Chapter 8

This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory…

The words seep experience into your open mind…


Calus's tomb-carriage overlooks the viewing chamber once again. All his forms stand around a garish mass of metal and apprehension: the crown, as he called it. Fewer crew members attend this communion after so many failed attempts. Gilly and I stand above a host of chattering carcasses. Plugs can cables run from them into the flesh of an Ether-logged Scorn beneath an ugly crown. The gold from the Castellum is flush with tarnish, stemming from some kind of lichen that had burrowed its way into the precious metal adornments since the last communion attempt.

"I thought gold doesn't stain," I say to Gilly. "It's an expression of purity."

"Like the Light?"

"Mm," I grunt. Gilly fixates on the crown, on the viewing window and the depth beyond.

Bahto takes the spot next to me and leans against the railing. "Are all Guardians ruled by uncertainty?"

Councilors approach the crown.

"Bahto, in my experience, people who are too sure of themselves tend to die." The Councilors place their hands to the crown, and suddenly, I am greatly aware of this room's stillness. Our tilt.

Bahto raises his voice over the intensifying chatter. "Your Ghost speaks to the Scorn, as much as they can."

"Curious, that's all. Looking for an angle, something we can use. Ain't that right, Gilly?" I ask, trying to hide my suspicion.

Gilgamesh says nothing, iris frozen ahead as the viewing curtain completes its retraction.

Velocity surges forward to the anomaly, tearing away the surrounding reality. The sound of Calus's feverish multi-fold laughter drowns the hull's groans for mercy. It's different this time, not a passage. It's a wall. We crash hard—but not all at once. It's a steady tumbling impact. Always down. The cosmic bands bend around us and shutter as they're drawn into thin bright needles of diminishing relevance. Peripheral obliteration mainlined and burnt through. The space between each needle of light expands until. It. IS.

The transition is like a reluctant membrane; a depth of souls frozen over and wailing. The ice grinds against itself at the ecliptic barrier between form and expression.

We cross: sunless. Adrift on empty currents with no direction.




"Where's the emperor?"

FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: They keep an offshoot of the hangar locked. If no one's using it…