Patina – Chapter 49

Cloria bit into her hand. She cursed and swore in all three languages she knew, most of all she cursed the giant Eerie that had appeared just when her victory was at hand. She did not perceive any interference from another Will, and anything so strong that it made something like that appear she could perceive… so why was she having this stroke of bad luck after bad luck?

“Pissing on cinders, isn’t this supposed to be what Verna wants?” 

Sure, it was beyond even the High Seer’s skill to pull the threads of fate so tight she could guarantee an outcome, but she’d been pretty confident in this whole affair knowing she could not lose. Not really. Knowing that if Verna had asked her to do something like that it meant she was supposed to succeed!

“Venatrix,” asked Rezzano, standing up from the road, rubbing his side where he rolled onto a concrete pillar. “What do we do?”

She had no idea.

No idea what to tell him. The still-burning corpse of their tank, their secret weapon, the one thing that she had always believed would be enough to strike fear in the heart of the Hunter… was a metal carcass singing its last tune in a column of black smoke and golden sparks. 

And the other two had disappeared. 

Her crew was looking up to her. That at least infused a little bit of hope in her tired heart. They were still looking up to her, they still considered her a leader. And she’d show them. She’d show them all… there was still saving this whole situation.
She was sure.


The huge Eerie, the hideous thing with the corpse swinging from its stalk, rushed through the trees after its prey. How it had managed to move unnoticed, and underground at that… was beyond her, but it was always something new with these things. 

“What do we do?” She echoed her underling’s question. She pulled out her pistol and waved it in the direction of the monster. “We follow that thing! With a bit of luck it’s gonna spit out the bones of the Hunter and the girl will be up for picking! Come on, we’re this close to victory and glory!” She dashed in the direction of the monster – to give her men example.

For that reason, and others, she missed the meaningful look they shared as they followed. 


The big monster had called the smaller ones. At first they had been in hiding – which was likely one of the reasons why they had spent the last few hours in that weird calm she would give anything to go back to – but now they swarmed out of their holes and crevices, from the deep darkness below the rubble. Critters with sharp teeth and fast legs, black as night and hungry like dry roots. They streaked the snow with their black ichor as she swung an old wooden beam (now her new bat) at them. 

Sadja panted. She did not travel far. Somewhere along the way finding a better place to hide meant putting a step after the other and after the other and after the other and then dashing off towards the forest, no matter in which direction… the high-pitched screams of the huge Eerie the man was fighting against (his wife? That things was his wife?) Raked against her stiff ears. 

Another critter yelped at her from her right and she swung on herself, swatting the beam right into its ugly and too-many-eyed face.

As the thing splattered against a wall, she looked down at her hands, bruised a darker grey than the rest of her skin. 

Verna had wanted it. She had done everything she could to take it. So why not…

She had done so before after all.

She ripped two strips off her clothing and bit into her hand. Hard. Her sharp canines broke her tender flesh and argent blood spilled from the pulsating wound. Some fell on the fresh snow and the closest critters sniffed at it and bolted away. 

But by then she was already tying one of the strips around the end of her improvised weapon. And next time she hit one of the things with it… 

A flash, a puff of flame and it went out in silver smoke. 

The others froze, hesitated.

“Scram!” Sadja roared forward, swinging her bat wildly. She caught one and it turned into a ball of mercurial fire screaming into a group of others.

They scattered.

And she leaned on her knees, groaning as she tied the other strip around her wound. This way she’d get a spare if the first one… ran out of juice or something else. 

But she was still lost.

The forest, the edge of the trees seemed to talk to her. She could run. Use her own blood sparingly, as a way to ward off the monsters and try to find a safe place somewhere. She could hide until spring.

She just needed not to… eat. Or drink. 

Or pray one of those skittering, hungry things did not slither in while she was asleep.

But everything would be fine, wouldn’t it? Everything would be fine as long as she was on her own. 

From behind her came another few shrill screams. The battle was raging. 

And soon bigger things would come to take her.

Far off, between the shielded foliage of trees, amidst the sputtering red sap she caught a horned figure looking at her. The tall man with a twisted head. It wasn’t grinning anymore, not even a smirk rippled its smooth features. But its glassy eyes looked directly at her. 

A cold grip shot through her heart. She’d find no help there. It was indifferent to her, at least for the time being, but… what if it changed its mind. And there were so many others like it…

But then what would she do? She’d just go back in the arms of the man who would deliver her to Verna. 

Sadja gritted her teeth. She looked at her hands, one of them already stained a deep silver even through her uneven bandage, gripping her improvised bat. It looked like an arrow, pointed at two futures, at two fates. Which way would she let it fall…?

And from a few building blocks away, once more came screams and curses. 

Ever closer now. 


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