Patina – Chapter 54

The Hunter let out a pained wheeze, rolling on the moss-covered roof until he hit a slab of concrete that stopped, quit roughly, his descent. He weakly tried to stand up, turning his head to regard the Eerie looming over him. 

It was bleeding from a thousand gashes, dripping ichor all over the ground and the building it leaned against. The lamprey mouth sliding open,  in its main body, let out short and pained breaths. They were both at their wits’ end. 

He reached for one more firebomb only to find his belt completely empty. 

No more holy water; not that it would be that useful against her. 

No coronite. 

No blood.

No nothing. 

He looked down at his knife, covered in his own blood and specks of black tar. The blade was chipped. 

His rifle was lost somewhere under the beast, bent beyond any usefulness. Maybe beyond recognition. 

Even his precious bag of notebooks… the last few remains of Lenora, the actual, beautiful, sweet Vestal who had chosen him beyond all hope or fear. 

The woman hanging upside down let out a throaty lament as it swung forward, her clawed hands weakly reaching for him. He swatted them away with his right arm, just as weakly.

Spirits was he tired.

It hadn’t been so hard last spring. But that was when he still had all his enchanted spears to throw at it, all his bullets and his bandages, and a ton of holy water to protect himself. 

He panted hard, trying to stand on both legs and slither away. Where? He had no idea. The abused skin on his torso did not glow anymore, showing an expanse of red, slashed flesh. His right eye hurt as well, like it was trying to bite the inside of his orbit. 

He’d need a bit of rest.

One week in his shack. On a diet of rice, red meat and ale. 

Then he could try and stand up and once again kill this monster.

Until it finally killed him. 

But he did deserve it, didn’t it? 

After all, he wasn’t able to save her the first time. With what arrogance did he think he could do so another time, even with Elissa’s help, and the Sere Rite, and everything the lot Lenora used to belong to could throw at it?

The Eerie now lived and breathed under the command of the Queen of Thorns, and the Heart of the Forest was the one dictating every move. 

Maybe that could console him a bit. He had been fighting against the same horrible force that kept mankind in check for a hundred years. Losing to that could still be considered honourable. 

And at the very least, the girl was free. 

Did Verna foresee that as well?

With the Eerie approaching, stealing away the light of the sun, he chose to believe she did not. Not completely.
Would she be fine?

She was smart and steadfast. She had managed to survive through the forest once.

The Tide made it a completely different matter, though.

But maybe her friends would go back for her. Maybe she’d be able to find their house again. 

He’d been a fool.

A tiny ember of righteousness, thinking about the wolfgirl free and alive, in the swirling ocean of doom that approached at the monster leaned its weight on the building – its Ereworld-made skeleton whined under the pressure, but it held. 

“I’m really sorry,” he let out. He pointed out the knife.

Then reversed the grip. A quick cut to his throat. He would not become part of that cursed amalgamation of flesh. He’d not sustain Lenora’s fate with his own meat, nor with his spirit.

The orbits of the woman swung closer. She opened her mouth.

Something impacted the Eerie’s side.

And the woman screamed.

He blinked.


On its side, silver flames were burning up against its side, eagerly licking away at the layers of tar.

“Hey, ugly! This way!”

When the Eerie roared and lunged at the white-haired girl holding rocks covered in bleeding bandages, she jumped to the side and avoided its swipe with finesse. 

“I was talking with you!” She pointed at him. 


This must be some sort of vision. Or perhaps he had truly gone mad.

At any rate, he’d take going mad over the alternative.

Huffing and puffing, he stood up. The Eerie wailed as another rock hit its dome-like back, sparking more flames. They were having a harder time than usual eating through its flesh.

A third hit the woman’s corpse.

The silver flames burst out, flashed once and then fizzled into nothing. 

“She was a Vestal once,” he muttered, trying to take another step. 

They probably won’t work on her.

Just like holy water didn’t. 

Better than nothing. 

As the back body did start to sizzle and burn, rising ribbons of silver smoke up into the white sky, the girl waved her free hand. 

“Come on! You big, ugly kidnapper thing!”

He reached for her. She held his hand and pulled him to the side, and down the flight of stairs that would have once been an emergency exit, even as the monster tried to rub the flames away, but all it managed was to spread the girl’s blood all over its body, helping it driving it mad with pain.

She threw more rocks behind her. With how big the Eerie was, it was bound to step all over them and get even more burns. 

She guided him, step after stumbling step, through the woods and the collapsed streets.

The Eerie lunged at them through the buildings, but it let out more and more screams, losing footing as the bandages came into contact with its cursed flesh. 

The girl pulled him through a brief tunnel. When they came out at the other end, they had left the city. Turning for a moment, he saw the wriggling shape of the Eerie between two buildings, straining its body and rubbing it on the ground, which only managed to expose the bones beneath. Mad with pain, it was losing any control.

Ooooohve…” Came one last sorrowful call from the woman who had once been Belacqua’s Augur and his wife.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, and followed the girl through the snowy, crimson woods. 

Pic by kola


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