Patina – Chapter 132

Everyone in Belacqua would, for whatever time they had left, remember where they were when it happened. Whether they were with friends or alone, maybe on duty on the ramparts. 

Whatever they were doing, one thing was the same for everyone: it was a beautiful and finally clear day in late February, according to the old calendar. Winter had peaked and for the last few weeks after the celebration that had seen the entire town come together, they had seen less clouds, less snow, and less Eerie. 

The shadows that lingered in the forest had seemingly grown smaller and fewer. Blades of light had began to pierce through the blanket of clouds and for the first time in months most of the sky glistened blue and open. 

Moods were swinging up, and the entire town felt like the worst had come to pass.

They believed they could afford, after everything that happened, a bit of optimism. 


The truth was, towns like Belacqua did not sprout like lilies out of the frozen ground, randomly scattered through the forest. Nor were they the result of human exploitation of natural resources, like it used to happen in the world before. 

If someone could have looked upon that area of the planet from above, maybe from one of the dead stars of metal and glass that still streaked through the upper atmosphere, its inhabitants, experiments and tragedies long-forgotten, they could have connected the sparse towns like dots on a paper sheet, and found a series of concentric lines, the signs of the ever-shrinking lines of defense during the final years of the War against the Fae. 

Each of those had been built around a marvelous piece of human ingenuity, a never-sleeping furnace that drew power seemingly from the earth itself, able to power through the ever-longer nights of winter and provide heat and energy to a world that was growing cold. 

And even as the war itself came to an embarrassing standstill and towns were emptied and the world of Man disappeared under the encroaching roots and branches, those Generators remained, like glistening embers in the dark. 

When the Tide came and the first Vestals began to wake up, they were discovered once more and repurposed as steam engines spread the holy water, creating a curtain of protection similar to that enjoyed by the very few places on the planet that had been lucky enough to be surrounded by the sea. 

And as prospectors and settlers from Venexia founded the town during the first generation of Augurs, they deemed that the Generator of Belacqua was in good shape, and it could probably last many long years. 

But maybe something was wrong in that prediction. 

For deep beneath the ground, where the centuries-old metal held back against corrosion, wandering roots and the encroaching rot of the Forest, much deeper than the room where Elissa had stayed with the Engineers and had gotten the first few hints of the price she had to pay, a few steel plates creaked, cracked and collapsed beneath the weariness of yet another day. 

As they did, the counter-pillar they held couldn’t withstand its own weight. It fell fifty meters below, with a thunderous rumble that spread through metal and soil. 

And everyone in Belacqua froze when they felt that noise. 

Sadja lifted her face from her book. 

The Hunter looked back from his looking spot on the ramparts. 

Cloria and her liquidator team turned from the charred pile of Eerie remains they had been cleaning. 

Arguta let go of her tools and moved her gaze below as every little ting in her workshop tinkled and rattled. 

And Elissa, sitting in her study, stopped writing her letter, her frayed Sight sending through her body a thousand waves of alarm.

But even as the Augur stood up and ran out of the Temple to go find the engineers, the pillar deep beneath the earth couldn’t balance the weight of the others anymore. 

The burning core of the Generator found itself without one of its counterweights to balance the pressure – the other two rattled farther in a pre-programmed emergency setting that had been carved into the machine’s pattern centuries ago, but decades of rust made their gears grind and choke against the rails. 

The reaction in the core, usually a well-maintained dance of explosion and implosion, feel out of tune. 

The lid that kept the force of the Generator, holding onto it for almost twice as long as a Man’s life, hiccuped. 

The vacuum around the core ruptured.

Air rushed in. 

Oxygen met with the hypergolic coronite bars. 

And suddenly it was too late for everything else. 

The core blasted itself out of alignment, disassembling the tetraceramid plates that had contained its flame and cause the reaction to die.

But not fast enough to avoid the explosion. 

A burst of heat a thousand times greater than its usual output rattled through the veins and channels out of the Generator’s main chamber. Steel tubes bent and popped, rivets shot off like bullets, pipelines ripped themselves off the walls and hissed scalding steam like huge grey snakes. 

In a spreading wave, the pipelines, grates and valves that had kept the city safe burst all at once – most did not rupture, but enough of them did to surround the area in a huge cloud of steam that burned Belacqua’s people and sent many screaming out in the streets, holding onto their cooked limbs and burnt faces and hands.

For a while, the cloud hid the pain, the screams and the misery. 

Then, coaxed by a spell of cold wind from the north, it slowly lifted. 

One by one, the pipes, grates and exhausts that had kept the hallowed curtain hanging on the walled town fell silent and empty. 

And as the cloud dissipated, hundreds of faces turned up to watch it rise in the sky, slowly growing thinner and transparent. Their best protection, gone. 

For the first time in six years, the air around the town was clear. 

“Spirits,” the Hunter said in a dead whisper. “Not again.”

Pic by Wildfire

Author’s Notes: This was quite the unusual chapter to write. I really liked how experimental was to provide the Generator with the main spot. It has been the MVP for a long while, and something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Sure hope everyone will be safe! Thanks for reading!


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