This was once the city of Freehold, a thriving metropolis of the Golden age, one that could rival all others. Its defenses were impeccable, Earth had Rasputin but Mars had it’s own Warmind, no one thought this mighty city could fall. That was until the Darkness came, without the protection of the Traveler, the sands took back what was theirs. It ate everything
“clothes from skin, skin from bone.”
And it became as if there were never any people here at all. Only but the tallest skyscrapers remain, the rest buried by the red dirt.
Much time has passed since the first explorers landed on Mars but the memories are still fresh. Memories of the astronauts that first made contact with the Traveler. Humans had tracked the Traveler as it entered the solar system and its terraforming abilities did not go unnoticed. Venus and Mercury changed in an instant, human life was now possible. The Traveler ventured to Mars, orbited and then settled. It was in range and the humans reached out with open hands.
Commander Jacob Hardy, led the spaceflight Ares One. He and two fellow astronauts were tasked with making first contact. Thousands of citizens watched the pre-flight press conference, the astronauts quizzed on their feelings, their fears, how they would handle representing a whole planet. Hardy responds to the press
“What I wish I could convey is the- the exhilaration. That’s the biggest thing. I’m not a spiritual man, but I’ve always believed there’s something transcendent about spaceflight. Something pure. We go out there because we can. Because it’s who we are. I hate that we’re carrying weapons. I understand the necessity. But I hold my belief: there’s something beautiful out there. It’s up to us to reach it.”- Ghost Fragment: Human.
In 14 months, the astronauts had arrived, their ship entered Mars’s atmosphere. They came in perilously hot, trying to select a landing site through the chaos of thickening atmosphere and turbulence that bloomed off the target. The crew brought it in, as they trained, as they had practiced, reflexes and instinct guided their landing.
After suiting up, they left the ship behind, they even planned for a one way trip. Ares One had enough automation to return home in the event of crew loss. Hardy cursed the rifles they were forced to carry, it made them heavy and slow. The terrain was more treacherous than intended however they stuck to the planned route, as they crested the rise, visual contact with the artifact was confirmed. They reached out to the universe, not to grasp profit or security but with an open hand, and they were accepted. They felt the air become moist, it became sweet with oxygen and then…rain. Rain fell for the first time on the millennia-old desert. The Traveler kindled the Golden Age and the beginning of a new life.
Humans lived longer, flew further and knew more. Hardy can attest to that, he and his team, were miles ahead of every cognitive benchmark, well into old age, well into their nineties. The human’s new found knowledge gave birth to vast engineering projects and the city of Freehold was established. With the city’s construction came one of the greatest research facilities in the system, Clovis Bray. Freehold was a privileged city, a realm where the new and the best were born, freed of budget constraints and managers, Clovis Bray proceeded to create some of the most impressive technology of the Golden Age. Brilliant minds flocked to Mars for the opportunity to study at the dream laboratory, to make the next million marvel and all free, all creations belonging to the inventor.
Some speculate that the warminds may have been created at Clovis Bray. The Warminds are powerful artificial intelligences and are charged with the role of protecting all civilization across multiple planets. Like giant weaponised satellites, in the recognition of danger the Warmind responds, the sky opens and admits devastation, a terrible dawn burning all caught in the beam. All the warminds were once thought lost following the collapse, however Rasputin lives and he protects something on Mars. Rumors have circulated that he protects another Warmind which lies in hibernation below the Dust Palace. Hope still remains that maybe one day humans will reclaim Mars.
The memories and hope still lives on, but for now, Mars belongs to the Cabal, well technically it belongs to the Vex. The city of Freehold was an ideal location for the Vex to establish their network, the sprawling tunnels of the subway provided the infrastructure to hide their portals. All of which had laid dormant until now. The Warlocks believe that Mars is not the only planet that hides dormant Vex networks. We already know that the Vex transformed Mercury into a Machine within days, they would have consumed more planets if not for the traveler.
More recently, the Vex presence has increased, returning home, returning to the Black Garden, testing the Cabal’s exclusion zone, fighting aggressively and relentlessly, however they appear to be suffering heavy losses. It is hard to imagine that the Vex could lose. It seems unlikely that an organization with the sheer computational scope of the Vex could be dragged into a losing war of attrition. Is it possible that the Vex are trying to draw out the Cabal strength? Or that their surface losses are a distraction from a deeper strategic ploy?
The Cabal are by no means weak, a military race where their only tactic seems to be ‘slow advance.’ A culture of grinding mountains to dust rather than building around it. Their lifespan is unknown but stories are told of Cabal that are still present who witnessed the Golden Age. They have a rigid military hierarchy with the title of Valus be given as the highest military rank, the only force that exceeds a Valus, is the High Command of the Empire. There is one sure way to meet a Valus, all you have to do is follow the giant tracks of his land tank. His name is feared throughout Meridian Bay, and the tread-marks left by his tank have come to signify the expansion of the Cabal’s ever-widening Exclusion Zone, his name is Valus Ta’aurc. The title of Valus is closely followed by Val, then Bracus.
Like other races, the Cabal have designated units with specific roles.
The Sand Eaters, have been deployed for the longest and despite their weariness they continue to pursue their objectives with determination. They form the numerical base on Mars and if you venture there you likely will meet a Sand Eater and the experience will not be pleasant. The Dust Giants are handpicked from the Sand Eaters, veterans of combat, heavily conditioned and act as a mobile reserve, rolled in to blunt major Vex offensives and reinforce crumbling lines.
The Siege Dancers are the elite, deployed into unsecured areas to take control and set up fortifications. The Blind Legion is locked in an endless war with the Vex, deployed to defend vital artifacts seized from the Vex, the Legion holds its ground with fanatic zeal. Blind Legion soldiers brave one of the most thankless, grueling assignments in the Cabal order of battle: descending into buried ruins and black catacombs to sweep for Vex presence. Their efforts have been rewarded and the Cabal control a Garden Spire, directly linked to the Black Garden… well they did control a spire… until we used it to charge an eye of a Gate Lord’s.
The Cabal technology seems at first simply destructive, there is little grace but all will agree they are effective. Rifles shoot micro-rockets and tanks possess tremendous power, in fact the Goliath’s main gun is almost certainly capable of engaging spacecraft. Their infantry use jump packs to launch themselves into the front line, their heavy armor is not only defensive but represents the needs of their previous home planet, which had increased gravity. There is one unit though, that stands out, of a different species to the Cabal, the Psion. No one knows whether they are mercenaries of the Cabal or were an alien force that joined out of survival. They are smaller, faster and more unpredictable. However, they possess strong psionic capabilities, including the ability to emit disorienting and deadly psychokinetic Arc blasts.
The Cabal hide an even more powerful weapons, the Psion Flayers. The extent of their ability is still uncharted, but Cryptarch studies and Warlock fears have led the Vanguard to classify them as a serious threat. Many among the Warlock orders believe the Flayers pulled Phobos from its natural orbit, holding it in place, waiting for the order to release the moon as a weapon. Phobos can still be seen spinning in its unnatural orbit. We have witnessed this technology before with devastating effect, the Queen used her gravity weapon, the Carybdis, and pulled an asteroid from it’s orbit, slinging it at her enemies. What is more concerning, is the Psion Flayers have actively tried to control Mar’s Warmind, luckily they slowed by Rasputin and then destroyed by a team of guardians.
The Cabal’s motives for invading Mars is not fully realized, it was once assumed that the Cabal are chasing both Vex technology and the research secrets of Clovis Bray, trying to further advance their weaponry and military prowess. They have bunkered down in the city of Freehold, taping into Clovis Bray’s system, searching, whilst the Cabal’s Blind Legion seek to acquire Vex artifacts and structures to use to their advantage. There is a vast Empire behind these creatures, many star systems away. Some believe that the Cabal still pledge allegiance to that far Empire, still obeying their ancient marching orders.
Some have a different viewpoint. The Cabal are not invading, they are running. Their home world no longer exits and a ghost is believed to have found evidence of this, a hologram of a spinning golden planet, in stasis, turning gently can be seen at many terminals. You can see the storms moving over its face. But when the Commanders congregate below it, when they activate whatever controls are below, it changes. Fissures appear on its face. Is that their home? This is not military plans, this is not vision of worlds they have destroyed, this is their home planet, destroyed, succumbed to the storm of darkness.
They did not abandon Mars’s moon, Phobos, they were taken. Guardians now unknowingly use the abandoned Phobos base as a playground for their Crucible. Some say that the Cabal Empire still stands, whilst others protest that the Cabal on Mars are the last survivors. We are unsure of where the Cabal empire resides but some think you could follow a trail of shattered worlds all the way to their home… maybe they are right, the trail of shattered worlds leads here, Mars, this is now their home. It is possible, that the high command of the Empire saw their demise and gave the ancient marching order, abandon their home world, destroy all in your path and re-establish the Cabal on another planet. They attack the Vex out of survival, they dig through the ruins of Clovis Bray for survival, desperate for technology that could save their race. The Cabal could never admit to a retreat, so they disguise their weakness and failure as an invasion.
Perhaps the greatest evidence for this lies within the Hive cauldron. A cauldron is a tool used by dark sorcerers, for experimentation and to conjure unspeakable evil. It was the ritual site of the Hive to present sacrifices, where forms of life were given an audience with the reigning monarch and judged before the power of the Darkness. These are the first test subjects of the Taken. Their bodies failed and tossed to the side. We now fear that the Hive have perfected their formula without killing their subjects and have begun to form a Taken army, led by their King, Oryx. The question is, if Oryx is the King, then who is Queen in this Monarchy.