Sorry about the cliffhanger last time. It might happen again.
Miska turned to see the other Larmer throw her parents to the ground. Neither of them looked like they were in good shape. The guards around the courtyard were closing in. The Larmer brother turned to face Mirabelle, still empty handed, and she started backpedaling away from him as he advanced.
Miska covered the space between them at a sprint. Her foot plowed sideways through the Larmer brother’s knee with a sickening crunch. He screamed as he dropped to the ground, clutching at his knee. Miska stepped nimbly around him, circling his furious swipes, then stepped in and planted her heel on the side of his head. His motions slowed, became more erratic. Miska stepped back and turned to face the guards.
Mirabelle was struggling against one of them, fiercely enough that a second was moving to help the first. Three others remained, slowly trying to encircle Miska. They looked wary, and moved cautiously. They weren’t paying attention to Leonora.
“Get a lamp!” Miska yelled, hoping that her sister would follow her suggestion. They were the only heavy but wieldable things on hand that Miska could see. The heavy ceramic planters were too large, and trying to break a leg off one of the stout tables would take too long.
Miska charged the closest guard, hoping to surprise him and finish them one by one before they could all tackle her at once. He got his hands up in time, catching her first few blows on his forearms. Miska knew from experience that he’d have terrible bruises there within minutes, but he’d kept her from hitting his head or chest. She stepped in closer, feeling his hands trying to get a hold on her. She held him by the collar and belt and flipped him over her hip. He slammed into the ground, momentarily stunned. She dropped onto his chest, knee first, driving the air out of his lungs.
Miska looked up to see the other two guards staring in horror across the courtyard. Leonora had opened a door into the house and held two lamps. She swung one and then the other into the house, where they could all hear crashing glass and a rush of flame.
The guards looked at Miska, then at the door. Leonora staggered back from the door, shielding her eyes. The light of the fire inside flickered in the doorway.
“Fire! Fire in the house!” The two free guards turned and ran from Miska, past Leonora, presumably trying to find some way to put out the flames. The two holding Mirabelle looked up in surprise. Miska advanced on them, Leonora coming towards them with another lamp, and they broke and ran. Mirabelle slumped to her knees, rubbing her wrists and grimacing. As Miska helped her sister to her feet, Leonora hurled another lamp in through a different doorway.
“Can you walk?”
Miska turned to look at their parents. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the tattooist packing up what remained of his things. He hadn’t bothered to recover his needles.
“See if you can get the papers from him,” she nodded towards the tattooist, “I’ll try to wake Mom and Dad.”
Alonso was able to get up with only a little encouragement. He leaned on Leonora. Miska had to lift her mother though, carrying her slung over her shoulders. She was able to talk, but couldn’t balance on her own feet.
“I’m sorry Miska,” Natalia’s voice was quiet under the sounds of a house fire and panicking household.
“Save it, Mom.” Miska shrugged to settle her mother more comfortably, groaning as her mother’s weight pressed on her recently mauled skin.
“No, I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t—“
“Mom,” Miska was desperate, “I need to focus!”
Mirabelle strode up with the papers. “I’ve got them. But they just look like instructions. If there’s anything more about this, it isn’t in this courtyard.”
Leonora chewed her lip. “This fire isn’t going to keep them distracted forever. Unless we make it a whole lot bigger.”
“Let’s not forget,” Miska grunted, “that we still have to get out, too.”
Mirabelle smiled grimly. “Yes, we have to.” She nodded to their parents, “We should try to get them out, but if Mistress Mariselle still has anything on us after this our whole family is going to be in deep trouble.”
“Okay, fine.” Miska turned and started heading for the only doorway that wasn’t lit by flickering flames from within. “I’ll come back and try to find whatever I can.” She stepped up the stairs, feeling the flex in each leg. Her mother was lighter than many of the loads she’d carried, but not as well balanced. “After we get our parents out.”
She could hear Leonora agreeing with her.
“Try to get help from Dad’s friends among the other dockworkers, and see if Haubert has anything he can do to help.”
The trip through the house was a chaotic swirling mess. Servants were rushing around, carrying out anything that might be easily damaged by smoke and fire, carrying in buckets of sand and sometimes water. Wherever Leonora had thrown those lanterns, they’d caught in an impressive way. Miska felt a twinge of regret as she thought about the wall hangings and carpets, but mostly she was just satisfied that they were doing something to ruin Mistress Mariselle’s day.
She set down her mother just off the front path, still inside the gates. “I don’t know how, but you guys are going to have to get past anyone still at the gate.” She worked her shoulders for a moment, flexing them. “And you’ll have to help Mom.” Natalia protested from her spot on the ground, but none of her daughters paid her much attention.
“I can help with that,” Alonso spoke up, still looking unsteady on his feet.
Miska shook her head. “However you want to settle it, do. I have to go get the rest of the papers about us.” She turned and trotted back towards the house. From the front, she could see that the fires had spread a little. But they still seemed fairly under control, even if they were lighting the inside of the house against the night with a dim flicker that seemed more appropriate for a fireplace.
She joined the stream of servants moving up and into the house, trying to act like she was simply in the right place, trying to help out. She could remember the way to the drawing room with ease, but once there the room was dark, lit only dimly by the moon in the evening sky. She strode to Nestor’s desk, pulling open the drawers and rifling through its contents. She found pens, notes, ink, reams of stored paper in files, but nothing that she could read in the dim light of the room. Frustrated, she pulled out an entire sheaf of papers and started pawing through them to see if any had writing larger than the painfully precise tiny scratches which Nestor appeared to prefer. She couldn’t find any. Giving up, she dumped the pile of papers back into the drawer, pushing more papers into the drawer until it was almost too full before tugging it right out of the desk. It made for an awkward carry, but she could move it. She lumbered towards the door.
She was surprised by how well she fit in with all the other servants, overladen with possibly precious things, streaming down the stairs. The house was filled with shouting, people gesturing this way and that as they tried to organize their response to the flames. But over the noise of flames and yells, she could hear the voice of Mistress Mariselle drawing closer. She tried to move faster, thumping down the stairs as best as she could.
Mistress Mariselle came around the bend in the hallway above her, standing out on the balcony that overlooked the stairway down as she shouted her orders, prioritizing what should be rescued first.
“Yes, you imbecile, follow her lead!” Her words were somehow clear despite the chaos. “Rescue my office papers before you move statues!” Miska felt the bottom drop out of her stomach. Had Mistress Mariselle just mistaken her for a servant? She hitched the drawer of papers up again, just enough to clear her thighs, and hoped desperately that the Mistress wouldn’t look at her again.
“Wait!” Miska cringed. She kept moving, hoping against hope…
“That one, there, you two stop her! It’s the d’Alaroux girl!”