They helped Arguta standing up. The roar of the engines and the lights coming back up had taken her by surprise – as they did everyone else. One moment, they’d been sharing tired gazes, listening to the oppressing silence between the dead walls as the siege continued, knowing that they would soon lose any chance to live through the night. And then-
“She did it,” Arguta groaned as she stood on he two feet once again. The buzzing neon lights of the corridors cast stark shadows onto the metal walls and she shielded her eyes at the sudden brightness.
“She… she did it,” echoed another engineer, his hands reaching for his bone necklace. Arguta rolled her eyes at the unnecessary display of superstition, but she had to give it to that girl.
What she managed to do was incredible.
She’d have to invite her for another cup of tea soon enough. Scratch that, she had earned herself a free drink every time she passed by her forge. And whatever metalwork she might have needed. She knew the higher-ups of her order usually wore silver or steel masks, so maybe she could fashion one for her.
As a thank-you for saving everyone’s ass.
“You have one special Augur here,” Arguta muttered. She cracked her back and tilted her head towards the lower levels. “What do you say, why don’t we all go down to congratulate her?”
With a crowd of cheers, the group agreed and they started to descend, only to stop when they met a figure coming up.
It was the one who had accompanied her to the burning Core.
Arguta did not have the gift of foresight, but her gut instinct had served her well enough until then and she knew the woman’s singed clothes and the tears in her eyes did not bode well.
“The Core,” she whispered against the background noise, the humming presence of the reborn machine. “It’s back online.”
“We know that. What of the Augur?”
“She… oh Spirits.”
“Make way,” Arguta said with a frown.
The shriek of anguish from Sadja’s mind tore through Cloria’s defenses and she lost her footing, stumbling against a cheering citizen pumping his fist up to the stars.
“I told you not to stand up so fast,” Marina scolded her.
“Hnnnnot that,” she groaned, holding her head. “There’s something. Another Eerie.”
“Shush,” she fretted. “Oh no. I know this one.”
“You know Eerie?”
She opened her eyes, and for a moment she wondered if she should tell them.
They did know it too.
But it was not the time to tell them – and with a bit of luck it might just never be.
“You pick up all sorts of connections in this job.” She tried to reach for her weapons, but her hand lay limp at her side – she lost her footing and fell once again against Bernardo.
“You’re not in condition to fight.”
“If I don’t the Hunter is going to be mince-meat. Worse, Sadja…”
“The wolf-girl, right?”
“Yes, she’s in some real danger. She’s in-”
“Say no more,” Bernardo said, picking her up and holding her against his body. “We are all going. Right?”
“It’s not like I had a plan to get some sleep anyway,” Marina scoffed. “Where is this friend of yours?”
“She’s… her lament came from behind the last barricade. It’s not far. We are going to need a lot of fire. Holy water is useless against this Eerie.”
“What? That’s- that’s absurd…” Marina regarded her with sullen surprise.
“Did you hope things would be a little easier? Think again,” she said.
“Whatever. Be it from holy water or coronite, I love to finish a day with the smell of some Eerie flesh.”
Sadja regarded the huge hulking thing as it squirmed on the spot. It had just eaten him up.
And the worse thing was… why did he not resist? Why did he just let himself be gobbled up by the beast? Did he not care about those who would mourn him? Did he think he could leave her behind just like that?
“Give him back,” she whispered. Her muscles did not respond to her call, so all she could do was crawl on her side, groaning against the splinters and rubble of the ground. But she did pulled herself closer to the Eerie, her knife trembling in her hand. She’d get him back. Even if it meant opening up her chest and pour all of her blood onto the creature.
She’d get him back.
“Give him back,” she wailed, her voice losing her strength. Why did nobody hit the thing? They were all busy celebrating the supposed end to the siege.
They could. And she had been lucky so far. But this Spirit-cursed thing had crawled out of some nightmare to eat him up, and she would not go gently into oblivion before she could hold him in her arms again.
The Eerie did not seem to even notice her. Not even when she reached up to it and stabbed it with her knife on it side. The dead woman wobbled back and forth, as if lost in some sort of personal delirium. The corpse did not seem to even perceive she was there.
She pulled the knife out and hit the flesh again, and again, and again, until the blade bent and she collapsed from exhaustion, looking up at the squirming cadaver. It held its arms closer to its chest, moaning cursed words with no meaning.
“Give him back,” Sadja muttered. With feverish hands, she poised the knife against her arm and began to draw pearls of silver blood.
He was walking on uneven ground. The sky – the ceiling – was higher than the roof of the Temple, and he saw crimson lightning scatter from one end to the other. Looking down, the ground revealed itself to be made out of bark, or what seemed to be skin, maybe. It was hard to say.
A far-off growl reached his ears, followed by yowls and pained grunts.
He was not alone in this space.
No idea where he was.
This wasn’t the inside of his own mind. He surely hoped it wasn’t hers.
Six years like this?
At least he could believe killing her from time to time relieved her pain.
“I came on my own,” he said, taking a squelching step on the organic ground. “I am done running. We need to talk.”
Pic by lelyanra