale, her dark Genasi skin glows a brighter, more fiery red, and on each exhale it dims again down to its usual darker brown. Then, when the time is right, when the spiders and their few handlers are the correct distance, she springs forward, yelling an incantation as she goes. Twin bright orange pinpoints of light form in her hands. After two or maybe three steps, Magma plants her front foot and let’s her momentum carry her into a fast, artful twirl. As she spins she releases one pinpoint of light towards the first tunnel and another towards the second. Halfway through her 360 degree turn she yells out with effort and no small amount of pain as she manifests a third point of fiery light which she releases towards the remaining tunnel as she spins back around.

The massive expenditure of energy and magic sees her collapse forward onto her hands and knees with not even enough strength to look up to the results. But then, she doesn’t need to. The three bright points streak to their destinations at the mouths of the three tunnels before exploding into searing fireballs that light walls and shake the ground. Spiders and men are consumed in the triple blasts, and any who aren’t are soon crushed or trapped as the three narrower tunnels cave in on themselves.

It takes almost a minute for Magma to open her eyes and notice a friendly hand being offered to her. The fingers that wrap around her’s as she’s pulled to her feat are warm to the touch. That’s something she hasn’t felt in… well… ever. There’s never been a case where she hasn’t been the more warm-blooded one out of her companions.

“I think maybe… I overdid it…” she says weakly as a chilled shiver passes through her body. But she still manages to crack a smile. “I feel like I’ll need another beauty sleep ‘fore trying that again.”

That earns her laughter and smiles all around as she and her companions make their way out of the secret tunnel and head back towards their rewards of wealth and glory.

Magma is a 5th level Fire Genasi for D&D 5th edition. She is brash, charming, quick to anger, loyal, and dangerous. There is little that can stand in her way when she sets out to do something, though she does, on occasion, overextend herself, which is why it’s good that she travels the world adventuring with an diverse oddball collection of friends. Here character sheet can be found here, and her triple lutz fireball attack is legal… once per day.

Steins;Gate: 12 Episodes In

I just reached the halfway point of Steins;Gate, and... huh. Also, !!!.

Let me explain.

I've heard that Steins;Gate is good for a long time now. That it is an anime about time travel with a good set of rules. Basically, that it does time travel right. But that's all I heard and I never really looked into it. So, for whatever reason, I expected an intense, serious, anime. You know, with fate and paradoxes and calculations and technobabble or whatever. Somehow, I never heard that Steins;Gate is funny and witty as hell. Also, I always assumed that the titular "Steins;Gate" was the name of the time machine or perhaps the core principle that made time travel possible. It isn't. Oh, and I really, really did not expect the time machine to be... a cellphone-activated microwave oven.

Instead of being a serious or stodgy show about time travel with uptight characters and some kind of time-based emergency that needs to be fixed or solved, Steins;Gate is a show with a variety of enjoyably witty characters who do a bunch of verbal sparing with each other. Oh, and after a while they occasionally they send text messages into the past.

The dialogue in this show is some of the best I've heard in a long time. Characters argue, they play, they insult, they verbally attack and retreat and claim victory or admit defeat. And, for whatever reason, the English dub is just dang excellent. It is definitely localized instead of translated. The gist of any given sentence or scene is preserved, but the English version may say things completely out of order or in a completely different way or even substitute in jokes that an American audience will understand. But it's brilliant. The voice actors do an excellent job, and because it's a localization, you don't get that slow reading or excessive pausing you sometimes get in some otherwise good English dubs. I'm kinda looking at you Fate/Zero. The dialogue remains as snappy as it is in Japanese and it's just a joy to listen to.

The show certainly builds slowly. I'd say it does a lot of world building, but that's not really true. It's set in a town similar to Tokyo or something. Not much out of the ordinary. Not much to build. But Steins;Gate sorta makes you live with the characters for a good number of episodes so you know them well by the time the real plot begins to kick in. Oh, and it kicks in. Let me repeat what I said above:


This isn't quite a Madoka level twist, mostly because Steins;Gate has been building up to and hinting at this moment where Madoka straight up pretended to be something it isn't, but things just got real. And I think the show is about to switch from a humorous near-slice-of-life to something much more serious. Something that actually demands the use of the time travel it has just kinda been toying with up until now.

I can't wait to see the rest.


Landing Pictures

I found them. Or, what is probably most of them. So, these pictures are the “full rez” 1024×768 versions of the Aftermath landing pictures. One for each world the player could land on. I believe the actual in-game size was somewhat lower and more rectangular, but I’m happy these are the ones I have and not the smaller versions.

Each of these pictures was made in a program called Terragen. The first version. Not the current day version 4 that is used in just about every big name movie you’ve ever heard of. My process started by using the in app tools to randomly generate a height map. Sometimes I was looking for something  specific, like a valley with mountains in the background, but most times I’d generate a map, then place the camera in a few different locations until I found one I liked.

From there, Terragen’s tools were fairly simple but fun to play with. It was all about laying different materials one over the other to get a desired look. You’d place limits on each layer to define where it appeared in a scene. Like, if you wanted grass that existed in a valley but not all the way up a mountain you could set a maximum height for your grass layer. You could also set limits based on maximum slope. So, maybe a darker brown dirt would give way to the lighter colored rock beneath it when a hillside or mountain got too vertical. Layers could have sublayers too, so you could have blue specks of flowers only able to appear in grassy areas without having to redefine exactly where the flowers could show up. So, yeah, simple tools but with some mixing and matching you could combine then to make some pretty stuff.

Oh… hover over the pics for the planet names. Most of them have one. 🙂

Aftermath, Just A Few Years Later

What feels like a long, long time ago, I hung out on the message boards of the Mac shareware company Ambrosia Software. I talked with like minded kids about things like games and movies and tech. The Ambrosia forums must have been my first real push out into the world of internet friends.

Along the way I did my first coding/hacking/game design by making levels and missions and even an interesting Star Trek themed total conversion for the hybrid space action / real time strategy game Ares.

Later, as I got sucked into the world of the space action RPG Escape Velocity: Override, I began my earliest fray into writing and fan fiction. You can still find my series of short stories of Captain Ragashingo and the crew of the heavily armed cargo transport the Indigo Star over at I still write to this day because of those early stories I shared with others on the Ambrosia boards.

A few years later, the third game in the Escape Velocity series, Escape Velocity: Nova, came out and a year or two later this secretive group of mission editors, 3d graphics experts, and storyline writers in our little Ambrosia community started posting the smallest teases of something they called Aftermath. It's wan't quite a Total Conversion where the ships and planets and universe were replaced by a different one, instead it was a surprisingly high quality continuation of the 3rd game's universe set some decades later. It was one of the most anticipated EV:N project going, but very few people knew anything about it.

Around that time I had gotten into making landscapes with a free program called Terragen. It had a Mac version and I got somewhat decent at it. Even won a weekly challenge over at the company's web boards for best landscape created without all the fancy add-ons the PC version supported! Then, one day, out of the blue, someone from this hush hush Aftermath team approached me. They'd seen my work on the Ambrosia boards (I think we had a Just Graphics sub forum or something) and they invited me to join.

Aftermath was even cooler than it seemed. We had so many ship and planet graphics that we were pushing the limits of what the Escape Velocity engine could handle. We had so much story and so many complex missions planned that we were far and away past the limits the engine could support. We got the engine changed and updated to support some of the stuff we wanted to do, but our project was still so big that we figured we'd need to split the experience up into several different parts based on which storyline and faction a player wanted to play.

My poor 400Mhz Indigo iMac DV and later iBook G4 spent night after night rendering for upwards of 24 hours for each individual landing picture. I completed hundreds of them, one for each planet you could land on. I also convinced the other Aftermath team members that I could be a story / mission writer, too. I had a neat plot line called Detective Story in mind where the player could become something of a upstanding bounty hunter and could, with a bunch of tricky behind the scenes scripting, build their own fleet of allies that they could send on missions to help them hunt targets. It would have featured a lot of writing, a strong plot, and, my favorite part, you could also play the same story from the point of view of the bad guys. You'd have to play the storyline twice, once from each point of view, to truly understand everything.

The Aftermath team was spread out across the US with at least a couple of us even further away. We chatted on IRC and AOL Instant Messenger and on our own private boards. We encouraged each other and nagged each other and sometimes had little arguments about the direction of the project. We even once got social engineered into accidentally letting someone into our hidden forums where they stole some of our in-progress work and tried to show it to the Escape Velocity community! Fortunately we had some friends in high(er) places who helped shut that down.

Eventually, the Aftermath project died out. Honestly, most of us were just high school students making our way toward college. Lots of other things became more important. That, and the scope of the project was legitimately quite large, at least as large as any of the Escape Velocity games that sold for $20 or $30 back in the day, and few of us had any real experience managing something that big.

Still, we produced a bunch of cool stuff that never really saw the light of day, and we hand some grand plans to produce even more. A couple of the other team members have revisited their memories of Aftermath in the past few weeks, so I thought it would be fun to join in. Sadly, I don't think I have any of my actual landing pic renders (though maybe one of the other members does? I believe they were integrated into the playable version of our work...) though I do have a few of my best pics that I rendered at a larger size for my 1.2Ghz iBook G4. I'll throw up a gallery later to show those off.

I also have some of the world building short stories and some of the early missions of Detective Story. I'd love to share those and some of the larger concepts of what I was wanting to do with my slice of Aftermath's very ambitious narrative and gameplay goals.

Aftermath may have fizzled, but it was a fun time, and if just a few more things had gone right or even if the internet was a more common medium like it is today, we might have all be paid game developers back then! We certainly generated a lot of interest and respect from our peers in our community. So, here's to Aftermath, by far the biggest and most ambitious of the EVN community led projects!