lepus – 5.2

Content Warnings

Religious terror
Self-harm/suicidal ideation
Implied murder
Implied reference to past sexual assault (not on screen)

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Amina could not tell day from night; the only window inside the bunker was shut tight.

And there was no true sunlight in hell. No warmth for the damned — except in each other.

After a long and exhausted sleep snuggled up with Ilyusha, with her hand wrapped around the sweaty hilt of her knife, Amina awoke to a clank-clank-clank echoing down into the bunker.

Atyle and Pira had returned from their quest.

Amina stayed out of the way: she did not know how to help, how to usefully insert herself among the others. The angel and Illy and Vicky all moved with confidence and certainty; Amina felt clumsy, slow, and small, swamped inside her clothes, outpaced by the older girls with their elegant legs and graceful hands.

But she also hoped to avoid attention. Of all the other hell-bound girls condemned alongside her, the most terrifying were Atyle and Pira.

When the knock on the door was followed by Pira’s shout, Amina hid deeper inside her bundle of coats. When Elpida and Ilyusha picked up guns and climbed the steps to unbar the door, Amina clamped her lips shut and held her breath. When Atyle and Pira clattered down the steps and rejoined them in the bunker, Amina did not welcome them home. When the questions started to fly back and forth, Amina tried not to listen.

She wanted to close her eyes and sink into her hidden nest. But she was very good at listening.

Atyle and Pira both looked terrible, but in different ways. Their clothes and hair were dirty from the gritty rain, stained from lying in ashes or stagnant water — or perhaps from splashes of blood. They were both exhausted — but exhaustion made Atyle glow.

Pira was wounded.

The terrifying Frankish warrior slumped against the wall, clutching her side. The angel – who was angelic to all, even demons — went to help her. Pira put up a token resistance, but Elpida was too deft, too firm. Wet clothing and pieces of armour fell to the floor. Pira stood, panting, half-stripped to reveal a bloody bullet wound chewed into her flank. Crimson was smeared across her pale flesh, over her ribcage and stomach. Her blue eyes were flat and hollow with pain. She pushed weakly at Elpida’s hand.

Pira hissed, “Off— I’m— it went through. Clean shot. I’ll heal. Get off.”

Elpida replied, “Stop. Pira, stop trying to hide the wound. Get the rest of your armour off, let’s at least plug it, or get some nanomachines in there. And well done, both of you. Well done. Atyle, put that with the coilgun for now. And sit down, you’ve earned a rest.”

But Atyle said: “It is a gift for you, warrior, and it shall not touch the ground before it touches your hands. My second gift for you. A feast for the eyes and the strongest arm.”

Amina was very glad that Atyle had eyes only for the angel. Atyle was a terror whose gaze left Amina paralysed.

The others were gathered around the tall, dark figure of Atyle. They examined the nightmare she had brought back from beyond. Ilyusha was grinning, flexing her claws like a carnivore before fresh meat, capering from foot to foot; that was beautiful, so Amina tried to focus on Illy, but there was too much going on. Vicky was nodding, looking serious, chewing her lip. Kagami was peering through her magic seeing-glass, muttering under her breath.

Atyle was carrying a limb, taken from the monster the angel had slain.

A few scraps of papery skin and dry flesh still clung to one end of the arm, penetrated by complicated pieces of metal. The limb bulged outward in the middle; Kagami was pointing and gesturing at that swelling of dead flesh, saying words Amina did not understand: “Self-replenishing manufactory; we feed it rocks and dirt, it’ll turn them into sabots. Fuck me, this is beautiful.”

Beyond that distended section was a collection of smooth metal tubes.


Amina had seen those tubes kill the angel; they had spat metal and torn Elpida apart. Ilyusha had explained what firearms were, but she must be wrong, or mistaken, or confused. Only magic of the most terrible kind could have felled the angel — or perhaps the terrible vengeance and anger of God.

Was the monster another kind of angel? Had Atyle and Pira broken off part of an angel?

Amina’s head swam with the implications. Cold sweat broke out on her face, her palms, and her back. Beneath her clothes her knuckles creaked on the hilt of her knife. She wanted the quiet to come back. She wanted the rainstorm. She wanted to close her eyes and stop thinking and—

Pira croaked: “Stop gawking. Put it down. Listen. We were followed.”

Kagami turned and spluttered, “What? How?! I thought you were good at this!”

The angel looked up from tending to Pira’s wound. Her attention sharpened. “You were followed?”

Pira nodded.

“Where? How many? Are they close?”

Pira said, “Two. Not far. They—”

But Atyle insisted: “Warrior. Accept my gift. I will not place it at your feet as tribute. From my hands to yours, or not at all.”

Amina could feel the tension like steam filling the air. She wanted to whimper and hide. But Elpida rose from Pira. She awkwardly accepted the horrifying trophy. Atyle smiled, then sat cross-legged on the floor, as if her part was over. Vicky scurried about to tend to Pira’s wound. Ilyusha kept bending over the weapon, poking at the metal parts with her extended claws, even when Elpida placed the horrible thing on the cold floor.

Amina had to look away when Vicky pulled a bullet out of Pira’s blood-slick side.

Vicky snorted. “All the way through? What’s this then?”

Pira didn’t answer that. “Followed, yes,” she said to Elpida, croaky and pale. “Not by the scavenger group we took the cyclic coilgun from. I made a mistake. We stopped to rest. Two — unnhh — two revenants. Crept up on us. Winged me. Followed us after. But they hung back when we got close to the bunker.”

Vicky hissed, “Shit. Don’t tell me this means we’re gonna have to move?”

Atyle said, eyes closed: “We are safe in here. We are many, and strong. We will not be assaulted.”

Kagami was peering at the walls with her magic glass. “Nobody’s out there, nobody within range. Nothing, just damp ground and those permanent clouds. You don’t think they were friends with the sniper bitch?”

Pira blinked. The mask of pain stiffened. “Sniper?”

Elpida nodded. “We were attacked. We dealt with it.”

That was when the argument started — a real one.

Amina knew the difference between a real argument and a fake one. She had learned the nuances from listening to her sisters and her parents a thousand times, hidden behind the turn of a wall or sitting with her head bowed, hoping not to get involved.

She saw it in the scrunch of Pira’s frown. She heard it in the quiet, controlled tone of the first few questions, even if she couldn’t follow the reasoning: “You confronted her?” “You killed her?” “You let her go?” “Why?” She felt it resonate in the angel’s posture, in the way Vicky drew up alongside her in support. She recognised Kagami’s detachment, the way she stood somewhat apart at first, then joined in — with Pira. And when Ilyusha stamped on the floor and spat insults, Amina flinched. Ilyusha’s tail lashed the air. Her claws flicked in and out. Amina shivered.

She couldn’t follow the meaning; the argument was too real. She wanted to clamp her hands over ears. She wanted to vanish.

Pira, cold: “You had a highly developed revenant at gunpoint and you let her go. You wasted—”

Ilyusha, spitting. “Not gonna fucking eat anybody you reptile cunt!”

Pira’s reply: “I am not advocating cannibalism. I am advocating self-preservation. And I told you not to leave this bunker.”

Vicky, too slow to make peace: “Woah, woah, this woman let Elpi and Illy go, from what I understand. Right? Elpi?”

Pira was unyielding. “She will return to her allies and try again. This is how it works. None of you will survive more than a few days if you don’t learn that.”

Ilyusha, bubbling over with rage: “Fuck you! She was like me! Like me! Fuck you, reptile, you cunts never fucking get it! You just run!”

The angel’s voice cut through the shouting, clear and calm: “We’re going to have to move regardless. Pira, this changes nothing.”

Amina offered her a silent prayer. If God would not listen, the angel would do. She prayed for the shouting to stop.

Pira came back sharp: “Move? This is a perfectly defensible position. Atyle is correct about that. You know that as well as I do. We should stay still until the graveworm moves. What are you suggesting?”

The angel had a plan.

“We’re going after the combat frame — the ‘fallen star’,” she said. “Now we have the cyclic coilgun, more firepower, we can move around. I want that combat frame.”

Amina heard something else in the angel’s voice, something she had not expected. She wondered if any of the others could hear it.


Amina wished she had not prayed to the angel, had not offered what little strength she had to share, because Amina did not want to leave the bunker.

She knew this barren stone room was nothing more than a temporary refuge. She had just about managed to follow the conversation which had taken place after the angel had come back to life, about the giant metal worms and how they would eventually have to move on, and keep moving, like nomads, never stopping in one place for long. But Amina did not wish to live like that. She had spent her whole life in Qarya. Other than roaming the hills and valleys, and the occasional visit to neighbouring villages, she knew nowhere else. She did not wish to know hell.

Another punishment heaped upon her, for failure to resist her demon: no place to rest her head, no comfortable pillow, no soft bed.

Pira hissed: “You’re suicidal. I should never have helped you.”

The shouting got worse — not louder, but more angry, bitter, and aggressive. Ilyusha spat and raged, threatening with the spike on her tail, saying words she had not taught to Amina. Pira turned cold, like a corpse. The angel kept explaining why they had to move before the graveworm did, why she didn’t want to risk leaving the ‘combat frame’ behind, when the worm moved on. Amina did not understand why the angel wanted to find that giant; perhaps she was going to recruit it — but that didn’t explain the quiver of desire and need in the angel’s voice. Vicky sided with Elpida. Kagami sided with Pira at first — but then wavered, withdrew, and kept her own counsel. She watched Elpida carefully; Amina watched her watching.

Pira and Ilyusha snapped at each other.

“—should have killed her when you had the chance—”

“—should have torn your guts out when you woke up, shit eater!”

Elpida tried to keep the peace. “Ilyusha, back off. Right now. Pira, stop. What’s done is done.”

Pira’s voice was cold. “What’s done will come back to bite us. And I am not moving this group.”

Amina couldn’t take it; not because she couldn’t understand the information, but because she understood the tone and flow of an argument all too well. She had witnessed enough of them, stood on the sidelines or just out of sight, listening and understanding and wishing she didn’t. Now her companions in this dark place seemed on the verge of tearing each other apart. She was trapped, buffeted by their anger, trying to stay still and silent.



“—out of control—”

“—your choice, warrior—”

“Everyone be quiet!”

Anger, hot and sharp, drew Amina’s demon from its dreamless sleep.

At first she didn’t realise it was still there, coiled inside her breast like a serpent in a garden. But as the argument finally burned out under the angel’s call for silence, Amina realised she had wormed one hand up inside her clothes and through the carefully wrapped bundle pressed against her front. She was gripping the hilt of the knife. But it was not her fault.

The demon was using her eyes, judging the other girls.

She felt the urge. Clear and clean.

Amina sobbed.

Vicky said, “Look, we’re upsetting Amina. Amina, sweetie, it’s okay. We’re all really tired and really stressed, but we don’t hate each other. Nobody’s going to fight. Everyone’s gonna calm down now, okay?”

The angel said: “I agree with Vicky. Everyone needs to calm down. We can talk this over.”

Ilyusha scoffed. Pira turned her head away. Amina had to put her hand over her lower face to smother another horrified sob; the demon writhed inside her chest, making demands. Ilyusha came over to her and wormed into the coats to hug her from behind. Ilyusha’s claws flicked back into her fingertips before she touched Amina. Amina wished those claws would rake her flesh in punishment.

Pira said: “What’s to discuss? We’re not moving this group, not before the worm moves.”

Elpida said, “Let’s get that wound plugged first. Then I’ll explain.”

The others continued their argument, slower now. Pira slid down to the floor and closed her eyes. Elpida made suggestions about giants and pilots and other words Amina could not fathom.

Amina negotiated with her demon.

Elpida was out of the question. Elpida was an angel. Elpida had returned to life once already, and she would do so again. Elpida’s skin would turn away Amina’s knife. Amina’s demon was a terrible thing, but she knew it was very small, not powerful enough to overcome such beauty and grace. Elpida would see her intent, fight her off, take away the knife — and then Elpida would be kind. She would understand. Beneath her angelic onslaught, the demon would wither.

The demon wanted Elpida, very badly. It wanted to kiss blood off Elpida’s lips and smear crimson into that perfect white hair. But the demon agreed: not Elpida.

“—not from your time,” Pira was saying, eyes screwed up in pain. “Whatever the orbital entry was, the chance of it being compatible with you is minuscule. It’s a fool’s errand. Give it up.”

The angel replied: “It’s a combat frame. If I can interface, we’d be invincible. It’s a worth an attempt.”

Pira said nothing.

Pira was too frightening. Even slumped against the wall, oozing blood from a bullet wound, grey in the face and cold with detachment, Pira was terrifying. Pira was a demon too, Amina knew this. She was strong and tough and clever and quick and cruel. Pira would take a dozen stab wounds and keep fighting. Pira would kill her.

But back in Qarya, Kazem had been strong and clever and cruel — so very cruel, the way he had beaten Amina’s eldest sister. But Amina’s demon had been smarter. The demon had helped her lead Kazem down to the river, down to a bend where nobody went, with promises of kisses and favours. The demon had plunged a stolen butcher’s knife into Kazem’s spine.

Auntie Ruwa had been tough and quick and cruel, and clever enough to conceal her infidelity with Amina’s father. But she had believed when Amina had lured her out into the woods, with a tale that her second-eldest sister had gotten her foot stuck in a tree root. Auntie Ruwa had crumpled well enough when Amina’s demon had pierced her lungs with an awl. Wolves had eaten her corpse; Amina had checked, a week later, just to be sure.

How about Atyle?

“A machine of the gods,” Atyle was saying. Her eyes were closed. “Among other machines of the gods. I do not see the value, warrior. But I will follow, if only to see how you see.”

Absolutely not. Amina knew that Atyle could see through more than walls. The sorcerer could see through flesh, thought, and souls. Amina told the demon no, never, do not even suggest such a thing. She framed specific words very carefully in her mind: Atyle, I will not harm you. I will not. I will not.

Atyle did not open her eyes or look round. Amina hoped the sorcerer would understand.

Vicky said: “Hey, I’m not gonna pretend to know shit about any of this stuff, but if Elpi says she can pilot a giant robot, I’m down for finding the giant robot.”

Vicky would make an easy target, especially with that useless arm, hanging all meaty and bloody. Amina told the demon no; Vicky was sweet, Vicky cared, Vicky had held her hand and tried to comfort her. Not Vicky. Not her. No.

Kagami snorted. “Agreed. I’m sure it’s no Republic biomechanoid, but if I saw one of those on the horizon, I’d be running to claim it, too. Metaphorically.”


Perhaps. The demon purred. Kagami was slow and vulnerable. Arrogant and rude and hateful. But also very clever. If it was to be Kagami, Amina would have to be very clever too, which meant she would need to listen to the demon. She didn’t like that.

The Frankish knight she’d killed had been arrogant and rude, too. In the final hours of Qarya’s destruction, with her sisters and parents already dead, Amina had pretended not to resist as one of the armoured figures had dragged her off. She knew why. She knew what was going to happen to her. But the knight didn’t know about the knife. He had discovered it when she’d used it to cut open his belly and drag his entrails out. That’s how the other knights had found their friend, and why they’d killed Amina outright.

But Kagami wasn’t a Frankish knight. She didn’t deserve that. And she was ugly. Amina repeated that, for the demon: Kagami was ugly. It would be a waste.

But Ilyusha was beautiful. Smeared with blood, she was even more beautiful.


The others looked up from their debate. Vicky said something kind. Ilyusha cocked her head. Pira stared.

The angel said: “Amina, you disagree?”

Amina stared back, swallowed hard, and managed to say: “N-no. Sorry. No.”

Pira said, without malice, “She doesn’t even understand what we’re talking about.”

Kagami snorted. “Poor paleo. It’s sad, that’s what it is.”

The angel signalled for them to stop insulting her. She said, “It’s alright, Amina.” Amina tried not to sob. “If you have an objection, you can share it. I promise I’ll listen. I’ll try to explain anything you don’t understand. Kagami will help.”

Kagami said, “I’ll what?”

Amina shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut.

Vicky said, “She’s terrified. Elpi, just let her rest.”

“Alright,” Elpida said. “Amina, you don’t have to speak in front of everybody else. It’s okay. We can talk later, if you want.”

Amina kept her eyes screwed tight and waited for the others to resume their talking.

When they did, she concentrated on the demon inside her chest. She squeezed it with her soul, making it smaller and tighter, harder and harder, no matter the imprint it left on her. She crushed it down as small as it would go, into a tiny ball that she could trap and contain.

She uncurled her fingers from around her knife. Her knuckles ached.

She would not let the demon hurt her companions. Not Ilyusha, not Elpida, not Vicky, not Kagami. Not even Atyle or Pira, though they were both terrifying and maybe even deserved it. God was not watching, God was not in this place. They were already in hell, they did not need more pain.

Only the angel was watching. And the angel would not approve.

Amina’s hearing came back. A high pitched whine gave way to the angel’s voice.

“—not too many miles away. We can move quickly, if we stick together.”

Vicky said, “Today? I mean, if we can even measure time in days.”

“As soon as Pira’s recovered. We move.”

Amina slowly opened her eyes. The argument had finally died and been reborn as agreement. Elpida was sitting cross-legged and talking with Pira. Vicky and Kagami were listening. Ilyusha was watching with one eye open, snuggled into Amina’s flank.

And Atyle was staring at Amina. Her magic eye, green and dark, rolled inside the socket.

For almost a full minute, Amina stared back. Eventually Atyle tilted her head and smiled a secret smile.

She knew about the demon.

Amina wanted to close up and stop thinking — but she stared at Elpida instead, at her coppery skin and the faint bloodstains on her lips. Elpida’s skin would turn a blade. Elpida’s lips would kiss away the demon. The angel would save her. It was the only choice, if the sorcerer already knew.

Feed the demon inedible fare. Feed it something it could not swallow. Murder it with poison.

Amina would lead the demon to Elpida, and Elpida would murder it with kindness.

Amina wouldn’t mind dying at those perfect hands.

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Oh, Amina. You don’t understand this world, or where you are, or what you have become. But you do understand what it means to feel, and sin, and desire. And your angel has some desires of her own, doesn’t she? Keep a tight grip on that knife, my girl. You’re going to need it. Especially now it’s time to leave this temporary bolt hole and wander the wastes.

No patreon link this week! Why? Well, the end of the month is only a couple of days away, and if you subscribed now, you’d get charged twice in rapid succession. I don’t really like that. So feel free to wait until after the 1st, if you want to read another few thousand words early!

But there’s still a TopWebFiction entry, for voting. Voting makes the story go up the rankings, which helps more people see it!

Thank you so much for reading this story! I’m having a blast with Necroepilogos, and I have such sights to show you, in this ashen wonderland.

6 thoughts on “lepus – 5.2

  1. Poor , cute Amina. Her POV is great, but never would I want to meet her irl. Hahaha.
    I was giggling through this whole chapter.
    Thank you for the chapter.


  2. So we begin with a rhyme? Just to pass the time? Or for something sublime? Like blood! Wait. That bad joke took too much effort. Anyway. Get that woman a mech! Regardless, thanks for the chapter!


    • Haha, thank you! That got a laugh out of me, well done, thank you.

      Elpida does indeed need a mech. And you are so very welcome, glad you enjoyed the chapter!


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