Patina – Chapter 69

Sadja did not have much time to dream. 

Every time she came back, they were quick to stun her once more. 

She tried to hide it, but sooner or later the sled would hit a rock, or take a sharp twist, and she’d let out a surprised yelp, or shiver too much, or she’d frown or try to hold onto something.

But in those precious moments, she remembered what had happened during her first dream.

I don’t want to disappear

She did not know who that voice belonged to. She was not wholly convinced it was friendly. But she did agree. She had to hold onto that thought.

Sadja grabbed it. She pushed all of her mental weight onto that need. 

I don’t want to disappear.

She’d go back to eat decades-old food in metal cans. 

She’d once again run through the trees, but it would be laughing and in spring, surrounded by flowers.

She’d wake up every morning to a different horizon.

And she’d hug her tail and she’d be content. 

Maybe the Hunter would be with her.

And maybe not.

But she’d be free.

That was what she told to herself.

Even if they were bringing her back to Verna. She’d find a way to escape. She did so once already. 

And every time, they’d catch her awake and knock her back into the silent dark.

But the dream.

I don’t want to disappear.

She did not let go.


In her long years as an Augur, Verna had practiced the subtle art of never letting go. When you can pull threads of fate around your dainty fingers, letting go becomes more of a choice than a stroke of bad luck. 

Take the present moment.

She stood at a knot between different threads, pulling in different directions. On her way to the rendezvous to get her prized wolfgirl back, she had spotted a promising ruin. The flood from the end of autumn must have unearthed it, and now she saw herself at a crossroads between two possible futures, between arriving at her meeting on time, or satiating her curiosity. 

Of course, choice meant little to nothing. It was all a matter of management, when you dug deep enough. 

We’re landing, she shot into the pilot’s brain, and the glider began to descend through the pines trees, folding itself like one of those paper cranes she had seen illustrations of, until it touched the snowy ground at a few dozen paces away from the ruin. 

No Eerie, and no beast roamed about. For all intents and purposes, the place was as dead as the bones of the soldiers sleeping their eternal slumber, many meters below. 

Which only made it all the more interesting to her. 

She walked out of the glider into the freezing air. Daring snowflakes got lost in her blonde hair even as her breath coiled around her lips. She walked on the fresh snow making little to no noise, exploring the surroundings.

It looked like a mangled tooth. A leftover from the War, of course. A fort of some kind, or perhaps a simple lookout tower. The final resting place for a few soldiers? Perhaps. 

When she had changed her crew, the pilot she had chosen also was the one with the best combat experience. Taking over someone’s brain with her knots would reduce their reaction speed, but muscle memory could be useful. 

Thus, with barely a jerk of her mind, the tall man let go his place at the flyer’s helm and walked outside, embracing an assault rifle she had polished and repaired herself. A thing of beauty. She still preferred the crackle of her lash, but watching that thing go off sent a trail of kisses down her stomach.
The Erepeople used to make the most astounding things. She’d be the one to bring them back to that level. Closer ad closer, the future she had nurtured since she was a little girl, was now at hand’s reach. 

So, what was a little detour? Besides, she felt there would be something useful for her here.

The collapsed, bent metal had been eaten away by years and weathering, the encroached influence of the Old Country and each passing Tide. It was no anchor, it had been built with a different purpose and would not resist part a certain point. 

She raised her hand. Held out her fingers and mimed a gesture like wrenching out a bolt from a stubborn wheel. 

The gate shook and blasted open with invisible force, screaming its agony all around. She grinned. If that called for more Eerie to come and join the party, all the better. She’d take a peek into the future to check on them, but so deep in the forest her Sight was dulled enough. 

Pity she had to stay focused on what mattered. 

As she went past the old doors Verna could barely contain her excitement. It was the scene of a massacre.

Bodies lay strewn about, their skeletal hands holding onto the dusty carcasses of their rifles and other similar weapons, rusted to crimson dust. The only smell was iron and dust, and yet everything reeked of death, the same way graves usually smelled like dried tears, and furnaces smelled of burnt hands, and temples of unheeded miracles. 

The man followed without a word, whatever thoughts he might have held in his empty head now reduced to empty noise. He would be useful as a walking shield, she had to give him that.

Verna rubbed her hands just like the first day she had set foot in the archives of Venexia. The dilapidated bunker led into further corridors filled with old bones and the traces of flesh melted like wax. It had then seemingly developed a mind of its own and walked on two legs towards the center of the structure.

Interesting. Whatever it was that lay at its center, it would be interesting.

Chuckling, Verna took off her mask. Her grey eyes almost seemed white in the dim light of the tunnel. 

For once, she’d rather enjoy the surprise.

Pic by Blood Raven


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