Patina – Chapter 135

Amarco, the Constable, was helping just like everyone else. The Hunter’s chest hurt at the thought he’d just been handling out holy water and wallowing in pity. Another thing he ought to be grateful to Sadja for. 

It was a growing list. 

“Hunter!” He greeted him, standing up from his labor, gesturing to another worker to keep pushing the stake deep into the frozen ground. “I have been waiting for you.”

“Same,” he muttered. 


“Nothing. I am here to help.”

“You and your friend?” He asked, giving Sadja a quizzical look. 

“I am not as good at him, but I’ll do my best!” She replied. 

“You have not even been here for three months,” Amarco said with a half smile. “I like that. Very well… we have spikes to put into the ground, muzzles to set up, pipelines to detach and fill with coronite… we have our work cut up for us.”

“Other than that… how many do you think can arm the ramparts?”

Amarco scratched his chin. He had been too far from the steam explosion to show the signs, but many of the workers sported bandages and large patches of red skin. 

“Not enough to cover every angle.”

“Any contingency plans for when something like this would happen?”

“You are the one who knows about Eerie,” he replied with a shrug. “I would have appreciated your suggestions more six hours ago.”

That stung. 

But he deserved it and he could go past it. 

“I know. I would like to be able to solve this entire thing myself. But I have something I could help with. I will also need her help. And Cloria’s.” Sadja’s ears quivered, puzzled. “You are good enough to provide all that we need,” he reassured her.

“Is this some of the stuff you do? Whatever Old Man Salix did. That mumbo jumbo with blood.”

“I am not as good as he was. But we have someone who’s better than him.”

Sadja’s cheeks flushed a deep silver.

“Alright. So, provided you do whatever you say, how is that going to help us with the Eerie?”


“Eerie do not really think,” Cloria explained, taking out of flamethrower and her heaviest clothing, remaining in her shirt, blouse and pants. She was so fired up the cold was a distant thought. She still had the presence of mind to put on another coat. “They act on hunger, instinct. Often trying to recreate what caused their turning when the Tide took them. It’s why you see so many of them skittering around certain places. Hence, they do not actually… do tactics.”

“Alright,” Marina nodded, taking up her flamethrower and starting to switch over the coronite fuel. “That’s really useful – nice. I suppose I’ll think about it when those thing dine on my entrails.”

“Let her speak,” Bernardo said. 

“Just because she lets you in her skirt doesn’t mean she needs my permission,” she bit back. 

“Quiet,” Cloria commanded.

She spoke sharply, but her companions turned to her at once, falling into a respectful silence. 

Three months ago, she would have killed to gain that same level of respect. 

Three months later, after she did, she felt sick in the stomach. 

“What I mean is that they are going to swarm through any opening. The Tide! It’s in the very name.  I suppose the last time it was more or less the same.”

Bernardo’s face grew dark. 

“… more of less the same, yes. They overcame the defenses, coming in from every angle.”

“Exactly. Now, I bet we are going to see two phases in tonight’s assault, and that of the next few days.” She pulled up her arm, showing her pale skin and the paler sings of her cruoromancy. “The Eerie are going to try to overwhelm any defenses, in the first one. That’s going to be easiest.”


As afternoon bled dry, turning redder and redder, the evening sky starting to creep just as more and more noises and creaking chirps came from the outskirts of the forest, the Hunter strode over the ramparts, holding a thin brush in his right hand and his trusted knife in his left one. Every three steps, he sat down and drew some more blood from his wound, tracing a protective symbol over the old and battered concrete. 

“We’ll try to use the old breach in the walls as a funnel,” he explained Amarco. “Make them cut right through it. I am placing these seals all over the walls, to make them cram their assault in one area.”

“But we almost covered the entire walls,” he pointed out.

“That we did,” he groaned, standing up. He was already feeling weak from blood loos. Needed a few minutes of sleep and then recover or he’d be useless for the coming night. “That’s because it must not be so obvious. Sadja is going to apply another kind of seal all over, except for the breached part.”

“I see,” he replied, turning to watch the far-off girl in white while she also danced from point to point over the walls, crouching down every three steps as well. She moved with a grace and speed that he did not possess. Surely not anymore. 

“But you said Eerie do not think,” Amarco retorted, moving his gaze to the lines of men and women taking place at the batteries, holding onto their weapons, their loved ones, the scant resources of holy water.

“They do not. But they won’t be alone.”


“Have you ever met a Fae?” Cloria asked, tracing another cut down her arm. Tiny droplets of blood danced in the air, wriggling. A few bumped against each other. “Hnn. The Hunter makes this look so easy!”

“Aren’t Eerie the same thing?” Bernardo asked.

“Spirits, they are not,” she winced. “Fae are the actual living people we used to fight against during the War. Eerie and Beasts are just the fallout. We’ve been trying to protect ourselves from the cursed, mutated, flesh-and-bone mass of our own dead.” She clicked her tongue as a silence colder than the night awaiting them fell between the group. “Isn’t that a nice thought. Well, usually Fae leaves us alone. The Hunter met one a few months ago, but it wasn’t very talkative. But if one of them perceives a large number of Eerie rushing in for an attack, they are going to get curious. And suddenly that chaotic, voracious mass… becomes a chaotic, voracious mass that can think.

Marina blinked.

“Is the Augur going to be alright?”

Cloria thought back to what the Hunter told him about the… accident. Not much. 

But she understood the question well enough. 

“No offense to Lenora, but Elissa is a completely different person. She’s tough as nails. I don’t think the Eerie are going to take her. Hnnh.” She finished carving the seal. Lifting her arm, she showed them all a rounded mark, cut through by what looked like a reversed t. “Now come here. I have to carve the same symbol in your own skin. It won’t be pretty, but it will protect you. Hopefully.”


Sadja met Hunter at the top of the walls, close to the deformed, haphazardly-rebuilt section. She held onto her left arm, but not a droplet of silver blood ran down her skin. She stood there, the dying sun playing with her white hair. Hunter gave her a smile and she felt a bit of life coming back into her chest. She pulled him closer and he let them share an embrace. 

“I hope my friends are going to be alright.”

“They will be. The attention of the Forest is far and away from them.”

She regarded the shifting forest beneath them. The treetops shivered, as if unseen things were gathering right beneath the protection of their sap-dripping branches. 

“The sun is going down,” she muttered. 

“It always comes up again.” He hesitated. He crouched in front of her and set his hands on her shoulders. “If something bad happens…”

“I am not going to run away,” she cut him short. 


“I am not. I haven’t known it very long or very well… but this place has been my home for at least a while. I won’t run away.”

He regarded her for a long moment.

In the end, he pulled her in close for another embrace. This time it was so tight she could feel his heart beating through her chest. 

“I won’t either,” Hunter said.

Over them, the sun began to drip below the line of trees.

The blanket of golden light bathing the town began to turn gray and fade into actual twilight. 

A shrill cry resounded from below.

Soon echoed by a hundred thirsty jaws. 

“There will be a Spring for both of us,” he muttered next to her twitching ear. “We will explore the woods together, when they are safe and green. And then we will pick up a boat and sail until the end of the Bittersea. We will explore how long you want to explore.”

“And we are going to find so many cans of food!” Sadja chuckled.

“As many as you want,” he assured her.

Pic by hive

Author’s Notes: aaaah! It’s almost here! I have this section of the story living rent-free in my head since I first decided to write it, and it’s really exciting to finally see it play out! I really hope you will keep finding the next few chapters as exciting as those before. I for one had a great time writing this. Thanks for reading… and for your enduring support.


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