Almost done. This picks up immediately from where we left off.
Miska took another step, planting her foot solidly and twisting to hurl the drawer over the banister. It plummeted to the ground, cracking apart on the floor in a whoosh of papers. She’d gotten them down to the first floor, but now how was she supposed to get any of them out of the house? The servants around her slowed and stared, some in fear, some in wonder. Most of them continued moving, trying to finish their jobs and hoping that they wouldn’t be called on by the Mistress.
Footmen trotted along the balcony, moving quickly towards the head of the stairs. If they got there, Miska would have to go through them to get any more papers out of the office. She glanced down at the fluttering, still settling mess she’d created below, then back up at the head of the stairs and the stream of servants still moving up and down. Another lamp hung there, giving light to the magnificent upper story. She could feel an idea settling into place.
Miska darted up through the stream of servants, pushing them aside when she couldn’t scoot past or between them. The footmen moving along the balcony sped up too, Mistress Mariselle exhorting them from her place across the large room. One of them paused for long enough to pull down a wall hanging, dragging it along behind him like a massive cloak as he gathered it to throw.
Miska reached the top of the stairs first, rushing towards the wall. She planted her foot, boosting herself up an extra foot as she reached up and jumped. She lifted the lamp from its hook, feeling pain shoot through her hands as she touched the hot metal. The lamp flared as it tilted in her grasp, and she tossed it underhand over the edge of the stairs.
She turned, balling her stinging hands into fists barely in time to take the first footman’s flying tackle. She caught him in the side of the head, going down in a tangle of limbs as he bore her to the ground. There was a crash and the sudden sound of new flames from below, followed by screams. Miska hoped she’d aimed it properly, then let that thought pass from her mind. She brought her elbow down on top of the man’s head, once, twice, thrice, a fourth—
He rolled away from her, trying to shield himself. His companion had arrived, and flung the wall hanging towards Miska like a shroud. She writhed sideways, getting her legs out from underneath it before it settled, hunching up behind her raised forearms to try and protect herself from what she could no longer see.
Muffled by the hanging, the sounds of the house fire took on an oddly dreamlike quality. Then the kicking began. Feet thudded into her, slamming against her sides, against her forearms, knocking her fists against her own head. She writhed and shifted, trying to make herself a harder target, trying to breath through the pain. She needed to know where they were. As one blow landed, she shot her arm out above her, beneath the hanging, sweeping it around and rolling towards the next expected blow. The kick landed hard, in her belly, but she clamped her arm around it and held on tight. She planted one foot squarely on the ground, then exploded into motion. Her other foot swept up towards where she knew a body had to be, and she kept rolling as she went.
There was a yelp and she could feel the person falling backwards as she drove their knee into a lock and kept pushing. Her foot slammed into their side, and then her other hand was clearing the hanging from her face. The room was dimmer, but there was a bright flickering light illuminating them from below. One guard lay in front of her, sitting up and preparing to punch her. The other stood at her head, foot swinging back for another blow.
She ducked down and in towards the one she’d grappled. His fist skidded across her scalp. She used her free hand to punch him between the legs, crabbing sideways to keep him between her and the other guard. Her hands stung, her body ached, but all of her pain felt distant, like it was happening to someone else and would bother her later.
She stood, facing off against the other footman as the first one rocked backwards clutching his crotch and trying not to vomit. He feinted a high kick, and she crossed forwards to catch his actual blow in her arms. He fought to recover his balance, standing at the top of the stairs, and then Miska simply pushed. He sailed backwards into the churning crowd of servants, and Miska fled towards the drawing room once again.
She nearly skidded around the corner, cursing loudly as she caught the doorframe with one hand to steady herself. She cursed again as she came to a stop.
The drawing room was still only dimly lit, but she could see Mistress Mariselle standing by Nestor’s desk with a large pistol held in two hands. Mistress Mariselle was smiling. There was nothing beautiful about that smile now.
“You are a slimy little shit and should have been mine hours ago.” Mistress Mariselle took two steps closer, the barrel of the pistol looming large in Miska’s eyes. She was too far for Miska to hit her, and seemed too close for her to miss.
“Now then, I believe that we are going to settle a few things here.” Mistress Mariselle snarled. “Put your hands up and place them on top of your head, yes, like that.” She nodded as Miska obeyed, “And now you will walk to the chair over there,” a slight tilt of her head, “and sit down.”
Miska felt twitchy, starting to shiver a little as she walked slowly to the chair and sat down. She needed to be moving, doing something. But she had no idea what she could do about facing a pistol. Where had she gotten it? Perhaps it had been in a secret drawer that she hadn’t noticed?
“Guards!” Mistress Mariselle had shifted to stand by the doorway, now calling back into the hall. It took a little while for anyone to show up. “You,” she addressed the guards, but never took her eyes from Miska, “will tie up that hooligan and strap her to the chair. Your companion will alert the gate guards that a family of arsonists, a mother, father, and two grown daughters, may try to escape.”
The second guard cleared his throat. “Mistress, the gate guards have been called in to help deal with the flames.”
“Then you will get them yourself!” Miska could see spittle fly from Mistress Mariselle’s lips.
He nodded curtly. “Of course, Mistress.” The other guard had already started tying Miska to the chair.
Mistress Mariselle’s good humor returned. “Well, Miska, I think this is fair. If my house burns down, you’ll burn with it. Only appropriate, really.” The guard finished tying her in place and backed away cautiously. Mistress Mariselle still held her gun pointed at Miska. “Oh, and I’ll get your family back. Even without the papers, I have several witnesses including a constable who can vouch for having seen all the appropriate paperwork before you tried to destroy it in a fire.”
Miska started to shiver in earnest now, her teeth chattering together. She hated being out of control of herself in front of Mistress Mariselle. Especially when the Mistress grinned.
“Don’t worry Miska, if you’re feeling cold I’m sure you’ll be warm soon enough.” She glanced at the guard, “Davi, is the path to the front door clear?” He trotted off to check, returning quickly through the increasingly smokey corridor. He nodded.
“Goodbye Miska.” Mistress Mariselle waved at the guard to collect a few more papers, then turned and followed him down the hall, out of Miska’s sight.