Patina – Chapter 14

At the very least, they did not put her in chains. 

This was of little consolation to Sadja once she opened her eyes once again. She was inside a house of some sort, its half-broken walls covered by a patchwork of wooden boards. The strange four-armed creature that had knocked her out was still standing in front of her, holding her spear at her throat. 

“Nnnh,” she groaned, trying to regain the ability to speak. She ached all over. “W-Who are you?” She tried. 

“Ttthilense,” the thing spat, jabbing spear against her exposed skin. She withdrew against the cold tiles of the wall. 

A door to the side opened and in came the echo of rain and three more of the strange creatures. A larger and bulkier one, carrying two large buckets over his back, together with another younger male and an older female. 

A family of sort? Sadja tried to piece together what she was seeing, if only to find a better angle to try and spark a conversation. Sure, she’d been caught eating what she now assumed were their fruits, but it wasn’t like she could do something about it. She was hungry. Thirsty. Still was. 

The tallest of them approached, his face thicker and broader than that of the… girl?… who had found her. 

He looked at her for a long time and she squirmed under the intense gaze of his huge yellow eyes. They glowed with some sort of inner brightness, like twin candles pinning her to the wall. 

“Ffoundling,” he decided in the end. “Eat nnnow. Dethide later.” The girl, who at this point Sadja had decided was surely his daughter, hesitated but did as she was told, putting the spear away and following him to the middle of the room, where a table awaited. 

Sadja waited for them to acknowledge her again, but they ignored her. Still, with the door shut and every window closed, she couldn’t easily escape unless she climbed right up the chimney. Which was likely too tight even for her gaunt body. 

So she waited, opening and closing her mouth time and time as she tried to come up with a good conversation opener. 

And failing. 

At last, she sat on her bum, holding her tail close to her chest, like she used to do in her loneliest nights in the facility she just escaped. 

The family shared in what looked like a light meal; they cooked a soup and drank directly from their plate in small gulps. They did not really have mouths, more like mandibles that bit and shredded both vegetables and pieces of meats floating in the soup. They did not speak, so all she could do was look at them. 

She remembered seeing a moth once, or what she believed to be a ghost-butterfly. She had showed it to her and the masked woman has smiled and patted her head and called her a good girl (one of the few times it did not sound like a mockery or it made her lose all strength in her limbs), and taught her the truth. These were not ghosts but actual living butterflies, but they preferred to get out at night. Most were harmless, but she’d have to watch out for those with a pattern of thorns and flowers on their wings. 

Those were harbingers of the Wicked Fae and not to be trusted.

She squeezed her eyes, peering at the motifs on the large wings sprouting from their leather clothes, but all she could see were circles within circles and maybe the outline of a mouth.

So could they be trusted?

As she watched them eat her stomach rumbled. The ‘mother’ of the group lifted her head from her bowl of soup and spent a few word with her husband, which she couldn’t understand even with her ears straining in their direction. 

The daughter stopped eating as well and gave her a glance. She shook her head and resumed.

She dreaded the moment they finished, because it mean they would turn their attention back to her. What would they do then? She was too tired and still aching, especially on the back of her head. Could she make a daring dash the moment they opened the door?

But they knew the area surely better than she did. 

The moment the father and daughter stood up she arched her back, pushing back against the wall as if she could pass through it. She was still naked, hungry and alone, but she would fight if need be. 

The father tilted his black head and let out a strange clicking sound that might have been a chuckle from a more human throat. He produced a pouch from his belt and tossed it at her. She sniffed it – it smelled of earth and had a slight fruity tinge to it. She opened it to find it full of large seeds. She put one to her mouth, but the daughter slapped her hand. 

“Nnnot fffor you! Foundling follow!” She grasped her by her wrist and Sadja, still holding the bowl and still naked as the way she was born, had to follow her out into the rain. 

She let out a sorrowful yowl at the water pelting against her skin, freezing and careless. 

Then the girl pointed at three low trenches disappearing into the grey night, where even her night vision couldn’t help it, not with the curtain of rain hindering it.

“Ssseding! Now!” 

She knew nothing about it. Frowning, she placed the seed in the trench.

The moth-girl’s eyes flashed in anger. 

“Ssse! Watchh!” She grumbled, taking her seed and making another little hole in the trench. She put the seed inside and covered it once again with dirt. 

All this while out in the night rain. 

Sadja gulped. Her stomach did not like this. Nor did her hair or her drenched tail. 

She hated it when her tail got wet. It smelled bad. 

Her heart was tempted. She could try to escape once again. 

Still… these people did not try to take her blood, did not poison her mind with sweet words, did not even tie her up. 

And she did steal from them.

It was loads better than waking up once again in her cell, at any rate. 

She pursed her lips, waggled her tail, and set out to work. 

It wasn’t easy and the moth-girl (who apparently wasn’t fazed by the rain at all) snapped at her every time she made a mistake, like putting two seed too close to each other, or too far apart, of she did not cover them with enough soil. But bit by bit, the seed pouch in her hands got lighter and lighter. 

She reached the end of the dike and then came back; as she did this twice, she almost ran out of seeds.

That was when the moth-girl grasped her wrist with one of her hands, her three fingers slippery against her skin. 

“Enougghh. Back insside.”

She pulled her back in (giving her just a moment to squeeze as much water as she could from her tail), where the mother was waiting for them by the fireplace, where she had hung clothes to dry. Among them Sadja noticed her white robe.

The two moth-women shared another of those quick conversations her ears couldn’t really pick up, and by this hour she was really worn out and wet and hungry… so she did not really pay it that much attention. The daughter pointed at a blanket laid over the fireplace. 

Sadja, her heart beating a mile a minute, launched herself at the makeshift bed. 

Even if her body was still mostly wet, the embrace with the warm and dry cloth felt better than anything she had experienced in months, save for the exhilarating moment when she realized she was getting out of her prison. 

The daughter shook her head and, recoiling at the smell of her tail tossed her another blanket to cover her with. The mother also put a bowl of soup next to her and Sadja’s eyes brightened with tears. 

“T-Thanks. Thank you so much.” 

The daughter chirped.

“Fffoundling thieff, but worked hhard. Fffoundling can eat.”

Sadja nodded. It made perfect sense!

And then she lost herself in the soup.

The two moth-women watched her eat, sharing words she did not understand, nor did she care to anymore. 

After that, her head got all fuzzy. She thanked them for the meal and rolled on the blanket until she found a good position. 

The daughter lay down next to her, still looking at her with those huge golden eyes. 

She did not mind the company. Even if she was just there to make sure she did not escape. How could she when they gave her such good soup?

With her now-dry tail held between her legs, she fell on her side and the world fell with her into darkness. 

She dreamed of red hair.

Pic by BlazeKraze

Author’s Note: this was another chapter that started out hard to think about and then bloomed into something quite easier to write. It’s also been two weeks I manage to keep up with this challenge. I hope I’ll be able to provide you with ever better chapters. Thanks for reading!

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