Patina – Chapter 43

The Hunter knew, in his heart of hearts, that moments of peace were either short lived, or paid for at a steep price. Often both. And yet, he couldn’t help himself. Watching the thin girl devour the cans put a dry smile upon his lips. There was just something about her eagerness that reminded him of better times, when he and Lenora would raid the Temple’s pastry and eat warm cream beneath the stars…

He wasn’t going to see her ever again. 

That much he knew. It had become, in the last six years, a stark reminder he had seen in each of his confrontation with the cursed thing that was, in that very moment, inching forward. 

But they had found a nice secluded place in the middle of another building. Far from the road, the wall thick and ran through with rusty pipelines, not a branch or drop of vermillion sap in sight. And from there he had a clear view of the surrounding valley: he’d be quick to spot any bending tree and sudden-flight of scared birds.

“What even is this stuff?” The girl mused, licking her fingers off the contains of her fourth can in a row. “It tastes… like everything put altogether. Did people reapply leave these out in the open?”

“Lower your voice,” he reminded her. Safer did not mean careless. “What you are eating is a rare delicacy. Tin cans like those sell for their weight in silver on the markets of Venexia.”

She picked up a fifth, though she did not open this one. She seemed she had her fill for the time being. 

“I had no idea,” she whispered, looking around at the blasted city, taking in the line of overgrowth that covered most of the buildings’ faces, swirling through the streets. The shadow of Eerie tar dripping from the darkest corners, the occasional skeleton peeking between root and branch. “What happened here?”

He frowned. 

“I can’t believe nobody told you.”

“Sorry if I did not get history classes,” she replied pulling her tail against her body. “But I see so much… stuff is overturned and destroyed. It feels like something really bad happened.”

What could he tell her? He was far from a historian or an erudite, and though he liked to listen to Lenora, he did not remember everything he told her… unless…

He opened his bag and rummaged through the cans he had tied up, trying to make as little noise as he could. Beneath them he looked for one of the diaries, producing an old black envelope. The girl looked at it with a wary expression. Made sense. He had caught her with one of these after all. But now he was more interested in the pages’ content rather than their weight. 

“I think there’s something here…”

“You can read those?”

He blinked.

“You can’t?”

She blushed a deep grey and turned her gaze away. 

“I tried but… I was always far too tired. And I did not have much to read anyway. Other than the writings on the wall. Or the words on screens. Or on bottles.”

He had to steel himself. No matter what she said, he would bring her to Verna. There was no straying away from the path. Insofar things have gotten dire, but not truly bad. He had his prize and would deliver it soon – and then she’d be free, he’d be free. The fact Verna had set another Venator on his tracks was meant as a warning. 

The girl would go back to its proper place. 

With his help or not. 

So any kind of sympathy was at best a distraction and at worst…

He shook his head.


He flipped through the pages until he reached a part where Lenora’s beautiful handwriting turned towards her own ideas about the old war. She was never as much involved in the past as other Vestals, but growing up next to someone like Matra Verna did influence her somehow. 

“How or when the Eldritch War started?” He began, following words with his finger to show he was in fact reading. “Who stroke first? Did we provoke the Fae or was it the Queen of Thorns, faithless and accursed, who pounced out of the shadows and turned our world into rotting wood? Whatever might be the answer, the question is if we’ll ever be able to take it back… I think it’s far too late. The corruption has reached too deep and for too long. Verna” the girl flinched, “seems to think otherwise. She’s dead-bent on finding a weapon to beat back the darkness. If someone can do it, it’s her. I have known her for twelve years, copied from her in too many tests to doubt she’s nothing less than a genius. I wish her the best.”

He looked up from the book. The girl was biting on her lips hard. 

“Who wrote this? You?”

“No. These journals used to belong to someone deeply dear to me. She’s… gone now.” Not completely, but it was useless to fill her head with more sorrow and tragedy. He had mulled over it enough by himself.

“Why did you read that to me? I do not care about any war, and I do not want to help… her… with anything.”

“I did not mean to upset you. But I hope this shows that the person I’m delivering you with does have mankind’s best interests at heart. She’s trying to solve… all this.” He moved his arm to encompass the fallen city, the overgrown forest, the cursed Eerie, the Fae proceeding south for the Tide, and the hungry Thing that was looking for them. “Bring back the world of men.”

“I don’t really care about that.”

“I think you should.” He put the journal away. “There’s clearly something about you that’s different. Incredibly different.” Her hands went to her furry ears. “I’m not just speaking about those. Look at you… aren’t you curious about where you come from? Don’t you think Verna can help you finding that out? It’s freezing cold, but you are wearing just a coat and you’re fine, even barefoot as you are. And you make so little noise when you move, even on thin ice. Not to mention…”

She rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, my blood.”

“Precisely. You might not remember it, but I treated your biting wounds with the best holy water I know of. I think the best there has ever been produced. That also serves as a weapon against the Eerie. Better than any firebomb. And your blood… it’s simply a thousand times more powerful than that.”

The girl looked down at her arms, peppered with those tiny circular scars. 

“What would you say if they tied you up and started filling you with needles?” She hissed. “What if they drugged you stupid, and told you everything was going to be alright, but it never went any better, and the day was the same, and again and again and again? Would you take it, mister bold and brave?” Her blue eyes thinned to slits. “Let’s see you do that.”

To that, the Hunter had no reply.

Pic by Skypsi

Author’s Notes: another short chapter. I like how these two play into each other. I also hope these moments of levity can last a little longer. At any rate, thanks again for reading.

2 risposte a “Patina – Chapter 43”

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