Chapter 1

We must each walk our own path, find our own way, every step forward unique to the lives we've led, the choices we've made. Yet we're connected. All of us. By choice. By consequence. By random luck, and those steps taken and decisions made. Our individual lives shaped by the person we were, the person we are, the person we claim to be, the person we hope to be—the stages of our singular existence. Or so we tell ourselves, lost as we are in our own stories. In truth, there is no "I," no singular existence. Never has been. Never will be. You. Me. Your fireteam and friends. Your allies and enemies. All lives move with—collide with—other lives, for better or worse, to form the whole of a lifetime (lifetimes?).

It took me a long time to understand this: None of us are alone. I call it the "first understanding"—it's a bit of an inside joke. But I think maybe you get it. In fact, I'm quite certain you do. That's why I'm writing you. That's why now, after a life removed from the bigger picture, I'm risking everything I am on a simple bet—that you are different. That you are better. Than me. Than them—those who would tempt the dark.

This is what I want—need—you to understand. Your path is not your own. It is shared. It has impact. It carries consequence and creates wake, both obvious and unseen. And the path you're currently walking is… concerning. For yourself, whether you see it or not. More importantly, for others. For those you may—those you will—influence. Collisions yet to come. New paths unimagined. Collateral impacts beyond the narrow view of your own life. Have you considered this? I ask not to sway you; you will find your way, and I will hold off judgment until judgment is necessary. I ask because we are at our best when considering the fallout of our intentions—good or bad, grand or small. That's all I'm after, here and now…

Your consideration.

Of the deeds left behind. And deeds yet to come.

Who do you claim to be? Who do you hope to be? And how do the ripples of those answers expand to touch the lives around you?

Think on your life and your actions. And continue ever forward.

I will help where I can, with knowledge gained from a life hunting the very dangers you tempt. And though we'll never meet—our paths crossing at a distance as we each seek to confront all that drives us—from this moment on, our lives will never be the same.

My name is Shin Malphur. And I believe you, Guardian, are the hope I was told was a lie.