Khandecia was only five foot three, but loomed over Rosa as she gave her cousin a glance.

“I suggest you control your impulse until we find somebody to use it on. Who would this somebody be, by the way?”

“The Horde,” Rosa said. “The tin men tricked me. One of their spores got into the Windchaser and now they reprogram her to serve their needs. My crew is trapped on there…”

Khandecia’s blood chilled. Once upon a time, a good man made a terrible mistake, and in the distant universe of the Ma'atiu, he made an army to defend his world against reptilian invaders. Kedrick Black was his name, and he and his race had risen from a tiny colony to become linked to their mechanical city. Practically demigods despite their vulnerable flesh bodies, they were still few in number.

The Horde changed all of that.

The Breeders infested the lizard-creatures, converting them into Drones. Reapers shot the reptiles from the sky, and the Burrowers devoured the dead to reprocess them into the huge machine-world that gave power unto the colonists. The Ura’ei Empire, thought invincible, was driven back even into the Underworld, but like a swarm, the Horde began moving from world to world, devouring everything it couldn’t convert into use. The Lords of Beyond, the Ma'atiu, were invincible in their realm, so the Horde couldn’t touch them and were programmed not to attack one, even to defend a Lord of Beyond if they had to. The Lords didn’t care that the universe was now paying for their mistake.

Khandecia Cavalier, death-speaker, was the only thing standing in their way, and she had defended the Earth from threats like the Horde for a thousand years, keeping Earth from sliding into the throes of the Apocalypse. Even though Khandecia was the thing humans feared most, a blood-drinking demoness with powers over the dead and over other demons, a Messenger of Sekhmet, she had been one of their greatest defenders.

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