Sadja would never feel full with a bit of bread and a few strips of salted meat, but eating a little at least allowed her to restore some of her senses. The other people at the table gave her curious glances if they focused for a moment on her ears or tail, but for the most part they kept to themselves.
“Last time it wasn’t this bad,” said a younger woman, holding onto the body of her small child, who was still asleep in a blanket, covering up everything up to his eyes. “How long will it last?”
Sadja glanced at her and tried to offer a smile, but it did not have the success she hoped for. In fact, she felt horrible – this was the first time she was actually trying to user her blood for something good and she did not feel like she was making any actual progress or change in the overall assault.
And Verna believed she could destroy the Heart of the Forest? It made her ball her fists in rage.
She had to do better than this – now that her head felt clear enough, she stood up from the table, pulled on her coat and looked once again at the young mother. It reminded her of her lost moth family, the one she had left in the woods… hopefully safe.
“I don’t know how long it will last. But I’ll work hard to make it stop.”
And with that said, she left the area to go look for Hunter. He might know what to do. After all, he’d been through it already.
Elissa groaned as she pulled herself through the tight passage. Her skin felt like she was being ripped apart – the oppressive metal pushing against her, making her wince with an ache that was steadily growing towards pain. She wouldn’t be surprised if her offended skin began to smoke. With one final push, she entered the collapsed hallway close to where the pylon had fallen out of sync. Walls here showed the same etched pattern she had seen above, but instead of words, it was just a series of intersecting lines, giving them a look like geometrical tree bark. Her skin crawled with the power of whatever they meant and their intent: to codify, imprison meaning and ordain reality according to one vision and one goal, so different from the raw vitality, the morbid life of the Forest. No wonder they were so noxious to each other.
“It’s here,” a middle-aged engineer woman said, lifting her electric lamp to show a window onto another abyss: Elissa perceived the light washing over a drunken slab of metal that had fallen out of its perch, leaning onto the empty shaft. It was maybe fifty meters tall and six thick, and it must weigh about half as all the sins on her old Teacher’s shoulders… her breath hitched at the thought of shifting this thing back into place. She came closer and her Threads informed her of another detail.
“This is a single piece,” she murmured in awe. “It wasn’t assembled. What kind of force…”
“The same that put fast stars into the sky,” the engineer replied, with a touch of awe tinging her voice. “The same that allowed us to almost win the War.”
She doubted that ‘almost win’ would be a good description of anything that happened during that time, but her heart jumped at her words anyway. Wasn’t she a product of that world as well?
Used to be, at least. Maybe some long-forgotten engineer or priestess or whatever Erepeople used had worked had to give her the same incredible powers of Sight she used to possess. Maybe, long years ago, someone had put a hand over the capsule where she slumbered and smiled at her, thinking she could have been the savior of mankind. And maybe someone else had smiled at a girl with wolf ears and a long white tail, as they floated in the endless rivers of night above, seemingly safe from the madness of the Queen of Thorns.
Until her capsule had fallen.
In moment like these, she felt like she could understand Verna’s morbid fascination a little better.
Not that she liked to.
She absent-mindedly put her hand against the metal and withdraw it, wincing from the pain.
“Nothing. The cold,” she replied. Even through her gloves. This was getting worse. And she’d had to get down there.
If she could have closed her eyes, she would. Trying to think of the one person she was doing all this for. The assault, the town… the Threads pulled towards a horrible future, an abyss of gnawing teeth she saw the pale girl disappear into.
Anything but that.
Whatever it took.
She turned towards the engineer and held out a hand.
“Hand me the rope.”
The Hunter kneaded his weary face, stifling a yawn. The blood loss from his protective circle and the strain of fighting had left him weary, aching and strained. He looked at the circle of white fire and conventional explosions that still held back the Tide, for the time being at least.
He massaged his right eye. It stung so bad he feared he would lose it forever after this night, if there was still something of him that remained.
Sadja might be recovering. He ought to go look for her, make sure she was fine. And maybe, just maybe… find a way for her to escape.
But how? The only flyer had departed…
Maybe entrust her to Elissa? The Augur was probably the only person in the entire Town with the power to survive the Tide by herself.
He spat a wad of saliva and blood, leaning against a barricade to check on his armaments. His rifle was out of commission already, but his knife, the very same knife he had started this whole ordeal with, was still perfect.
“They don’t make it like this anymore,” he mumbled, feeling like an old man at the end of his rope.
He lifted his gaze once again – the Eerie had spilled in to the outer rim of the walls, staying clear of their sigils, filling a thin line that was slowly closing in the town, encircling it like a line of oil about to catch fire.
And there was worse.
At first they had thrown themselves into the homes with abandon, crushing battering burning everything, trying to look for fresh meat beneath the rubbles, but bit by bit, they had calmed down, staying out of range from the batteries and the holy water cannon.
That was not how Eerie worked.
And then he felt it.
It began as a crackling at the base of his skull, a whining noise that rose to turn into a cackle, a winning laughter that reverberated through his bones.
What did I tell you, Trespasser?
From the open maw of the breach, a new figure appeared. Lanky and tall, so gaunt to look famished, the Fae floated in, holding out his arms wide, a pale golden flame in each. Its vitreous eyes seemed to pierce right through him, the needle-like grin on its overturned head as sharp as the moment he had first seen it, on the other side of the river.
The Eerie howled and chittered, wriggling like black maggots at the second coming of their bloated and cruel lord.
Your time has grown so short.
Pic by morbent