Patina – Chapter 68

It was night and almost time to go. 

Elissa checked her gear, making sure she had everything that she felt she’d need. Her thick clothing, sturdy boots, a bag with water, both holy and the old-fashioned kind, and enough food to last a few days.

She’d spend more time looking into the future to check if she might need something else, but with most of her threads already spent checking on her teacher and ever every move, trying to cast a shadow and anticipate her every thought, it was good enough she wasn’t reduced to a drooling idiot who couldn’t tie her laces. 

Her four porters stood behind her, clad in the same winter clothes, holding her palanquin. It was similar to the one Verna had used when she met with Cloria weeks before, though far smaller and lighter, to allow them to cross the forest quickly.

No vehicles. She wouldn’t know how to operate them and as far as she could probe into the minds of her escorts, neither of them did. Belacqua had always been a bit of a backwater after all, and before she came here, even its water was nothing special. So no need to develop or import any kind of machinery. 

With Trefiumi overrun and most of its populace dispersed, there was none who could retrofit the carcass of a tractor or something like that for her. Unlike Verna, Elissa had never been interested in machinery or the ghosts of the Ereworld’s industrial civilization; it reminded her too much of her time in the underground, subjected to test after test and experiment after experiment.

The memory of that time she had been pushed to make the coin land on its head against Verna’s own overwhelming will came to the surface. She was doing something similar this time.

But it wasn’t just one coin. 

She was walking on an endless stretch of them, sprawling from horizon to horizon, infinite rows in geometrical array, and she had to make all of them land on their head at once.

It was a lot like her dream. Admitted it had been a dream and not… something else. The infinite rows of trees in the oppressive forest. In the Old Country. 


She did not want to thunk about that. It had been just a dream. Or an assault she had rebuked. Something like that.
And if any words had been exchanged, they had only been lies.

Sadja couldn’t have forgotten about her.

She had done everything for the white-haired girl. She’d be the one to save her and bring her back to a safe place. Where she could be… 

Could be…

Where they could be together

For real this time. 

Let’s go, she commanded her porters, who put down the palanquin. She sat in the center and pulled off her usual blindfold, exchanging it for an actual metal mask. Arguta couldn’t do anything to provide them with an actual vehicle, but she had refurbished their weapons in the little time she had, and given her a symbolic upgrade. It was against protocol to wear something like that.

But Elissa was beyond caring at that point. 


The four men lifted the palanquin and she steadied herself as they brought her out of the temple and towards the edge of the town. A few people were still out and about, most of them carrying weapons, bullets or bandages as the din of the attack on the barricades reached her ears.

The Night had teeth, and it was trying to bite into Belacqua’s defenses. The generator pumped scalding water through the entire town, a strong defense that would rebuke most attacks. 

Belacqua had only been breached, six years before, because of overwhelming force.

But she wasn’t Lenora.

The palanquin proceeded through the snowy streets, ignored by every form of life. People just stepped aside without even noticing. Or they would change their path all of a sudden, taken by some need they ignored until that moment. 

Elissa reached a secondary entrance and ordered the gate to open. 

The momentary resistance of the gateway’s guards lasted about as long as dry leaves in a bonfire.

As the metal grate and panels started to grind open, black and clawed things slithered inside.

Elissa lifted a hand and uncapped one of the jars of holy water she had brought with herself.

A jet of pressurized water shot from it, needle-thin and as as precise as a sniper. No need to aim after all, when you could make the bullet and the target fall into each other. 

With a shriek, the Eerie began to smoke and writhe in pain, withdrawing from the entrance.

The palanquin wormed its way through the entrance.

As it began to shut down behind them, Elissa regarded the lines of misshapen and hungry things hissing at them. There were so many. And from between the trees tall figures looked back, with grins like needles and eyes like glass beads. 

Their voices tried to creep into her mind like a cloud of venomous wasps, but she rebuked them. 

Let us proceed, she issued to the four men, who walked amidst the monsters, not minding any risk.Each of their steps just out of reach to the columns of monsters chittering and groaning around them. 

The small procession touched the first few trees and Elissa thought back to that training day, when she had been brought, together with the other Novices, on the edge of the Forest. When they had been shown what lay ahead and been told not to challenge what lay in it. 

She knew it was a lie.

She knew the very head of the Order had been plotting and scheming like an oily patient spider, growing fatter and more confident at the center of its web of lies. 

Her hand gripped the tiny crimson thorn. 


There was no stopping now. 

In fact, when it was about Sadja, there was no stopping, ever.

Without a word, the four men and the young woman they carried crept into the night forest, followed by a crowd of eyes and claws and teeth.

Pic by Heinvers

Author’s Notes: another chapter I had a bit of a hard time with. But I really wanted to show Cloria’s headspace in this transition. I hope you liked peering into her mind for a little bit. Thanks for reading.


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