Chapter 2

When Xivu Arath came for Torobatl , Caiatl was unprepared.

They all were. She'd watched her people, bred for battle and victory, fall to a force that dwarfed their armies. She'd watched her beloved city burn.

Caiatl learned from every failure. From this one, she learned two things: First, that warriors were not game pieces, no matter how much her generals enjoyed bickering over war tables. And second, that a society of warriors could not hope to beat a god of war at her own game, and by her own rules.

There were shades of victory. Escaping their homeworld with so many survivors was a victory. Regaining their army was a victory. Avoiding an all-out war with the Guardians would be another.

Except the Guardians would not negotiate.

She hadn't expected it. She'd thought that after Ghaul's attack, they would do anything to avoid another war. Catastrophe seemed to befall this system time and time again, if the Red Legion scribes stranded here were to be believed. So why did the Guardians refuse a way out?

She knew why, of course. It was why she'd waited so long before giving the evacuation order in Torobatl. Why she'd been mesmerized by the towering form of Xivu Arath crushing thousands of years of civilization beneath her chitin boots.

Denial. Pride.

But Caiatl had grown since then. She'd counted her losses. Calculated constantly. Always working the numbers, never losing sight of who they represented.

The Guardians would have to grow as well, if they wished to survive. For there were gods walking through this world, and the battle against them would not be won through denial and pride.

They would have to cut a new path.