Chapter 3

My mother could not keep me swaddled to her chest forever. I was no longer a child, and no longer in need of sheltering. I was my own person, and it was time that she understood that. I knew that she loved me. Because she shared her Ether with me. Because she killed those who harmed me. Because she wanted better for me than the life we had. But we are not always the arbiters of our own fate.

I aspired to nothing short of her approval. She was our inspiration, our leader, our hope. Kell of our House and protector of our people. She who gave me a name that meant "strength above all else." She named me Misraaks, and I was now strong enough to bear it.

On the day I told her I was capable of raiding at her side, we sat together in the cargo hold of our Ketch. There was not the pride in her eyes I had hoped for. She was transfixed by the medallion around my neck, an icon of the Great Machine. One I had taken from the corpse of a Splicer. One I had earned through blood. She tore it from my neck, crushed it in her hand.

"This will not protect you!" she shouted at me. "This will only lead you to death!" I had never feared my mother before, but I had never seen her look at me the way she did that day. She pushed me up against a wall with her upper arms and pressed the bent charm against my brow. "No son of mine will beg for scraps in the shadow of the Abandoner."

But even as she threatened me, I felt her press something into one of my hands: a reliquary, one of the few she had forged from the treasures of the Moon. She saw the recognition on my face and stepped back, releasing me. I could tell she wanted me to inspect it. I had never seen one of the reliquaries up close before, and though the glass was clear, the oily fluid inside obscured everything embalmed within. Yet still, I felt its presence worming behind my eyes like roots of a great tree burrowing into soil.

It whispered to me. Not with words, but with promises blooming behind my eyes in visions of glory. When I looked up to my mother, I asked her why we could not have both. Why we could not seek the power we had stolen from the Moon and simultaneously earn the right to seek refuge beneath the Great Machine once more.

"You are brave and curious," My mother mused, "But you do not yet understand the brutality of the world." Then she showed me. She drove a knife into my side, twisted it, and split my carapace apart. I did not give her the satisfaction of hearing me scream.

"Let this be your first lesson," she said to me. "You are my crew now, and when your crew questions your leadership, you make an example of them."

She drew the knife out of my side and handed it to me. "Never forget that."

I promised her I wouldn't.