They are going to the Last City beneath the Great Machine.
"What are you afraid of?" Misraaks asks Namrask.
"Why are you NOT afraid?" Namrask demands. The young one bewilders him. "What life could we possibly have there? They will take their revenge on us. And wouldn't we deserve it?"
"Is there something I should know?" Misraaks asks dryly.
"No," Namrask snarls, rubbing his bare knees where they protrude from his shell. "Yes. I was—" He stops. "No. I cannot tell you, because then you would have to tell the Humans. And I will not make you lie."
"You do not want to be who you were before," Misraaks guesses. "Would you learn a new trade?"
"I would like to weave," Namrask says. "I am not good at it yet. But I might be."
"Weaving is a little like splicing," Misraaks says thoughtfully. "Splicers work in metal and flesh, not warp and weft. But the goal is the same: to nurture life with art, and nurture art with your life."
"I distrust Splicers," Namrask grunts and rubs his chest. What would a Splicer do to him? Fill him with machine cancer, to make him strong again? Give him the corrupted Ether, the undying madness?
Misraaks's primary eyes shine. "I am an older kind of Splicer. Those who look for the Light in all things. Maybe the right kind of Splicer can weave two peoples together. As the Awoken tried do, in the Reef."
"But the Light is NOT in all things. It has left us. Why look for the Light when you can see so clearly who it favors?"
"It was in us once," Misraaks reminds him. "It could be again."
Namrask remembers such a time, across a vast and blood-soaked distance.
"Riis…I was there, you know," Namrask whispers. "At the Whirlwind. After Chelchis fell, I sent ships to follow the Great Machine. I abandoned all those Houses that could not make war. I ordered my fleet to hunt the Machine. Many rallied after us. Each ship began its own war with the Humans. But maybe, I was first."
Misraaks stares at him. Finally, he says, "I understand. Our people fear the Saint too. But I doubt the Saint ever knew them by name."
Namrask settles in the area of the Last City that has been given to the Eliksni. By day, he shares a loom with others. By night, he whispers the names of those he has lost until he falls asleep.
He sleeps well until the day a Human shouts at him: "Baby eater!"
Namrask turns away. But he wants to shout back. About the closed air, closed life of a spacecraft. About the hatchlings who survived and the hard decisions about those who did not. He wished now they had been depraved enough to think of devouring Human young.
But he sees the young Eliksni, like Eido. He wants to wail at their promise, at their hope. Eido dislikes and avoids him, which is for the best.
Eventually, Namrask learns to weave for the Humans. His favorite task is making felt, but he also learns to work in silk. He likes the silkmaker, and runs it manually sometimes, pulling the thread from the spinneret with one hand and then another, maintaining the steady, even tension, which makes the best fabric.
He wishes that he could weave in Light, like the Guardian Warlocks, who make fieldweave in a secret way. Maybe Misraaks will learn how to do that.
One day, a machine comes to his market stall. He combs at his shell nervously. The machine-Humans are called "Exos." They remind him of the Vex; it is easier to look at their armored shapes than the unsettling softness of the Humans and two-souled Awoken. This Exo wears a colorful mantle.
"I recognize you," the machine says.
He quails. "Namrask sells fabrics," he croaks, pretending not to understand.
"Namrask." She laughs quietly. "I am old, empty weaver. Almost as old as you, I think. But unlike most of my kind, I remember London—and you."
He holds a bolt of fabric between them. She catches two of his hands: her machine flesh is warmer than his.
"Timelines are born from each moment—we live on one thread woven into a vast tapestry. But what has happened between us, on this thread, is fixed. You cannot run from it. You are a butcher. You and I are still at war," she rasps.
She releases his hands. He stares at her, breathing hard. Ether smokes from his mouth.
She playfully taps on all four of his hands. "I am named for an ancient goddess," she says, "with as many arms as you. In her hands are dharma, kama, artha, and moksha. Law, desire, meaning, and finally, liberation. Freedom from the war of death and rebirth. Are you freed by your rebirth as Namrask?"
He repeats, "Namrask sells fabrics."
"Maybe." There is laughter in her voice. "But I do not think moksha has granted you true rebirth."
"I have not forgotten what you did when you were Akileuks. And I never will," she says quietly.
He stole that name, like any other plunder, and used it. A Human hero's name, a great warrior and famous runner: Achilles, which means "woe to the enemy."
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