SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 74 / out of the frying pan
Posted April 15th, 2018 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
a/n: this chapter is really short but i think that tends to happen as the story gets closer and closer to its climax
| 74 |
Out of the Frying Pan
Lianna waited on the hilltop until the sky turned gray and the snowfall started. She rested her hand on the pommel of her sword and bit her lip, squinting to see the city in the distance. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been watching the horizon to see if she saw to small figures racing toward them. If the plan had been successful, they would have arrived seconds after Eileen left. But they didn’t.
Devdan sat in the snow, Mila in his lap. Safia talked to her about something in quiet voices. Devdan might have smiled. Abygale and Lawrence were huddled together, her head resting in the crook of his neck, eyes closed. His were wide open as he stared into the frosty gloom. They had been waiting long enough for their toes to turn cold and numb and their lips to darken to a purplish blue.
Lianna watched them and closed her eyes, realizing that they had to leave. Eileen was strong. Ciara was strong. Together, they would find a way out of Acantha. They would be okay.
They knew to go to Rosendale, where Ejiri and his family waited.
Lianna nodded once to herself and then turned to walk away from the city, her cloak flapping in the wind.
Ciara stumbled over bricks and slush and ice as she ran from alley to alley, following Eileen through Acantha as it burned around her. Ash and snow mixed in a swirling collage of gray and white, and slowly as they made their way through the city, day turned to dusk and the narrow spaces between buildings gathered with shadows.
As Ciara jogged after Eileen, she felt the ominous fear she’d felt the last time she’d tried to escape Acantha while it was under attack. Six months earlier, when the sky had been dark and the smoke had been thick. When Ciara’s screams joined those that tore apart the night like ripping up a tapestry.
Eileen halted in the middle of an alley.
Ciara hesitated behind her, trying to see over her shoulder. A Witch stood ahead, fire burning in her palm.
She threw the fireball and it lit up the alley as it soared in an arch. Eileen conjured a shield of water out of thin air, and the fire sizzled into steam when they collided.
The Witch threw another.
It fizzed against the water, Eileen’s power swallowing it whole.
Ciara stared at the Witch as flames grew from her hands like a plant from the earth, as she pounded them with fire. If Eileen hadn’t been there, Ciara and her baby would both be dead. Burned to ash and bone.
When this is over, Acantha will be a graveyard.
Eileen’s water spiraled at the girl, going through her mouth, down her throat, and into her lungs. Ciara watched in fascination as the Witch fell and started clawing at her throat. Her body jerked, twitching violently on the ground.
“What’s happening to her?” Ciara asked.
Eileen kept her eyes on her victim. “She’s drowning.”
The Witch stilled.
Eileen stepped over her and looked side-to-side before crossing the wide road and slipping into the shadows of the next alley. Ciara followed her, running across the street faster like a hare being chased by a fox. She saw glimpses of fire and blood, saw charred bodies scattered up and down the cobblestone, and buildings devoured by flames.
Then she stepped into the sanctuary of the alley and slowed her pace and her racing heart.
She was okay.
Brana was okay. Wherever she was, she had to be safer than Ciara.
Ciara found Eileen’s waiting silhouette and followed her up that alley, past another street, up another alley, and another street. They continued that pattern until they came to a dead end.
Ciara craned her head, blinking against the snow.
It wasn’t a dead end. It was the city wall.
Ciara pressed her hands against the cold, sturdy stone, her fingers going numb pressed against the frozen blocks.
They were going to get out.
“Is there another way through the wall?” Eileen asked.
“There’s the main gates. That’s all I know of.”
Eileen swore and looked around. She pointed at the building beside them and said, “Through there.”
Ciara followed her up the back entrance and through the door. It looked like someone’s house. Dinner was still on the table, steaming and untouched. A fire burned in the hearth. Eileen passed through without a second thought. Ciara wondered what the Witches had done to the people who had lived there. They exited through the front door, stepping down a steep wooden porch.
Witches were burning down a group of people at the far left end of the street, opposite the end with the wall.
Smoke and the stench of burning flesh rose into the air.
Ciara noticed Eileen’s hands trembling at her sides, her eyes quivering uneasily as she glanced between the mob of people dying and the wall too high for them to scale and to thick for them to destroy.
She knew their only option before Eileen asked her.
But when she did ask, Ciara held out her hands.
Eileen’s fingers wrapped around hers and she inhaled shakily.
“Just over the wall,” Eileen said.
Ciara nodded and squeezed her eyes shut.
She heard the Witches yell and felt the heat of fire—unsure if they were being attacked or if they were disappearing.
An icy, biting wind slapped her cheeks, whipping her hair around. Ciara pried open her eyes and saw snow and ice and Eileen standing beside her.
“Where are we?” She screamed over the howling wind.
Eileen pointed at something huge and dark.
Ciara squinted, taking a minute to make out the shape. It was the wall. The main gate. Then she saw the giant bursts of orange and yellow curling toward the gate, swallowing up the snowstorm.
People were piling up, trying to escape, but Witches stood outside in the snow, burning down anyone who tried to leave through the gate.
And that big, dark shape…that was the pile of bodies that they’d built up.
Ciara shuddered, unable to tear her eyes away from the horrors. How could they do that? How could anyone do something so horrible to so many innocent people?
But it wasn’t someone.
It was a goddess.
Ciara wasn’t sure what to make of that, but Eileen had seemed to believe her. And if that were true, if it really was a goddess they were going up against, did they stand any chance in this war?
Eileen pulled on her arm. “Ciara.”
Ciara blinked and turned to her friend.
“We need to go.”
Ciara shed one final glance on the carnage and then took off after Eileen, pulling her coat as tightly around her body as she could. From a distance, they would look like nothing. From a distance they would just be two fleeing specks in the snow.
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