And this is the end of my first pass through Miska’s story for now. At least until I have more time. Let me know what you think. If you missed it, the last post is here.
Miska lay there panting in the cool night air. After the heat inside the house, it felt like she’d dropped into an ice bath. She could still feel tongues of heat licking at her from the flames that escaped the building, but her sweat was a chill sheen on her skin. She turned her head to the side, looking around her. People were standing on the lawn, staring at her in shock. One or two of them started moving towards her, perhaps to help.
Pushing herself upright, Miska staggered to her feet. She could feel the stabbing pain in her foot where she’d cut herself, and there were stinging cuts all over where she’d rolled through the broken glass. The night was lit by the moon above and the flames within the house, casting weird cavorting shadows on the people on the lawn. The trees trembled as the house fire sucked in more air. But none of that was as important as making sure that her family had gotten away to safety. Or making sure that Mistress Mariselle wouldn’t be able to hurt them again.
Miska stumbled towards the crowd on the lawn, limping on the ball of her cut foot. She gripped the two splintered pieces of wood still tied to her arms, imagining the feel of Mistress Mariselle’s head beneath them. She gasped thanks as one of the people approaching her offered water from a bucket, tilting it back and letting it pour down her throat and over her face. She pushed him away when he tried to offer a shoulder to lean on while she walked.
“No.” She shook her head. “Where’s the Mistress?”
He said something and pointed deeper into the crowd. He said something more but she couldn’t understand him. She nodded and pushed in the direction he’d pointed.
People moved out of her way with looks of surprise on their faces. Or she forced them out of her way with the ends of her sticks. She liked these chair arms now, or what was left of them. They felt a little like extensions of her own arms, like the maces that the Northmen had trained with and that she’d briefly learned to use.
She could see Mistress Mariselle in the crowd ahead, could tell her apart by her hair, by the way that other people moved around her. Miska could see her turn to face her, eyes widening in surprise. Her pistol, still held by her side, rose.
Miska lurched forward, left arm out, splintered chair arm extended. She caught the tip of the barrel with the tip of her piece of wood, and thrust down and away as the flintlock’s pan flashed. There was a thunderclap, bright light, and Miska felt the stick wrenched from her hands. Her forearm ached where the stick had fought the strap holding it to her arm. She hopped forward awkwardly, planting her good foot as she lunged. Her right stick slammed into Mistress Mariselle’s belly, knocking her back into her guards. Miska recovered, stepping forward on the ball of her injured foot. She gripped her left stick firmly again and swung. The stick thudded against the side of Mistress Mariselle’s head. Mistress Mariselle sagged against her guards, held upright by them. In their confusion, they made her the perfect target.
Miska stepped forward again, standing right next to Mistress Mariselle. She slammed her sticks down again and again. There were yells, screams, and she could feel hands trying to grab her and pull her away. She lashed out, whipping the sticks into others, twisting and falling away from Mistress Mariselle. However good hitting her felt, she needed to get out. She had to find her family, to get away. She could feel anger leaching out of her as she staggered back from the crowd. Mistress Mariselle hung from her guards like an oddly shaped sack. Unconscious, or maybe dead.
Miska drove herself into a run, crying at the pain of each step on her cut foot. The gate loomed ahead of her, down the line of trees, and she could see a small group of people huddled together under the watchful gaze of two guards. The guards held spears.
Grunting with every other step, Miska tried to speed up even more. One of the guards turned to look at her, surprised to hear running footsteps coming from the house. And then she slammed into the guard in a flying tackle. The guard went down with a painful coughing sound, as Miska’s shoulder found her solar plexus. The other guard turned to help, and was borne to the ground by Leonora and Mirabelle, each taking turns to punch wherever they could. Several desperate seconds later, Miska rolled off her guard, helped to her feet by Mirabelle while Leonora watched the two guards with her newfound spear.
“What happened to you?” Miska had the sense that her sister had been repeating that question for a while. She nodded, as though that could explain everything, and took a deep breath of air. The night was even cooler out here away from the house. The air felt better than ever on her skin, in her lungs.
“Go.” Miska pointed out the gate, thumping Mirabelle on the back. Her sister winced, and Miska ashamedly remembered that she still had a piece of wood strapped to her arm.
“Go home.” She tried again, patting with just her hand before she started coughing again. Her lungs and throat felt like they’d been scoured raw. Mirabelle nodded, then waved to their father. He helped Natalia to her feet. Miska was glad to see that she was able to stand now, but neither of them could move very quickly.
“Come on, sissy. We’ll take you home.” Mirabelle started leading Miska through the gate. “We’ll all go home.”
Miska followed along for a moment, lost in the thought of how nice her bed would be just now. How good a cup of warm cider from Haubert would be. She staggered to a stop.
Mirabelle looked at her in frustration. “Come on, we’ve got to go.” She tugged at Miska’s arm. “Leonora still has to catch up with us, we have to get a head start on those guards by the gate.”
Miska tried to speak, coughed, tried again. “I can’t,” she croaked. “I have to leave.”
“We’ll just lie low for a bit, alright?” Mirabelle frowned, trying to get Miska moving again.
“No, I,” Miska stopped, “I hurt Mistress Mariselle. Bad.”
“I need to go.” Miska pulled away from her sister, limping towards the harbor.
“You don’t really think you can just get passage on a ship, do you?” Mirabelle hurried to catch up with her sister.
Miska shrugged. “Someone will take on extra crew, no questions asked.” She hawked and spat. “It’s better than being a slave. It might be a lot better.”