Chapter 1

"You are cold, child."

Eramis's world was a choking smother of darkness and pain. She could not move. She was only vaguely aware of the voice.

"We have a use for you."

A mass of frozen splinters sealed her eyes. How long had she been here?

"We would have you find something for us. Something which was lost."

The voice swirled around her like smoke, echoed inside her mind. Though terrifying, it was something to focus on amid the surrounding nothing. Who was speaking?

"Answer," said the voice, convincing and commanding.

Eramis paused. As if in response, her perception began to dim, and she felt the crushing darkness closing in around her once more. There was no fight here. This was no choice.

She remembered her people.

Yes, she thought. And the pain ceased.

"Gather those who would serve you, and know you serve us."

A surge of images filled her mind: tendrils of inky vapor trailing through the stars, hidden vessels secreted amongst long-forgotten treasures, a whisper rising to a roar, the Great Machine beginning to—


And then, from everywhere, shattering.


Arask sat in the heart of his Ketch, lit only by the weak amber glow of his viewscreen. He frowned as he charted another trip through the Themis Cluster with a quarter-load of Phaseglass. The job would barely pull enough to cover the voyage, and Ether reserves were dangerously low. How long could his crew—

A blinking light caught his attention—chatter on a long-dormant channel.

Arask leaned forward in his seat, his ancient leathers creaking as he moved. He tapped at the screen with one gnarled claw.

The missive was direct and merciless. A jagged grin crept over his face: she hadn't changed.

The comms system squawked from disuse. Below decks, a patchwork band of Dregs and Marauders looked up in confusion.

"A call's gone out," Arask's voice rasped from the speakers. "Raise the old flag."

"We sail once more!"