Patina – Chapter 20

The Hunter looked ahead from the treetops.

Not the most comfortable place – but a necessary evil, especially after the Fae’s warning a few days before. He was running out of time, and he needed to find his quarry as soon as he could. With his gloved hand he scraped off some of the Old Country’s red sap from the bark until he filled a small pouch. 

Slowly climbing down the tree, he stepped down amidst a circle of stones he had put up that morning. 

Air was a tad warmer than it had been as of late and the curtain of rain parted to let a few patches of blue sky peek through. As far as he could hope for favorable conditions, these would probably be as good as he could get. 

Time for more stripping. 

Maybe if he kept this up he could have a future in some of the southern cities as a male entertainer. He’d cover his body in oils not to perform spells, but to perform on stage. He’d surely get more tail than he had for the past six years…

Chuckling at the thought, he took off almost all of his clothes, leaving just a strip around his crotch and sat down with his back against the tree – air tickled like a thousand needles even over his scarred, dulled skin.

Inside the circle of stones he traced symbols and lines with the red sap he had collected.

In front of him he placed the drawing of the mysterious wolf-girl. She still looked really sad. 

Maybe at another time he could have lost sleep over her fate. He’d known Verna since she was a Novice, and though she’d always been nice enough to him, he wasn’t stupid. 

Or stupid enough. 

There was something hidden beneath her radiant exterior as a High Seer, something he couldn’t really perceive, but it had scared her enough. 

Another memory shot through his heart. Black hair and shining eyes, looking up at him as her soft voice told him of her most intimate fears, and how uneasy living and studying next to someone like Verna used to make her. 

“Alright, that’s enough,” he muttered, trying to gather his thoughts once more.

Producing his knife, he plunged it right below his collarbone, starting to trace the same circle he made when asking for passage. This time he took even more time, moving the blade as slowly as he could, leaving time for his blood to seep over his knuckles, to spill onto his arm and onto the ground. With each beat of his heart a few more drops spurted out. The cool soil did not drink it – it pooled until a small puddle reflected his grimacing face. 

Trembling, he let go of his knife.

The blood stood still like a mirror, almost black under the leaden sky. 

“I was given a hunt. Blood unto blood called.”

His heartbeat began to die down. His muscles ached and his breath turned rash and ragged. 

The puddle of blood rushed forth. It rose in a small rustling wave and crashed over the drawing – each grey and black line drank into his fluids until it turned into a crimson bas-relief of his animated blood. 

“Blood… unto blood called,” he repeated. His heart slowed even further. Black patches began to appear at the edge of his vision as the sheet of paper and blood rose in the air, turning upon itself like a confused compass. 

“Blood unto blood called,” he rasped. 

The image of the girl stopped turning, pointing towards the north-west. It turned again to face him and he had to grit his teeth and clench his fists to try and maintain his rapidly-fading focus. 

A single drop of blood parted from the others – it crystallized and flew into his right eye. 

With a scream, the Hunter let go. 

His heartbeat returned to normal levels even as blood came rushing to his brain. He collapsed against the tree, making a gurgling noise. More crimson sap fell on him.

The drawing fell to the ground, utterly drenched in blood. The girl’s figure was now distorted into a a series of wriggled, chaotic lines. It would be useless from now on. 

Groaning, the Hunter stood up, passing a hand over his torso to make sure his wound were closed. He kept his right eye closed even as a stinging, burning sensation began to pulsate from his eye into his orbit. 

“Annoying,” he muttered, standing up and cleaning himself. 

When he had finished to took out the stones circle and wobbled on unsteady boots towards his sled. He sat with his back against it even as his eye burned up more and more. 

The Hunter fumbled with his fingers against a small hatch on the right side of his sled. Opening it, he produced a leather-bound notebook. With shivering hand, he found a random page and began to read it. 

I truly wish we could see each other more often. The winters are getting colder, and I have to provide more and more holy water with each passing week! Truly, sometimes I wish I would have never received the Sight, and never become an Augur!

He scoffed, a wavering smile dawning on his lips. She’d always been so dramatic.

Then again, the Weave must truly love me, if it put you on my path. I am writing this as my left hand lies in a bowl of water and my blood is spilling out. Water and blood. When you think about it, it’s a lot like the two of us, isn’t it?

He closed the notebook.

Once everything was said and done, once he brought his quarry to the High Seer, these notes would be his only link to her. A much better than one than the chain that he was still bound to, for sure. 

He’d probably have to burn them all. 

It only felt right. 

Groaning, he cupped his right eye with his palm as the notebook rested on his lap. It did sting, but not that much anymore. 

Maybe her words did give him strength.

Bit by bit, at a glacial pace, he opened his right eye. 

The world was very much the same. 

Save for the glowing crimson line that pointed to the north-west. It wormed its way through the covering of trees, and it would lead him past hills and valleys and trenches. 

He allowed himself a grim smile. 

There was no hiding anymore.

Pic by Marcos DAB

Author’s Note: another short chapter, but it’s all I could squeeze out of a very long day. Please excuse my poor skills. I hope at least you liked the different approaches to magic between Vestals/Augurs and the Hunter. He has quite the unique set and it’s going to be fun to see how this clashes with Augur powers in the future. In the meantime I hope you’re having fun. On a further note, as we are approaching the third week of this madness, I’ll have to take care of some aspects about the blog I have insofar given too little thought about. All in all, thanks again for reading.

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