Caiatl stands on the bridge of her flagship, six destroyer-class warcraft at her flanks. Weeks of intelligence and a handful of dead spies have brought her to a single point in space. This moment of opportunity.
A massive, reinforced viewport extends from beneath her feet to the ceiling of the bridge. Through it, dead-still azure banners obscure the distant Awoken Reef. From Caiatl's perspective, it appears as a slurry of glitz and dust to be swept away at her command—an idea her advisors spoke of all too frequently. Their soft conflict with one city had left some eager for a decisive victory in another. It was a distraction.
In the space between Caiatl and the Reef, just beyond the unmoving banners, malachite-licked wisps of intent tear open the space between her and the shimmering dust. Long black spindles of Hive workmanship pierce the rift first, preceding a massive Tomb Carrier twice the size of her flagship.
Caiatl addresses her bridge officers. "Wait until they're through and cannot flee."
Her destroyers take up flanking positions opposite of her own as Caiatl orders her flagship to maneuver above the massive Tomb Carrier.
When the rift shuts, the order comes over Cabal comms: "Strike."
The six destroyers spring their diversionary attack. Caiatl feels the pressure waves from their silent cannons wash over her as their shells detonate. Tomb Carrier and Cabal warcraft exchange a harrowing gauntlet of ordnance. The diversion is working.
"Point us straight at their midsection. Launch ballista crews," Caiatl barks. "Inform me when they've taken the bridge."
Emerald flare wells deep in the Tomb Carrier's main gun like a brewing cauldron lined with obsidian teeth. The barrel: a massive column of vertebrae from some leviathan creature, ignites with ten thousand Hive runes. The Tomb Carrier belches streams of malefic flame that effortlessly obliterates two spearheading Cabal destroyers. Caiatl steps forward in horror as their hulls erupt in a series of soulfire explosions.
"Don't let that gun fire again! Protect our destroyers!" She pivots to her navigation office. "Bring the ship to minimum jump speed. Full power to the mains!"
Caiatl thrusts a finger at the Tomb Carrier. "Engage the Aries ram and prepare for impact!"
The flagship hurtles toward the Tomb Carrier, unleashing a full salvo of cannons and warheads to soften the Carrier's carapace.
Caiatl turns to a bridge crew Legionary as the Tomb Carrier rapidly expands in the viewport behind her. "Fetch my shield."
On the other side of the Reef, Queen Mara Sov watches through a Dreaming City aperture as the battle unfolds on her borders. The inscrutable expression on her face twists with each distant explosion. Petra wishes the small tensing motions would give some indication of what her queen is thinking. Instead, she sees only the cold stare of one predator assessing the size and strength of another.
Petra looks to the knife Mara is idly toying with and notices a detail she hadn't before: a pair of kestrels etched into the blade, wings intertwined, linework so fine that she has to squint to recognize their silhouettes.
Petra frowns. "My queen?" she asks, but Mara does not shift her attention from the battle.
"Caiatl's war games will keep Xivu Arath occupied while we focus on recovering our lost Techeuns," Mara says. She uses the point of the knife to trace the longest line along her palm. "Neither will be able to launch a full-scale attack on the Dreaming City while the other is at her throat."
"Savathûn first?" ventures Petra.
Mara's stoic façade cracks. She looks down at the blade, at the twin kestrels, and sees something in her own reflection that unsettles her.
"Savathûn first," she agrees, sheathing the weapon so she doesn't have to think about it.