Chapter 8

"Old friend."

There's a bloody grin in Phylaks's voice as she clasps Eramis's hand and pulls her close to her chest. Kridis stands behind Phylaks, tall and ethereal. They're exactly as Eramis remembers them. Phylaks chuckles. "I always said no prison will hold her."

Eramis laughs, easy and familiar. It's as if nothing has changed. She's transported back to her House Devils days. The days of assignments in the darkest, grimmest parts of her old stomping grounds: the Cosmodrome, with no one but these two for company. They laid waste to members of encroaching houses, razed human settlements to the ground, dreamed about the day they could challenge and strike down their own Kell to take up the mantle for themselves.

But Kridis looks behind Eramis, not at her. And soon, Phylaks does the same. Her eyes narrow. She lurches forward, past Eramis, to grab Variks up by his neck.

"Traitor Dreg," Phylaks hisses and spits. "Cringing little—"

Variks scrambles and kicks like a creature in a trap. "Phylaks," he gasps.

Praksis and Atraks stand to the side, waiting to meet the veterans of the old house. They watch without concern, though Praksis looks pleased. They do not intervene.

Phylaks tightens her fist.

"Let him go," Eramis says.

Phylaks looks at Eramis, and then drops Variks. She says nothing, but Eramis can feel her disapproval. Kridis's too. Doubt creeps into their minds…

"His crimes are undeniable," Eramis says, dismissive. She doesn't look at Variks but hears his tortured breathing as he scrambles back, away from Phylaks. "But he's all that remains of House Judgment."

"You've no special love for scribes," Kridis says skeptically.

Eramis inclines her head. "No. But a scribe who can draw the ear of the Reef Eliksni?"

Phylaks grunts in understanding but still looks unimpressed. She returns to Kridis's side. Kridis, on the other hand, looks pleased. "Clever," she says.

Before they can question her further, Eramis changes the subject. "But I didn't call you here for politics." She gestures with one of her secondary arms. "Come. Let me show you what we've built."