Chapter 8

The console went dark. The message had ended. Eramis knew there would not be another.

"Come home, Eramis."

Eramis closed her eyes. The words settled into the Kell's thoughts. They were heavy. Sharp. She felt herself bleed with them. She had begged for death in the moment that Misraaks's blades were at her throat, and his mercy was a deeper wound than any. It was reopened, now, by the kindness of a child.

Eramis remembered her home.

Her home was Riis, devastated by the Great Machine.

Her home was Athrys, her mate, sleeping in a ship long since departed from this system.

Her home was her hatchlings, at her mate's side.

Eramis remembered watching them grow and molt. How they had chittered their delight and looked to her with their wide, luminous eyes.

She would give her House to see those eyes again. But the brightness she had seen in Eido's eyes was a wide, blinding terror. Not only of the Hive. Of her.

"Come home, Eramis."

Eramis lived—she lived, and knew what the Eliksni had lost.

The dream of a new Riis was delicate, and beautiful. Eramis had held it in her hands, close to her chest, for so long. She knew, now, that she had smothered it. In all her violence, in all the death that followed her, she had curled her hands into fists.

The dream of a new Riis would have died with Eido, if she had been left to the Hive and their putrid Light. But Eido did not know Riis, and neither did her father. They could look beyond that loss.

"Come home, Eramis."

Eramis knew she would never see anything but terror in another's eyes.

Eramis knew that the Eliksni would find a new home with Eido.

Eramis knew there was no place for her in it.