Chapter 4

Namrask thunders into the warren on all sixes, crying out, "We must go! Death walks the ice!"

Oeriks, Eoriks, and Yriks spread the word. More come than Namrask dared to hope. He warns them, "We must hide close to the Machine-spawn and steal supplies, or radiation and Ether-lack will bring us down."

They leave. But not an hour later, a rifle round punctures Namrask's armor. He barely staggers, but the jet of air and Ether exploding into vacuum thrust him backwards. "A Guardian," he warns. "It will call its kin." Guardians love to gather like carrion eaters over easily slain and looted foes.

Another round hits Namrask's helmet. "Those with scattercloth, give me your capes!" In exchange for the first cape, Namrask shoves his loom into a Vandal's arms. "But this is priceless," she protests. "You cannot give it!"

"I will return for it," he promises. Feverishly, Namrask stitches the capes into a blanket as blood trickles down the inside of his armor.

He fires his shrapnel launcher into the ice to kick up steam: "Like this!" he shouts. "Make a cloud and run!" They shoot into the ice and flee. As the ice storm settles in Europa's low gravity, Namrask crawls towards the Guardian under a blanket of invisibility. Occasionally, he emerges long enough to be seen, so that the Guardian will hunt him instead of the others.

The Guardian comes for him.

Namrask huddles against the ice, slowly freezing. The Humans are such gangly mockeries of the Eliksni form: two arms, two eyes in a smooth, lifeless doll-face, stubby little teeth. He remembers the Guardians he has killed—eight times. He has never revered Ghosts.

He remembers the smell of burning flesh. Ordinary Humans, young and old. Their gardens and structures; their star and world. Forever remembering giving that long-ago order: Burn it. Burn it. Burn it.

The Guardian nears.

Namrask melts a puddle with his armor's radiators. The Guardian uses a sword tip to test the ice at the edge of Namrask's cover. Namrask makes one small sound: I do not want to die yet.

A shock pistol burst scatters off the Guardian's armor. They whirl, sword down, rifle up; sights on Yriks. Foolish, brave Yriks, scurrying on all sixes, like a Drekh. She has saved him.

The Guardian mocks her, saying, "Ooh, bonyenne, tu m'as tiré! Tu voulais mon attention? Ben tu vas l'avwère!"

Their vehicle appears; the Guardian mounts it and pursues Yriks. Namrask never sees her again.