Patina – Chapter 21

Elissa smiled, giving back to Bernard his water-filled cup. The man bowed until his hair brushed against the edge of the pool.

“Thank you so much, o Augur.”

“It’s just my duty,” she graciously replied. He picked up the recipient, still fuming with scalding water. 

“If I can speak my mind,” he said as he slowly stood up again. “Even with the recent visit by the High Seer, I would not exchange your water for hers.”

“That’s really sweet of you, but I am not sure the Spirits would see it that way.”

“I know, but I’m no spirit, Augur. I see you care so much for us, and the High Seer is always out and about. Her mind is taken by lofty troubles, while you are here sharing your boons with us. Thank you.” He bowed again, took his cup and gave room to the next in line. 

Elissa’s brow creased, half-hidden by her blindfold. She hesitated a moment as lines of manifold-time stepped into each other. The High Seer’s visit. 

Something had happened back then. Mastra Verna came in and found her sleeping, or wandering, and she… she…


She shook her head, going back to the task at hand. An old woman, one whose name she did not remember for she was not a regular at the temple, held out her own cup for her to fill.

“Yes. Please accept this blessing.” She filled the cup with the water from the pool she was submerged in and as she did something in her perception cracked. For a moment, she was not sitting inside the blessing pool, naked except for her blindfold: she was laying on a bed next to more water canals, as a blonde woman with a metallic mask on her face was passing a sponge all over her body, cleansing her. 

Her fingers lost all strength.

The cup flew between them, plunging deep into the waters.

“Oh!” Elissa shook her head. What was happening? She had talked with Mastra for the entire afternoon. She was a little tired, for sure, but nothing that required an entire restoration ritual. She had been… they talked about the incoming winter and the measures being taken to defend themselves. About her part in this as Belaqua’s own Augur. 

Her water was regularly shipped in all parts of the civilized world thanks to its famed potency, and this was yet another reason for her to be proud. Something Sadja would be proud of when they’d meet again. 

Then why did she remember something else? The ritual… Verna’s words like silkworms patching up her mind with their spindly threads… sure, such a setup could be used to alter her perception, cast so-close a veil upon her sight that she might not see it, but…

“… she wouldn’t do that.”

“Augur?” Her attendant, Obina, leaned forward, trying to call her attention. Her body lay motionless, submerged down to her neck in the steaming water. What was happening? She was…

“She wouldn’t do that.” Her hands rose to her forehead. “She wouldn’t do that. She’s safe.” That was beyond doubt. She was safe and they’d meet soon enough.

One big happy family.

“The blessing is over,” Obina shouted, rising both hands and addressing the crowd. “The Augur needs rest!”

“No… no, let them.”

One big happy family.

She had to trust her. 

If she did not do her job properly, Sadja would not be happy when they met up again. She’d hate her. And her heart strained like a piece of ice between boulders at the mere thought.

“Here…” she fumbled with her hands and feet, trying to reach for the cup, but it had fallen to the bottom and she couldn’t really…

“I… I have another one,” said the same woman. She passed it onto her palms. It was smaller than the last and its texture less polished, likely an old one.

“There,” she filled the cup and handed it back. “May this water hold back the Wicked Fae and all her creations.”

The woman nodded and stepped back. The queue resumed as usual.

Obina was surely worried, but there was nothing to be worried about. 

Everything was well.

If only her head stopped hurting, now, that would be nice. 


“Fire!” Cloria lowered her arm and the three men standing next to her flashed their muzzles into the roaring night. Bark from the trees all around them sparked and splintered. Pained growls came from the shadows between them. 

Another wave was coming. 

Cloria stepped forward, gun in her left hand, a knife in her right. She led a charge of one, jumping towards the closest of the misshapen crawlers that sieged the circle of fire, metal and men. 

Her knife found easy purchase amidst the too-many eyes of the creature and she put a bullet in between them, for good measure. 

She took a step back and got ready to spring again as more came, in a dance all around the tank as her men shouted and shot; each step a bullet, each slash a scream. And yet the forest did not seem to get tired, as if they were already in the middle of winter, facing the Tide. 

She panted, withdrawing against the tank’s wall, as the Eerie also fell back to the line of trees. 

Half-hidden behind the circle of light, two glassy eyes glistened from a dozen paces away. They belonged to the same face that had seen her through the Weave. 

Big mistake, that one. 

“Switch over,” she said to her crew. The three men switched places with those tending to the wounded and to the fire. Their faces covered by holy water, bandages, soot and blood. 

And the night was still long. 

And the air getting cold.

The men looked at her with fear. But she wanted to believe that there could be a bit of hope behind that. If she showed them she could earn that. 

She pointed her knife at the Fae, looming over them. 

“Step forward and face me, coward!”

A flash of amusement went off in those glassy eyes. 

Does the eagle swoops down to feast on ants? It mocked her.

Cloria reached for her belt.

“Not often, but what if we pull it down at our level?” She untapped the vial she had opened the other day. It had brought her into this mess, maybe it could help them out of it. She smeared it all over her knife and turned to gave a grin to her men. “I’m going in. Cover me!”

Her heart beat so fast. She was about to do something really stupid. But she could earn her men’s respect once and for all… and seriously. This beat laying naked in a pool of hot water by a long, long shot. 

She let out a dangerous chuckle as she raised her knife in challenge. The Eerie surrounding them roared and chirped and clicked and rushed towards her, a slithering mass of claws and fangs and bent limbs. 

She jumped up in the air and screamed. 

Pic by Venger07

Author’s Note: Trying something new. I have tried to keep each chapter linked to a single POV so far, but I wanted to provide a mirror to the uses of water and Verna’s influence on the life of these two women. I hope it was interesting enough. On a related note, today is 3 weeks of unimpeded, continuous uploads, which I’m sure that while not an impressive record of any sort as far as writing online is concerned, is surely a personal record of mine. I’m really happy. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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