Patina – Chapter 19

Cloria’s mind wandered. She sat atop their tank, trying to get as much comfort as she could from the cool iron, the echoes of hard work etched in every bolt result of mankind’s crusade against the dark. Some of the chassis, the engine and the boiling pistons keeping the burning beats’s heart alive still bore the touch of and industrialized planet, before the Queen of Thorns strangled the world with her weed. It sent off waves of order and dominion over the surrounding forest and kept most of the things encroaching on them at bay. 

And yet…

This isn’t working, she thought opening her eyes and looking down at her crew, gathered around the campfire. They were playing cards, drinking and mounting guard. A few grizzled men, armed to the teeth, would be able to hold back all but the strongest Eerie.

And her skeleton crew could hold its own. Or so she hoped. 

She shifted her weight, trying to sit in a better position. The forest pressed at the edges of her perception. It was like trying to breathe underwater.

Back during her Novitiate there had been times when they brought them away from the protection of Venexia, with its artificial isles, its trimmed gardens, its bricks and engines and smokestacks and industries and palaces, some of which thousand of years old. Their Abbess would then bring them close to the forests’ edge and feel the presence of the enemy they’d spend their whole life fighting against.

Cloria was back on the line between the grass and the grey-ish trees, their cinder leaves still dripping with the red sap of the receding Tide. Spring did not seem to carry much hope and her heart had always feared the forest. 

That was one of the reasons why she much preferred iron and fire. She had never been that good at dealing with water and spirit. 

“Going back to old habits, huh…” she huffed and unhooked one of the vials Verna had given her. The High Seer was fabled not just for her uncanny forecast abilities but also because, besides Belacqua’s Augur, she made the best holy water on this side of the Alps. Her lips curled in a smile, going back to the time when Valeriana would help her cheat on their tests, mix their water samples together, link their minds during exams…

Yet another reason why she left. Ironic.

I’d be in your debt.

Oh, Spirits, she had indulged far too long. 

She got ready, did everything by the book. Prepared a circle of stones and traced the holy signs with oil and charcoal. On smelted iron, they’d lose some of their spiritual potency, but gather much more resilience by the memories of the industrial foundries that gave them birth. Then she placed at the centre the tuft of white hair Verna had given her.

She had a tank and men. She could reach her before the Hunter. 

Cloria let out a long breath, emptying her lungs. Then she untapped the vial and spread a few drops all over her forehead, massaging it deep into her skin. A pleasant warmth spread through her skull, even as a strange metallic taste bit into he tongue, burning it.

Verna’s own style, through and through.

She’d live through the pain. 

She closed her eyes. 

Sent her mind once again through the threads of the world, and this time it floated much more easily, like a balloon pulled up by a strong ascending current. Her fingers buzzed with the power she borrowed. What a drug. And Verna lived like that all day, every day? That may explain her personality…

No. Focus.

She had to focus… never been great with that, always one to get her neck slapped for breaking concentration. Valeriana could only help her so much.

No, don’t go back to her Novitiate. She was a Venatrix. A huntress. Just as much as anyone else. She had faced skullbears and lived to tell the tale. Cut through curses and beasts alike. Destroyed Eerie with ease. 

She was Cloria the accomplished, wealthy Venatrix, not Cloria the stumbling, bumbling Novice without enough Sight to get a hint on tomorrow’s weather. 

Her mind wandered. Oh, Spirits, she could see so many threads! No wonder the High Seer had to put such a lid on her face, she’d be overwhelmed too!

Some pulsated with crimson light – they came from the west, and spread over the treetops like a spiderweb carried by the wind. She did not touch them. 

Others, much smaller and fainter, sprung up from the land like torches, likely the efforts of the Vestals and Augurs of the lesser towns. From here she could likely see the glistening fireworks covering the cities of the coast… but no, she had to push further up towards the mountains.

And that pressure, that feverish feeling like someone was looking at her and judging her every step came back. It made her stomach churn. Her defenses were enhanced by the iron and the memories of mankind’s dominion, but even like that, the wriggling vitality of the Old Country pulsated like a molten heart, trying to make every one of its seeds bloom. 

She kept pushing, trying to swim through the pulsations that threatened to reduce her heart into a seedbed for forest bloodied flowers.

The girl.

Show me the girl.

White hair. And a wolf-like tail and ears. Moon skin and silver blood. 

Some threads came up from the forest, like curious fish attracted by her bait. 

A lost skeleton buried under a collapsed building. 

Two trees hugging each other, their bark scarred and white.

A dead wolf with a single deer horn, huge and yet left completely unscathed, perfectly composed even as a corpse.

No. No, this wasn’t what she was looking for.

Meanwhile, the holy water was busy evaporating from her forehead. And her borrowed time grew shorter and shorter. 

The girl! Show me the girl!

Another string shot up. The corners of her vision turning dark, she followed it. It led her past the treetops, past a leaden sky of some incoming day, towards the banks of a river covered in mists. A tall man sat on one of the sides, splashing water all over his torso.

No, that’s not it! That’s not…

The man came to the shore. And then turned, for they were not alone anymore. 

Something slapped against Cloria’s vision. Like a wolf bashing its paws on a secured door, it rattled her mind and she lost focus for a couple moments. When she came back, as the holy water fizzled its last, she saw the Hunter taking on a grim expression. She could not make out his words. He was talking with some… something whose simple presence was enough to through her into dizziness. 

There was a dark, tall figure on the opposite side of the river. She could make out the detail of a face, but it was… it was on the wrong side of his body.

And then one of those glassy eyes whipped up in her direction. 

Cloria stood up, letting out a shriek.

The vision disappeared. She was once again in the present moment. In the middle of the forest. Dozens upon dozens of miles away. 

“Spirits protect me from sight. Their veils cover may my footsteps. Not a whisper, not a whiff.”

She signed herself and kicked away the circle of stones. 

The tuft of white hair turned black and caught fire, going up in smoke. 

Cloria gulped.

It didn’t… it didn’t go so well, did it?

She was almost certain she had cut the thread just before the Fae could worm out her position. 

Verna’s vial in her hand seemed to mock her. Such a Venatrix she was?
“Lady?” Came voices from below. “Everything alright?”

“Yes!” She replied. Why was her voice so shrill? “Yes, everything is alright.”

No need to worry about anything. They were probably safe.


Besides, she thought as she erased the lines of oil and charcoal with her boots, this little incident taught her something. 

She might not be able to find the girl… surely not anymore, given her only link to her took the brunt of the Fae’s interest. 

But she could find the Hunter.

He’d just have to do all the hard work for her.

Pic by HappyCockroach

Author’s Note: it’s always fun to write Cloria. I like her focus on trying to be a good Venatrix rather than a lousy Vestal. She reminds of how many times I tried to do something I wasn’t good at and failing at it because I’m a talentless hack. Speaking of which, how come this challenge is still going strong? And once again thanks for reading!

2 risposte a “Patina – Chapter 19”

  1. […] What’s this? Index Previous Next […]

    "Mi piace"


Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un’icona per effettuare l’accesso:

Logo di

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Connessione a %s…

%d blogger hanno fatto clic su Mi Piace per questo: