Sadja looked at her twitching hand, at the her chafed nails. She had touched her. She had scratched her! She had wounded her! She turned to look at the woman who had raised her, who had taken her out of her capsule, who had knotted her memories and her thoughts into convoluted knots and who had wanted nothing more than turn her into an obedient pet and a sac of blood. She snarled.
A tiny part of her mind and her heart still knew this wasn’t right. She wasn’t supposed to rejoice at the thought of finally hurting the woman who had taken her in, the woman she had only wanted support and affection from. But it was tiny and scared and crying in a corner. Like she had been.
Time and time again.
Letting her go had been a mistake.
Sadja balled her fist.
Verna pointed her weapon at her.
“I don’t blame you,” she spat. “You’re a confused, scared pup. Bludgeoning some sense onto you would be too unkind. But I can deal with those who are trying to steal you away.” She opened her arms wide and began to float in the air. “Is this your doing, Queen? Is this all the Heart of the Forest has in store for me?” Her grin came back. “Because tugging at a few strands of fate like that is not going to change anything.”
Sadja looked around for a pointy stick. She was getting a little too high in the air for her fingernails, but a good old stake could do the job just fine. She wouldn’t go back into the kennel.
I will not disappear.
On the other end of the crater Cloria pointed her gun and shot, but the bullet wheezed past Verna as if she had not even been there. She shot again and again, but they all missed.
“Alright,” she growled, walking on air towards the Venatrix, “I’ll play.”
The moth-people gathered at her side, trying to cover her for the attack and Sadja just picked up a sharp rock in the end. It would do.
“Leave her alone!” She shouted throwing it at the Augur. Like the bullets, the rock slowed down mid-air and fell onto the snow, without Verna even turning to look at her.
“That’s not going to be very effective,” said a male voice.
“Hunter!” She shouted as he reached for her. She passed her hands over his bloodied torso, noticing new scars where the branches had pierced him. “You’re not dead!”
“Not at the moment,” he mused, handing her a smaller knife from his belt. “Use this in case some Eerie decides to sneak in. Hide somewhere and leave this to us!”
“But I want to help!”
“You already did. You have seen Verna… it’s not like you can…”
“I’m going to decide what I can or cannot do!” She shouted pushing the knife’s handle against his chest. “What else did you think I would do?”
He blinked, seemingly taken aback by her fury, but then something settled in his eyes. An awareness, an understanding. He set his hand over her shoulder.
“What you went through…” he whipped his head back to Cloria and the others. “Keep her busy for a few seconds! I have a thing or two to teach Sadja here!”
“Easy for you to say!” Cloria shouted, fiercely reloading her gun as Verna made her flay crackle with power.
The Hunter crouched in front of her.
“I can’t teach you all I know about cruoromancy, but this is one of the first tricks Old Man Salix passed on to me.” He placed the knife against her exposed skin. “Of course, you’ll need your blood to use it. Ready?”
Biting on her lip, Sadja nodded.
Cloria cursed as she unloaded the last of her bullets on the advancing Augur. All she could do was waste priceless ammunition on her former teacher and Head of the Order.
Verna pulled back her whip and swung. Cloria jumped back as it traced a crackling arc that almost sent her hair ablaze.
But she never touched the ground. An invisible force held her up in the air. She gritted her teeth. Right. She could do that. She closed her eyes and tried to fight it, to focus whatever remained of her Sight on struggling for control over her body.
All she got was a short bout of laughter from the High Seer.
“You could have put away your pride and fulfill some sort of purpose. But no, you had to leave the Order. I knew about this. We all did. And do you know why we didn’t stop a pathetic waste of holy water like you?” She snarled.
The moth-people threw their spears at her, but Verna flicked her wrist and they snapped in two, falling amidst the molten snow.
“Because I saw you’d be useful to me. Your old friend Valeriana reached out to me. She asked me to look for you, because you were now lost in the forest in the middle of winter.” Her eyebrows creased in contempt. “That a skilled Augur like her could lose her sleep over you baffles my mind.”
Cloria’s gun flew out of her hand, lost into the forest. She moved her other hand to reach for her knife. Maybe… just maybe she could…
“But all in all, I am grateful,” Verna admitted. She flicked her finger and she whipped Cloria against the ground, making her splash on the puddles of molten snow. Cloria groaned. But the force left her alone for but a moment and she managed to get her knife. She pointed it at her side. She had to make it look like an afterthought… she’d be staring right into her mind, but maybe, with a bit of luck… “I am very grateful to my patience and my foresight. For I get to crush you personally, instead of letting you to the Eerie or the Hunter.”
She rose in the air again and she managed to move the blade away from her skin just enough. When she impacted again on the ground, it shook her breathing out. Feebly, she carved a line around her side.
Just enough time. She rose once again and was squashed.
“Gnnghh,” Cloria groaned. She was just so tired of all this. The one time in her life she tried to actually help someone other than herself, and it had turned out like this. Curse that wolfgirl and her fluffy tail, may it forever stink of wet dog.
And yet, Valeriana had asked about her.
And the Hunter had allowed her another chance.
And the moth-people did try to defend her.
What a stupid decision. Now, if only Verna allowed her to carve her flesh just a little more…
She lifted her up in the air. Way higher this time. Wind rushed around her ears as Cloria saw Verna turn smaller and smaller, even as her grin widened. She reached a point where the force holding her up ebbed and then disappeared.
She only had a few heartbeats.
She slashed her side, completing the circle.
She began to fall down.
Grade this, Teach, she thought as she shouted one final word of command. Her blood rushed out of her wound, wrapping itself up in a thin and long spear of condensed vital fluid.
Still, it was far less sharp and far slower than it should have been as it flew straight at Verna’s neck.
Hey, Cloria thought as the ground rose to welcome her, The Hunter only showed me once.
Verna let out a shriek as the lance of blood hit her in the left arm.
Better teacher anyway, she mused as she finally hit the hard, wet soil.
Pic by DarkfangAuthor’s Note: score for Cloria! Poor girl finally gets a victory. I hope you liked this first part of the battle with Verna. I hope I can provide you with better action next time. At any rate, thanks for reading.