Patina – Chapter 25

Sadja thought she had awakened, but seeing herself laying in a corner was a clear indication something was amiss. She knew the place: the off-white walls, the polished floor and the flickering lights glaring from the tube-shaped lamps like angry eyes; that horrible smell that burned her nose and seemingly crept up her nostrils until it tickled her whole head. This was her old cell. And there she was, looking just a few years younger: her tail was a little thinner and her ears and hair a little shorter. 

Her arms also showed fewer pockmarks. 

The strangest thing though, was she was not alone. 

Close-by crouched another girl. Her skin was also pale, but it looked more due to lack of food and living underground than natural color; her face was hidden by a mop of red hair, almost crimson. She leaned forward and hugged her, speaking words to her past self she did not understand (nor remember). Who was this girl who seemed to hold her with such affection? The mysterious redhead then opened her right hand, showing an old spoon, the kind of which could have been used to eat supper. 

Trembling, she put the spoon against her right eye. She put it against her eyelid. Then began to push.

Sadja dashed forward.

“…no!” She shouted. 


Blinked again.

She was awake. 

Not in the laboratory anymore, with her past self and… someone else? She couldn’t quite remember. Her head pounded against her skull. She addressed her surroundings. Someone had put another set of blankets over her sleeping form, which weren’t there the night before. 

And someone was knocking on the door. It was different from the howling and scratching and beating of the night before, when the father had caught her, it sounded… human?

Which did not mean it would be good news…

The mother stood up and went to open the door. Her ears turned towards the ceiling as the father walked on the upper floor. He peeked from upstairs as the moth-woman opened the door and exchanged a few words. Who was there? A man. 

She stood up, still wrapped in her blankets and went to investigate.

Someone was asking to come in. She peeked through the crack of the door. The man smelled like water and old blood, but most of it wasn’t his own. She frowned. She did not like the way he smelled, but it wasn’t all bad… it reminded her a bit of the scent of too-ripe peaches during her escape. It smelled good, but it hid something rotten inside. This did not smell bad… but she was still on the fence as to what it hid.

At least he did not wear the uniform of her chasers, but that meant nothing. If… Mastra Verna (how painful that name was!) wanted to catch her, why send someone dressed like that?

And yet she had never seen the man before. Interestingly enough, he also had deep bags under his eyes and his right one was puffy and red like someone had punched him right there. He looked about as groggy and tired as she was. 

He left the door and walked to some sort of contraption that had blades in the place of wheels, coming back holding a series of small trinkets and everyday tools and items, which the mother seemed to love as she opened the door right away. 

Sadja decided to go back to her spot and wait. If he’d try something funny, she’d escape from the window. 

But it seemed her fears were not warranted, at least for the moment. The so-called merchant spoke with the mother for a bit, showing her his wares, only to start when the father came downstairs, armed with his saber. 

“Ah, a good morning to you as well. Are you the owner of this lovely home?” The merchant said without batting one eye.

Sadja frowned. He did not touch the rifle on his shoulder, but he seemed a little too relaxed for such a situation. And, yes, he did smell strange. She was sure. There was something off about this newcomer, something that put her on edge. 

But whatever it was, she did not have that much time to worry about it. The father grabbed the merchant with his left set of arms and pushed him out of their home. Sadja waggled her tail in approval.


The ground had not gotten any softer when the moth-man made him fall on his back. Nor did the metal of his rifle did any wonders for his already strained back. 

“Wait,” he pleaded, raising his hands, palms up. “If I misstepped I apologi…” he did not have time to finish. He crouched over him and, Spirits, he was taller than him and even though moths and butterflies were supposed to be thin and frail, it surely seemed the Tide had done its work well on the transformed man, for the mass of muscles pushed him against the ground with the strength of a steam press.

His yellow eyes moved from his rifle to his sled, to his clothes.

“Hhhhunterrr,” he growled. 

He nodded.

It did not make sense to lie anymore. And that saber of his was a bit too close to his neck for his liking. Better to try and calm the guy down.


“Whhhat’sss a hunnnter doinng heere?” He hissed, pressing so close with his blade that its rusty edge bit into his skin and drew a drop of crimson blood. 

“I have no quarrel with you. I’m sorry for what happened to you and your family. I’m just here for the girl.”

The moth-man hesitated. The pressure against his neck relented and the blade withdrew just enough to stop drawing blood. 

“Ffffoundlling lossst?”

“Yes. I was hired to get her back. I hope we can come to some sort of agreement. I don’t intend to do anything to you. I only want the girl.”

He let him go. He stood up, still holding the saber, watching the drops of blood still running down the blade. The Hunter slowly stood up as well, still holding his hands up, showing he was no threat. 

Or, well, he did not intend to become one. 

“A hhhhunterrr,” the moth-man mused. “Yyyou good?”

“The best.”

A thin silence stretched between them. He breathed through its cracks. Then the moth-man pointed at his home – the wooden walls, covered in scratches and bites. 

“If yyyou good,” he hissed, “yyyou can hhhelp.”

Pic by Stanakin

Author’s Notes: another short chapter. These past few days, for many a reason, words are as heavy as boulders. Nevertheless, I hope you have enjoyed it. As far as the 100-days-challenge goes, we’re now at 25 days of publishing at least 1000 words of fiction. I really did not believe I would make it this far. Thanks for readying, here’s to 25 more days. Thanks for reading.

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