He always survives.

Helmet in one hand and torch in the other, Saladin Forge marches through the snow. He can sense the wolves emerge around him; only three of them come into view, but this group has followed him on his patrols since the Devils raided the Plaguelands. He has given up dissuading them. They’re defending their territory, and Saladin can relate to that. But they will not last long.

Nothing does. Not the Golden Age. Not the colony ships. Not the impenetrable walls of the Cosmodrome.

Not the Iron Lords.

He discards his torch, and glances up to see a familiar glow reaching out from the dark. He smirks. A horde of Devil Splicers returns his stare from the wreckage of the wall ahead.

The Splicers are doomed. Just as the Iron Lords were, when he and his allies opened that vault. As Fallen continue to pour through the gap in the wall, they remind him of his friends in their final moment: a crimson pulse beats in place of their hearts. SIVA.

He puts his helmet on as an Iron battle axe forms in his hand, the air around him bursting into flame. The first wave of dregs approaches. Saladin breaks into a charge, swinging the axe to bear as he smashes into a storm of steel and weapons fire.

As his axe bites, again and again, Skorri’s Iron Song haunts him. He calls upon Radegast’s strength. Perun’s sense of purpose. Timur’s questions. Felwinter’s cynicism. Silimar’s persistence. Gheleon’s reasoning.

Jolder’s smile.

He pounds the last Splicer priest like a burning hammer, blasting a crater into the snow and gravel. Frozen dirt rains down on the spent shells and the mounds of Splicer corpses that surround him. The Warlocks of the City have described meditation to him. He imagines it feels like this.

He always survives. When nothing else does.

“Lord Saladin? What’s your status?” calls Shiro-4 through his audio feed.

“Just— Taking a walk,” he says, staring at the fifteen-foot divide he broke in the earth. He had to meet SIVA again. One last time.

“I’ve analyzed the Clovis Bray data.”

Timur always said that Clovis Bray was the key.

“Can you break the Splicers’ hold over SIVA?”

How different would things be, had Saladin listened?

“Theoretically. Temporarily.”

Would his friends still live? Would he?

“It might be enough. Perhaps our Guardian has turned the tide. I’ll be there shortly.”

He sees the wolves have formed up around him. Eight of them.

He always survives.