Chapter 1

There is a saying among the Eliksni:

Ketch is Kin, Kin are All.

Out in the Reef, the detritus of civilization is all there is. Out in the Reef, ruins are as much landmarks as planets and moons. The flotsam of derelict colony ships from the Golden Age flood the atmosphere along with the ruined hulks of Hive ships from campaigns fought against the Awoken. For the Eliksni, finding the wreckage of a Ketch is like finding the ruins of a family home, and all the emotions that come with it. But the societal scars of Eliksni clans have long since vanished, and for those who bend a knee to the Spider in the remote corner of the Reef known as the Tangled Shore, they have lost the privilege of such sentimentality.

A salvage crew was dispatched the week after a small scouting party from the Spider's personal fiefdom spotted the wreckage of a Ketch belonging to the lost House of Kings. The crew chief on the operation, an ambitious Vandal named Kosis, had shed her attachments to a life within that very house years ago. But the choice to leave something behind and the act of doing so are two entirely different things.

Kosis insisted first on surveying the wreck herself, alone, before allowing her team near it. They were to take anything with even a shred of value after unceremoniously cutting the vessel from bow to stern. As they marked it for dissection, she watched them from a nearby escarpment. She looked around and carefully revealed the small bundle of vestiges she personally salvaged from the Ketch: a ceremonial washing bowl, a child's musical instrument, and the cracked ceramic effigy of a Servitor. Kosis covered them with a tattered cloth the color of the setting sun—branded with the symbol of a house she no longer called hers—and buried them.

It was the only dignity this ship would receive.