Patina – Chapter 95

Gathering stuff was a little different around the Hunter’s hut. Sadja huffed as she pushed away the next Eerie corpse. Behind he the daughter flipped two more on her shoulders and threw a third on a makeshift sled, pulling them away. There were so many still hanging from the barbed wire hanging between the iron bars. Last night they had heard no scratching or creaking outside the hut, only a long series of howls of pain and anger in the distance. 

Sure, even such a well-made defense system had its drawbacks. 

Such as cleaning up. 

“You make it seem so easy,” Sadja groaned at the daughter, who chirped in reply, her shoulders shaking in laughter. “What’s your secret?” She wriggled her four arms. Sadja rolled her eyes, gave one final pull and decided to take a break. The sun had just went up anyway.

“Yhhour dhhoinng ghrehat,” she said taking a step closer. 

“Not as great as I’d like.” She flexed her arms. Sure, there was some more meat there than when she had escaped, together with far more scars and scuffs and bruises, but she was a far cry from Cloria and especially the Hunter. “I want to make myself useful. Plus, need my muscles for when I am going to live, in Spring.”

The moth-girl nodded. She put a black hand under her chin. What was she thinking about?

“Whhhe’ll hhavhe thoo gooh bhhack.” Her other two hands wriggled nervously. “Hhome nnhheds hhuhs.”

Sadja’s ears flopped. She guessed she was right, but… they had just come and managed to spend a little time together. 

“I know, but can’t you just say a few more days?”

The moth-girl embraced her and chirped against her chest, nodding softly. 

“Thanks,” Sadja replied, patting her on her back, making sure not to touch her filigree wings. 

They stayed like that for a while, just breathing together in the cool air as small snowflakes began to dance about. 

That was when the daughter withdrew from her embrace and pointed at the corpses and at the rapidly-covering sky. Sadja did not feel like anything had changed, but she trusted her enough. Maybe a storm of some kind? At any rate, they had to get back to work. 

Still, even pushing and pulling goopy, charred corpses like that, it felt a little better to do so with a friend.
Now that the redhead girl had left them alone, she felt a little safer, in fact. She was a little much to deal with. Maybe she should do as the Hunter asked her to and give her a chance (she was just trying to help, after all), but something about her made her feel… unease. Maybe it was the fact she was a Vestal.

Then again Cloria used to be a Vestal, and they were rapidly getting over their differences. 

So… what was it?

Sadja got so caught up in the thoughts that she forgot to stop breathing when pulling up another corpse and the intense reek burned her sensitive nose.

Heaving and coughing, she pulled back from the wire and spat on the frozen ground until the worst of it passed.

That was it. No more getting distracted until she cleaned it all off.


A few meters away, the Hunter watched Sadja interact with the moth-girl. He chuckled as she coughed when she got a whiff too much of Eerie’s smell. One did get used to it, but it needed time. And yet the girl was getting better. She had recovered from all of her wounds already, while Cloria still needed some bed time yet.

At least that gave her no more excuses to try and connect with Sadja. Teaching her to read was a good idea, and he’d be almost surprised she came up with it on her own. Maybe she just really wanted to get back to her good graces.

Or that was another sign she was really starting to change. Too soon to tell.

Maybe Elissa would know, but for the past few days he hadn’t seen the Augur at all. She had come back to the Temple, consecrated a few more attendants to make up for the four who got lost in the forest, and gone back to business as usual. Making holy water and taking care of the Generator. 

Turning back, he watched Belacqua, surrounded by a rim of black corpses, tall rusted walls and the omni-present clouds of vapor that were its best defense. For all that iron and blood could do, holy water was indeed their best protection against the forest.

Which reminded him… he had heard Arguta did survive Trefiumi’s fall. He really needed to have a meeting with her. 

About what happened to her town, what her plans were for the future, and about what to do with the girl, especially.

No worries about Cloria. As soon as it was safe, he’d kick her out of his home. He’d help her get a job, and there was no shortage of work for a Venatrix in wintry Belacqua. 

But the girl? He had promised her to bring her into the forest by Spring, but as things were at the moment, she would be little more than a load and a liability. The world did not stop being dangerous because the Queen of Thorns went to sleep. 

He pursed his lips. Well. He might not have the gift of foresight, but he knew when something ought to be done. Cloria might get the girl a bit of academic training… he’d just have to take care of the other part.

He nodded as the decision settled inside his heart like a tassel he did not know he missed. 

After all, he still felt guilty accepting Verna’s mission. Getting her versed in the way of the Hunt would take years of training, but she was physically gifted and, as far as Cloria had said, a fast learner.

If thing worked out, she’d be able to get by on her own. And at this point, that was the best gift he could give her.

Pic by The Panda


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