Patina – Chapter 100

Elissa’s study smelled like old things. Like leather, and rust, and seeping mold beneath the sleeping stones of the temple. She sat next to her on a large black table. The room was a wide circle surrounded by tall and thin windows shaped like bullets. Veils of sunlight peered though, as the occasional snowflake blinked on the glass. 

“These picture books are ancient,” the Augur told her, flipping through the pages of the Hunter’s tomes. “Some of them might even come from before the war. Who knew the Hunter held such treasures in his hut.”

“How can you do it?” Sadja’s tail wiggled against the chair as she leaned forward, trying to peek past the blindfold that covered Elissa’s eyes.

The redhead smiled, closing down the book.

“Eyes are deceiving. It’s why we cover them when we take a look into the future. For everyday tasks… you just need to get used to it.”

Sadja nodded, but she was not really convinced. Her blue eyes roamed over the Augur’s face. Maybe she was just trying to understand how different from Verna she was. She set down her pen. They had spent about one hour revising Cloria’s teachings, and Elissa did make a few corrections here and there.

As it turns out, a Vestal who had completed her education was at least slightly better at this than one who had abandoned it to run into the woods. 

“Does it hurt?”

A frown creased the Vestal’s brow.

“No. It’s a lot like looking inside you. Almost like taking a nap.”

“I am doing something similar with the Hunter!” Her ears perked up, excited. “He’s trying to teach me how to brave the forest on my own.”

“Yes. I see.”

“I am having an even harder time with it than with books, though…”

“Hard time?” Elissa tapped on her notes. “It’s been less than ten days since you started and you can already write correct sentences and read books without a dictionary. We used to have Novices that only grasped the fundamentals after a month. You are doing great.”

“Thank you…” Sadja scratched her cheek, a little embarrassed at the unending praise. “But, uh, could you help me with something else as well? I’d like to get better at this meditation thing.”

The Augur stood silent for a long moment. Sadja’s heart picked up pace. Maybe she had misstepped. Maybe she had asked something the other girl was not ready to deliver. Writing was one thing, but…

“What is the matter?”

“Uh, can’t you just tell me how to fix it? I suppose you have already…”

Elissa sighed.

“We’ve been over this. I am not going to enter your mind uninvited. I have an idea, but I will prefer to hear it from you.”

“Hm. Yes.. makes sense. Well, when I try to relax my mind keeps wandering each and every time. It’s hard to hold it in, but without it…”

“… you won’t be able to earn the Hunter’s next lesson.”

Sadja’s hands rose to cover her ears.

“Hey! You said you wouldn’t look!”

Elissa chuckled.

“That was merely a guess. I’m allowed to guess, am I not?”

Sadja pursed her lips.

“… I suppose…”

“Very well. At this point, we can see what’s the problem and try to correct it together. Would that be alright with you?”

“You know… you are a lot less forceful than when we first met. I did not like how you pretended to know me already and how hot on my tail you were,” Sadja said. The other girl started at her remarks. “Sorry if that came out in-sen-si-tive… it’s a new word I just picked up by the way… but what was up with that? You freaked me out.”

Elissa’s right hand clenched.

“At this point I don’t really expect you to remember. Something must have happened. I have my suspicions on Verna.”

“I don’t remember anything like that and I’d prefer it if you didn’t suggest I was crazy or anything like that.”

“I’m not. It’s just… how can we have different memories about the same thing? One of the two must be wrong.”

“I trust my mind completely.”

“Then I envy your confidence.”

Silence stretched between them, spreading like a chocking vine. Sadja held onto her position, though. She was not crazy and she would remember her if she had met her before. 

“The first time I saw you was in the forest,” she said shaking her head. “You were walking amidst the trees. You seemed lost. And a little scared. I did not know what to do.”

“I was looking for you,” Elissa replied reaching out with a hand. She hesitated, then brushed Sadja’s fingers with her own. “The forest is treacherous by winter. Maybe some part of me got lost… I have been looking for you for weeks. I moved mountains to keep you safe. I healed the Hunter when he needed it, I set the pieces right to get us rid of Verna. All because you could be here, safe and sound. And learning about silly things like dictionaries and new types of plants… and… and asking me for a little help with meditation.” Her shoulders trembled. Was she crying? But there were no tears running down her cheeks. 

“I did not know anything about it,” Sadja replied, feeling a little silly. She had no idea how to reply to the Augur’s words.

“It’s the story of what I did for you. You might not remember me. And it might be scary. But if you can… would you allow me to show you how it happened? What happened?”

“How… can you do that?”

The other gave a wet chuckle.

“Comes with being a Vestal.”

“I don’t feel so eager to let you inside my head though. Sorry, but Verna was there. She let claw marks all over.”

“I understand. Would it be alright if you came inside mine?”

Sadja blinked.

“You… you can do that?”

“Of course.”

“Even if I can’t keep my mind from wandering?”

“Just hold my hand. I’ll take care of everything.”

Sadja bit her lip. The whole idea did not set well with her, not completely, but the Augur had proven she could be more… gentle and considerate than she had given her credit for, at least at the start. She was taking her time and asking for permission, rather than tying her up with her oily threads. She frowned. Thinking about Verna was not good for her. And it was not good to project Verna onto this… new girl she had just met. 


“You can end it at any time.”

“How do I…”

“Squeeze my hand.”

Elissa widened her fingers. Bit by bit, Sadja fit her hand onto the Vestal’s, pale fingers against off-white, silvery skin.


Elissa leaned forward and put her forehead against her own. Sadja’s eyelids brushed against the blindfold’s fabric.

And then she was not in the temple anymore.

Pic by Anachron

Author’s Notes: it’s done. It’s the 100th chapter in a row! At least 1000 words, published every day! The challenge is won! I feel beyond elated at this moment. I can’t believe I have finally reached this milestone. Working and writing every day has left a big impact on the way I approach writing, and I would like to write more about it with a blog spot or two. In the meantime, I wanted to provide you with a sweeter chapter, something between our two female leads at last. I hope you liked it. Thanks for reading.


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