"Your regrets will follow you, Empress."
The words grate on Caiatl like sand beneath her armor. The Vanguard could keep their wretched Hive witchcraft; she had sworn to defeat the Nightmare of Ghaul in single combat and cremate his memory on the pyre of victory.
That choice had become yet another regret.
A gravelly voice cuts across the room. "You called for me?"
Caiatl turns to see Saladin Forge step onto the bridge of her flagship. Her honor guard salutes him and steps aside, making way for his approach as she greets him with a nod.
"What are your thoughts on Eris Morn?" Caiatl asks him.
Saladin raises an eyebrow. "She's endured horrors I can scarcely imagine. And she survived. She clawed her way out of that dark pit and back to the Tower."
"And what do you think about her use of Hive sorcery?" Caiatl seethes.
"Many initially distrusted her for it. But were it not for her… expertise, the Last City would have fallen to the Hive long ago," Saladin replies.
"That justifies consorting with such foul power?"
At first, Saladin says nothing. Instead, he turns his eyes to the viewport; to the Cabal fleet, arrayed in a blockade surrounding the Leviathan.
"None opposed allying with your empire more than I did." His voice is measured, almost introspective. "I hated the Cabal. Now, I serve on your War Council."
His eyes meet hers once again. "Your soldiers wield the same weapons that slaughtered Guardians in the Red War. But that does not make you my enemy. Nor does Hive magic make Eris yours."
Caiatl glances at her honor guard. When Saladin first joined her War Council, her soldiers regarded him with equal parts suspicion and contempt. Now they show him the deference and respect befitting the title of Valus. Ghaul would have never condoned it.
But she is not Ghaul. And that is something she does not regret.
"Open a channel to the H.E.L.M.," she orders. "I have matters to discuss with the Vanguard."
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