Patina – Chapter 136

The cold was settling in even through the deepest reaches of the Generator. As the sun stopped bathing Belacqua in its light and the leftover heat escaped, Arguta and the others had to put on thicker and thicker clothes. It was getting hard to work with gloves and coats, and metal was turning deathly cold to the touch on the upper levels already. It was as if the power of the forest was seeping in through the rocks and the protections that men had though secure, showing once again to how little their hopes amounted in the face of the Wicked Fae. 

Even clad as she was in warm, expensive cotton (they had been so kind to give her some from the very last shipment Verna, of all people, had provided the town with during the last autumn), her old bones shivered and creaked in the chilling air. She held up her electric lantern as she followed the others down into the depths, finding more and more rust and disrepair. 

These fools did not even zinc the joints – the Generator’s shaft was huge, probably two hundred meters deep, and it bore the signs of a civilization compared to which they were just ants, but ants still managed to keep their houses working, didn’t they?

She shook her head, looking for more places where they could find a hint on how to restart the fire in the Generator. As far as she had understood, the power unbalance in the Core wouldn’t be restored until the pillar that had fallen out of axis could be put back into place.

She could faintly see the light from her torch scatter over its profile: a fifty-meters thick slab of steel, held up by the heat of the tiny star the Erepeople had managed to borne in the Generator’s womb. 

It sounded, to her ears, just as magical as the tales of the Fae outside her window, if lot less morose. 

They did not have the means to put it back into place… let alone restart the reaction. 

But they had to try. 

Otherwise, they’d soon face bigger problems than the cold.


Surprising even herself, Cloria had asked to be put on the frontline, with her faithful gear set up to fire. She licked her chapped lips as cold bit deep into her exposed skin, slithering down her clothes. They had grown complacent. She remembered the days in the Forest when winter had barely begun and yet it had seemed so cold and so unwelcome. Now… she lifted her gaze past the empty walls, towards the last few embers of sunlight still scattered to the west, as twilight pulled everything in its deep sack made of darkness… now the chill got attached to her bones and it seemed like it would never leave. 

Was this how those people in the blasted cities they had found must have felt? Before the Fae syphoned all their cursed flesh and bones and cursed them into Eerie, never allowing them even the mercy of death? Knowing their world was ending, and they could do nothing to stop the awakening blight?

She closed her eyes, took a long breath and tried to pull her mind back from the cliff of anxiety and fear it was about to fall into. 

They had made it this far. They were never the less living on borrowed time, mold growing on the ruins of a previous civilization. They all knew what would happen if the Generator failed.

She gripped the flamethrower’s trigger and opened her eyes once again. 

From behind the walls came the echo of a thousand’s thousand skittering bodies, cautiously approaching the town now that the defenses were gone, their bodies crunching the snow. 

The Hunter had told her he’d been setting on some defenses up above, but from here, stuck with the others in the armored barricades behind the collapsed section, she could not see them. 

That man. She chuckled. He had truly been her ruin, hm? To think she used to look up to him when she first decided to become a Venatrix…

If she died tonight, if she was lucky enough to just die tonight, she would still be glad to have known him. 

A dull ache spread on the back of her head. The faintest hint from her miserable powers, even dulled as it was by the presence of the forest.

“They are coming,” she predicted, pointing at the topmost part of the restored ramparts.

With a sound like creaking branches, chittering, shrieking bodies began to climb over the walls. 


Sadja watched them coming. Unlike Hunter, she couldn’t really feel the protections vibrate and shimmer at the assault of crooked limbs and eager claws as they reached the upper wall, but she did see the crimson and silver flashes lit up the night sky all over as the most eager among the assaulters found that it wouldn’t be as easy as they hoped to attack this specific can of food. 

She gritted her teeth as the flashes became more and more frequent. From time to time she felt like she could see the silhouette of a contorted shape, or once-human faces contorted in eternal pain. 

Next to her, Hunter opened his eyes. The assault continued, but while the shrieks became higher and shriller, the people around them focused their rifles, guns, flamethrowers towards the entrance of the gate. 

From behind it came a rushing sound of many bodies fleeing to the apparently-weak point, the only one where Sadja’s seals weren’t blasting white-hot sparks onto their flesh. 

The metal groaned under the bellowing weight of the Eerie as they piled up against it, hitting it with the force of a mail. Thoom, thoom, thoom, the echoes of their bodies rippled through the frozen ground and the rest of the walls. 

The first barricades would be the ones to face the direst threat. At least until the Fae came. 

Sadja pricked her arm. She widened her limbs and a shining bow of thin silver blood appeared in her hands. Hunter gave her a smile and a nod. 

Before them, the haphazardly-rebuilt gate groaned and creaked. It might have resisted, on any normal day, but it had not been built, or rebuilt to withstand such a pressure. 

With a resounding creak of twisted metal and shattered timber, the first hinges blasted off into pieces. The smallest Eerie, skittering skulls on legs, hungry tendrils of spiked flesh slithered through.

Next to her, the people of Belacqua opened fire. And amidst the flashing light and echoes of gunpowder and forgotten military leftovers of a bygone era, Sadja let go of her the first of her blood arrows.

Pic by The_Silent


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