Patina – Chapter 158

Sadja may have been a tad too optimistic – even if she forced herself out of bed and walked out of Arguta’s home, she still found herself dizzy and every step made her body ache horribly. Plus, she was hungry and the smith had always been one to believe in light meals and big bowls of tea, neither of which would calm down her stomach. 

But she still had a bit of luck.

“Hey girl,” Cloria waved at her as soon as she came out of her home. “Funny finding you here.”

“Oh! Are you alright? I’m sorry I couldn’t help as much yesterday, I tried to but…”

“None of that!” She rushed forward and enveloped her in a hug. 

There was a time when she would have recoiled at the touch of the woman, but thank Spirits that was behind them.

She let Cloria squeeze her to her liking, even though she also was far from peak form. 

“How did you know where to find me?”

“Hey, just because I left the Order doesn’t mean I left all of my powers behind me,” she grinned, making a gesture of covering her eyes. “I have decided to not deny my powers anymore. They may be weak but they are a part of me. Plus, it’s useful if case you need to meet friends!”

Sadja laughed softly, but was interrupted by her stomach growling. 

“… sorry. I kind of just woke up.”

“How about we go get something to eat together.”

“I wouldn’t want to be a bother.”

“Nevermind! I’m on my own for the time being! Bernardo insisted I got time off for the morning but you know how it is, I’m restless! Plus I’m sort of alright. And there’s… there’s so much to do, really.”

“I know.” Sadja withdrew from the hug. “I was told to do the same, actually,” she confessed with a grin. 

“It’s a deal then! Let’s go find something to eat and then we’ll give a hand however we can!”

“Sure!” Sadja’s tail waggled happily at the perspective. 

As they left the Furnace district though, the devastation of the previous night came fore in its entirety: past the circle of the final defenses, the rest of town was a blasted heap of rubble and cinders. Sadja rubbed her sensitive nose as they passed by dried puddle of burnt Eerie flesh. 

She was met with the same strange silence she remembered she heard in-between dreaming and waking up. The emptiness of the day before.

By the time they had crossed the first few roads into the destroyed area, trying to look for food turned into trying to look for work to do. The two women found something at every step. 

There was who needed to move some rubble out to look if something could still be found beneath their home. Those who needed to be moved from one spot to the other and couldn’t walk nor crawl, due to injuries. Those that needed help in putting down the fires. 

Bit by bit, even as the pang of hunger grew in both of their stomachs, Sadja and Cloria found themselves tied to the lives of others – lives bent by the tragedy of the breach. 

And lives broken. 

At the tail end of morning, dirty with dust and cinder and grease, the two stood by the bed of a dying man, covered in bandages. He did not have anyone to stay with him – he only had his wife, and she had died in the previous assault.

Sadja bit her lip as she watched his eyes lose their light. She did not officiate rites, and Cloria couldn’t, having left the order, but she watched the dark-haired Venatrix fall on one knee next to the man and passing one last droplet of holy water over his brow. The women next to him were there only to help him passing. Sadja did not know him, but she secretly glad they had a custom like this: nobody deserved to die alone.

Would she had risked to end up like him, had she just followed the easy path? 

Keep being a good girl and staying loyal to Verna until the end, until the time she’d be harvested for blood?

Then maybe only the Augur girl would have mourned for her.

Cloria pulled up a sheet to cover the body and she shared a sad smile with her. One by one, they all dispersed, some murmuring prayers to the Spirits, other litanies belonging to Ereworld faiths.

“I think that’s quite enough,” Cloria murmured, pulling Sadja aside. “Enough misery and laboring, at least for the morning. How about we finally go get something to eat?”

Behind the wall of a house that had managed to resist the fire they had put up a makeshift canteen beneath a tent. She sat with her at a table and they got what the town could provide. 

Sadja had a hunch that for a while at least, money wouldn’t really have much value in Belacqua. They had too much to rebuild.

She kept thinking about the looks she received – she was a stranger, and a weird one at that with her tail and ears. Some had recognized her role in the battle and some other knew she was Fortunato’s friend; nobody asked her to show them more of her blood, thankfully. 

Going back to present matters, the soup was good, though she suspected anything would taste good after the sweaty morning. It rested warm in her belly and made her feel a little more alive, a little more comfortable. 

“It’s not really like last time,” Cloria mused looking up from her bowl, which was still half-full. She seemed to be more lost in thoughts than she was. “I can’t provide you with the same luxuries Valeriana can.”

“Oh. I don’t really care,” Sadja replied. Was she already out of soup? She clicked her tongue. And with the presence of the Eerie she was sure every squirrel or rabbit was either long dead or deep beneath the snow. Maybe she might catch herself a bird. “It was a nice meal and I prefer your company to be honest.”

“You don’t really like Augurs. Of course.”

“She was fine, but…”

“I get it.”

Silence stretched between them for a moment. 

“Speaking of which,” Sadja asked, frowning. “What of…” she caught herself at the last moment. Referring to him as Fortunato was something she loved to do, but for the time being he preferred to keep him between the two of them. “What of the Hunter? Can we go pay a visit to the Temple?”

A shadow grew over Cloria’s face.

“I think it’d be for the best. He ought to be back by now. Helping people out there is fine, but I want to check on Elissa. She deserves it.”

“I suppose she does,” Sadja pursed her lips thinking of the redhead. 

They’d probably never be actual friends. 

But she did save them. More than once. 

She could try being civil. 

“Let’s go to the Temple then.”

Pic by stein123

Author’s Notes: it’s getting hard to say goodbye to Sadja. I hope I’ll be able to deliver the best chapters I can in this finale. Thank you for reading.


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