Aboard Empress Caiatl's flagship, the Eligos Lex V, there is a community space of colorful cloth banners and solemn silence contained within a repurposed hangar bay. At the center of this area is a chunk of land harvested from a royal garden: a piece of the Cabal homeworld excised in haste on the day that Torobatl fell. Three gnarled trees, a bed of moss, spotted with tall grasses.

"We're initiating Operation Ahamkara."

As Commander Zavala's voice booms over comms, Empress Caiatl rises from the moss and lumbers past gnarled wood, her meditation cut short. She is quick to descend the rocky stairs carved into the side of her fragmented world, past numerous handwritten messages from her people bound to twisting roots protruding from the soil, messages to those who were left behind. Pleas for forgiveness. Promises of revenge.

"Empress." There is a palpable tension in Valus Forge's voice as he hurries into the hangar, breezing past Caiatl's tusked honor guard as he does.

"I heard," Caiatl replies. "We ready our fleet for the signal to depart. As Valus, you will lead our ships into the breach the moment the commander gives the all clear."

Saladin Forge hesitates. His gaze drifts down, and Caiatl sees a foreign moment of vulnerability in him. For a moment, Saladin hears doors slamming shut. Sees Lady Jolder's face consumed by fire. Caiatl stops beside Saladin, facing away, shoulder to shoulder. For a moment, she, too, hesitates. Her massive hand gently taps his shoulder.

"I let him leave again."

Caiatl feels the weight in Saladin's voice. The specter of Zavala's past haunts this moment beyond the nightmares on the Leviathan.

"I wasn't there for him when Hakim died," Saladin adds quietly. Caiatl watches him as he speaks his truth, looks into his eyes, sees him. She understands.

"Zavala held on to that guilt like a bleeding wound," she offers. "If he should fall, do not repeat his mistakes. It will not be guilt for you. It will be a battle standard you hold aloft for the universe to see."

Saladin's gaze does not waver from Caiatl's. She sees him. "I don't want that day to come."

"I know."