Patina – Chapter 77

This was it. The Hunter pulled the cannon up on his other shoulder. Damn this thing was heavy. Next to him, Cloria raised her protective torch, the crimson smoke reduced now to a single ribbon rising straight into the shite sky. 

“There’s nobody here,” she commented, passing her hand nervously on her gun. The rows and rows of pines showed no looming shadow behind them. The Fae that had tormented him for so long also seemed to have disappeared. No Eerie. No beasts. Even the snow had died down to just a few wavering flakes.

“The forest is drawing a breath,” he said. He put two fingers to his heart and kissed them. 

Cloria cringed and quickly signed herself. 

“Do you really have to?”

“This is her home, that you like it or not. She’s allowing us a quick respite. Let’s make use of it.”

“But why would the Wicked Fae help us like this?”

The Hunter shrugged.

“Spirits, how do I know? She’s as capricious as the moon.”

They followed the trail of footsteps: a single line of lighter, almost-invisible ones, barefoot. And three rows of heavy boots chasing it. 

While they proceeded, he kept in mind the position of their moth friends. The family of four would proceed from the eastern flank in a flanking maneuver. Too bad Elissa wasn’t there. She could have help them link their minds, or at least pass their hunched together. His blood magic did not work on victims of the Tide and Cloria was far from powerful enough to provide a conduit. They’d have to rely on his own intuition. 

Next to him, Cloria hissed through her teeth.

He looked to his right and winced.

“That must be why,” he whispered. “A tribute had already been paid.”

“S-Spirits…” Cloria cupped her mouth, who knew if to keep a wail or a retch in. 

The line of Sadja’s traces proceeded downwards to her meeting with Verna, but the three men had met with a doom of their own. 

They lay in mid-air like a bizarre sculpture as a web of hooked brambles pulsed and breathed under their skin, cutting through their muscles and tendons, stretching them into a fine filigree of entrails, blood vessels, bone fragments and hair. The three still twitched and groaned with lacerated tongues, eyes bulging out of orbits overgrown with spikes.

All three were still breathing. 

And beyond any help.

“One gift for every thing She takes,” he whispered, turning his gaze down to Sadja’s trace. “Come on, Cloria. Let’s make it count.”


The first thing that hit Sadja was the smell. As she passed through the glider’s entrance and stepped on the cold metal floor, freezing her soles so much more than the fresh snow outside, her head swam with the aseptic feeling on that same overly-clean smell. Her hands twitched. She pulled her tail between her arms as Verna gently (firmly, without a chance for any reply) guided her towards a chair. 

“That’s a good girl,” she said pulling up the chair without even touching it. Her smile was all-encompassing, looming over her like the sharpest sickle of the moon. “You must have been so afraid, alone out there. Didn’t I always tell you the outside is such a bad place for you?”

She crouched next to her, holding her hands in one of hers while with the other she cupped her cheek. 

Sadja hesitated. This was… this was not right.

This was not what she wanted. 

I don’t want to-

Verna shook her head. Clicked her tongue.

“Your head is full of cobwebs. Dirty, stupid ideas that grew there like choking weeds. You have no need for them. My beautiful, sweet Sadja. You only need to go back with me. It’s going to be just the three of us.”

Three? What did she mean with three?

No… there was something else… something else she wanted to focus on. 

It was not right for her to be here. She was not supposed to be here. 


On the snow.

In the forest.

Tucked away in Belacqua.

With her moth friends.

The… Hunter.

“Don’t you want to go back with me?”

Memories flooded her mind. The very first, holding onto the same woman, almost ten years younger, her child arms grasping at her white cloth, her eyes trying to peer through her mask to look for a genuine smile. 

The same smile as she petted her, telling her how much of a good girl she was.

Just as she hooked her up on needles

The only woman who had been with her at every step of her life, who had always been so proud of her.

Of her blood, only her blood, nothing more but her fluid she never cared about anything else

The only person who had always been there for her, who had moved mountains to hold her in her arms once again.

Because she wanted to squeeze her dry and use her, use her and never let her go and she’d be reduced to a wrung grey rag soon enough when she had drained every drop of blood from her vein and then

Then she’s disappear


“I…” Sadja hesitated. Every word was so heavy.

“Don’t you want to go back home, dearie?”

“I…” her tongue felt like a dead fish. Like those she tried to look for in the river. Before it froze.

After she spent her day pulling up vegetables.

With her… friends.

Her mouth tasted strange.

Like the aftertaste of that canned food.

The canned food she hate with… with the Hunter.

I don’t want to-


“That’s what you need.”

Verna pulled her in. Her mind sending needles right through her brain. She’d walk on the beaten path. Like a whipped dog.

Her dog.

She’d always be nothing but a dog on a leash.

And all her hope.


She pulled back.

“I don’t want to disappear.”

A hammer hitting the surface of ever-thinner ice, Sadja blinked as her eyes came back into focus. She kicked the chair back, withdrawing against the metal wall, feeling the hum of the flying aircraft. 

That dulling pressure was gone.
She was there.

She knew what she wanted and, Spirits! She did not want to go back with this woman.

“I don’t want to disappear!” She balled her fists, bared her fangs and jumped at her.


Verna flicked her wrist.

Sadja slowed mid-air, as if falling into an invisible mattress.

She kicked and yowled but she couldn’t advance nor withdraw, only tire her muscles as the invisible force held her up.

“On the one hand, I’m impressed. Must be the forest. I can’t knot your thoughts like I used to.” Her smile returned. Smaller, but if possible sharper. “On the other hand, that shows I was right from the start.”

“Let me go! I don’t ever want to see you again! All you did was to use me! Let me go now!” Sadja roared.

“Just like the first time?”

Sadja froze.

“What… what?”

The blonde woman pulled her in. Her hand reached for her cheek. She tried to bite her, but the same force held her still. Her fingers touched her skin and she would have wanted her to burn like the forest monsters, if she could.

“How did you escape, Sadja? Can you tell me?”

Between hard breaths, she was forced to go back to that first flight.

She was running through the forest.

She was free.

But before that?

Before that she…

There had been corridors.

And guards.



She couldn’t remember.

“Can’t you tell? Not even a thing? How do you think a girl like you escaped an underground facility like that? Did you perhaps turn yourself into thin air and passed through your cell? Became invisible and tip-toed past the guards?” Verna chuckled. “My dear Sadja. You don’t remember how you escaped because there’s nothing to remember.” Her finger tapped her nose. “You little rascal. I bet you were so proud of yourself.”

No no no no… 

Verna held out her hand. Bit by bit, she began to extend her fingers.

“One girl escapes a secret research facility, not even knowing how. A useful fool is tasked to retrieve her. After him, a Venatrix who’s as boorish as expendable. My best apprentice, secured in her own mind. And all this…” she opened her hand only to shut it into a fist. “To teach you a lesson. Do you get it now?” She pulled her even closer. Her voice dripping now into her furry ear. “Everything you did, everything your friends did… happened because of my vision and under my expert will. Oh, Sadja. All this was just to teach you this very, very important lesson.”

Verna withdrew. Her expression contrite, like she was trying to tell her the most obvious thing.

“There is no escape.”

Pic by viiva

Author’s Notes: I live for moments like these. I hope you enjoyed this chapter; writing this little revelation felt really good. Now I wonder how the other characters are going to react… as always, thanks for reading.


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