Patina – Chapter 133

There was a tense moment, clear as crystal and just as fragile, before panic would set in. Sadja smelled it. She had pulled away one of the townspeople, an elderly man she happened to be helping with groceries, away from a bursting pipe. Her back ached from the jet of steam, but she was faring much better than those taken in the blast radius of the Generator’s last heartbeat. 

“Oh no,” the man babbled, reaching for his necklace and the vial of holy water, “it’s happening once again!”

“What are you talking about?” But she did know, didn’t she? She heard the two workers talk about it, she had felt it in the continuous groaning and creaking from below. 

“The Generator is dead!” The old man croaked. Then his dark eyes went back into focus and he took a glance at her wet back where the jet of steam had hit her clothes and her flesh. “Are you alright?”

“It’s just a bit of water,” she tried to play it off.

Others had not been as lucky. 

Silence break around her – like islands of ice on a thawing lake, tall cries of pain and anguish separated and rose, clawing at the open and clear sky, devoid of any protection. People fell to the ground, holding onto their faces, onto their burned skin, onto each other. 

Sadja’s ears flickered hearing fragments of prayers, calls for help, curses and cries.

“Can I leave you here?” She asked the man, who nodded, still looking a bit out of it. 

She had to find Hunter. 

As the water on her skin began to grow colder and colder in the rapidly-dropping temperature, she ran through the snowed streets, aiming for the walls. 


Elissa found Arguta and the others in the main shaft room. A dozen people in their working clothes, covered I grease and holding onto their burned skin, screaming and crying at each other, running around like headless chicken or tiny hungry Eerie, skittering about without a real direction, or goal other than vent out their panic. 

She leaned over the rail, looking down at the group, standing in front of the dead Generator.

“How do we fix it?” She asked, her voice little more than a whisper, but strong enough to raise over their chattering. Her heart beat fast. 

If she did not find a way to restore power, Sadja would be in great danger, and once again it would be her fault. Besides, while she would never admit it to their faces, she did not feel just indifference and annoyance for these people anymore. 

Even if the one face that kept flashing in front of her eyes was still the pale one of the wolf-girl above. 

“I am no expert on these beasts,” Arguta admitted, shaking her head and pointing at the bald engineer. 

“Ah, Augur. Thanks for coming down this fast. The situation is dire. Last time it was a temporary hiccup, but some of the inner flame kept burning. As of now…” he gestured to a series of readers and valves that Elissa couldn’t really understand, but she saw that each of their measuring hands rested on zero. “The heart is dead. We will have restart it.”

“How do we do it? Do you need material, men? I can send out a call to the Order,” she tried, though even as she said so she doubted it. Her abilities had been strained to the point of ripping herself apart last time she tried something like that, and now the winter was far more advanced… and she was greatly diminished. 

“Can they arrive before the night?” The engineer asked.

Elissa shook her head. She doubted that even during the industrial age people could move that fast between cities. And now that Verna was gone, nobody had a vested interest in Belacqua’s survival. That meant…

“We are on our own,” Arguta sighed, kneading her face. “First Trefiumi and now this. This year is an endless string of bad news. Is there a way to restart the Generator?”

“We will have to check. Erepeople likely left some instructions for such cases, but they are going to be buried somewhere deep. We might not even be able to recover them.”

“Get to it,” Elissa said. “I am going to go make more holy water. Arguta, I expect a report in two hours, you’ll find me in the pool.”

She turned and left. They still had time before the night came and the Eerie rushed in unimpeded.

She hoped she could make enough holy water to at least give the town a chance to fight back.
On her way upstairs to the Temple, she reached for her chest – her heart beat so fast… but it was a weirder feeling than simple fear or apprehension. Was she excited? Maybe this came from just trying to do something for others. She could just… walk outside and ask for the Queen’s protection. 

She could weather this storm at any time. 

“Don’t get strange ideas,” she muttered to no one, climbing the stairs to her room. 

She was never going to do that. 


Cloria was panting fast. Truth is, she had been growing soft. The relative protection of holy water and how commodious it had been to rest easily behind walls of steam had gotten to her. Now she was once again alone in the forest, and though she still held onto her flamethrower, she was sweating hard, her heart beating a mile a minute. Each breath like drawing in sharp needles.

“What do we do?” Bernardo asked pulling her a little closer. 

She blinked, seemingly going back to reality. Her team looked at her, as if she could answer her problems. But she couldn’t. Not like this. She was just…

“Why are you asking me?” She croaked.

“You are the Venatrix,” Marina said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. 

But she had been nothing but a failure as one. She…

“We are asking you because you have the most experience of us all. We know you went into the forest in winter, and lived to tell the tale.”

“It wasn’t a good idea to try that,” she retorted. Images of her six men she had cursed to death or worse flashed behind her eyes. “I am not the one you should follow.”

“Who said anything about following?” Marina crossed her arms. “I am not following nobody, not even if the High Seer comes out of the woods right now wearing the crown of the Dogali. But you would know what to do when there’s not steam around you.”

In a way, she was right. No matter how much holy water she might carry on herself for protection and healing, she had always stared down Eerie on the other end of a knife, holding a firebomb.

She looked down at the flamethrower, her reflection looking back at her, distorted, changed. 

She was not the same woman who went into the forest anymore. 

Which meant embracing new responsibilities.

Besides, if she did take the cowardly choice now, Sadja would never speak to her ever again. 

“Alright. Oh, Spirits, this is going to be bad. This is going to get messy.”

Pic by JollyD


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