Feathers and Flame

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Chapter 6

Faye removed her hand as his eyes rolled back into his head. He fell onto his face. She used her foot to roll him onto his back.

Then Faye stumbled across the room and sat down. She put her head into her hands and tried not to pay attention to the part of her mind that was yelling at her, at the dread that slowly rolled over her. Even while she had been doing it, she knew that it was going too far.

She opened her eyes and peered through her fingers at the mess on the floor. She should have kept him awake longer, made him do something about the guards at the door. She should have been thinking about getting out of the town alive and not about the people in the cages. It wasn't like they were Aedly; she didn't have any duty to them. It had been a waste of her limited energy to give him pain. She should have rested more. Faye should have done things differently, she knew that, but she couldn’t summon up any regret while looking at Tadhg. She could no longer tell if the piece of scum was dreaming, but she hoped she had given him some choice nightmare material.

Faye looked up at the ceiling, her eyes following the wooden beams that were keeping the thatch up and the hole in the centre of the roof used to let the smoke out when the fire was lit. That would have to do.

It took too long for her to be able to stand again. Faye got up and walked to the door as quietly as she could. Getting a foot on top of the frame was her only way of reaching the beam above it. She grabbed a chair and placed it slightly next to the door, on the side that would be hidden by the door should it open. She did this quietly, afraid of alerting the guards standing at the door. She stood on the chair and pulled her body up the small ledge of the frame. When she could get one foot up, she pushed off and quickly grabbed the beam. It was thinner than Faye liked, but held her weight just fine.

Faye pulled her legs up then forced her body up as well so she could crawl along it. A spasm of pain let her know that she had opened up the wound on her arm, and a quick examination showed that blood was now racing down her arm towards her palm. Faye stood up on the beam and walked quickly across it. She jumped onto the next beam at the other side of the room. The beam had a slight angle, and Faye had to catch it with her arms to travel along it, up towards the hole in the roof. She did so as quickly as she could, trying to move faster than the blood making it’s way down her arm. The blood would make slick the grip she needed to get to the top. The blood was dripping from her fingers when she reached up to grab the side of her escape hole. She slipped, once, and was dangling precariously when she heard someone yell for Tadhg.

She had managed to get half way through the hole when Séamus burst into the room, laughing about one of the men getting stuck in a barrel. The he spotted Tadhg and his words died on his tongue. As Séamus ran to Tadhg, Faye got her ass out of the hole and lay on the roof. From her hidding place, she listened as Séamus shook his sleeping leader into waking.

“What happened?” asked Tadhg.

“That’s what I was going to ask you.”

“The Witch," Tadhg managed to say, "She’s Council. We have to find her. Now.”

Faye heard Séamus help Tadhg up, then both men run for the door, and Tadhg screaming at the men outside. She slipped down the roof, to the back of the house. She jumped to the ground, rolling so the shock rolled through her instead of breaking her ankles. She stood up and looked quickly around while backing up so she was pressed to the wall. She manoeuvred around to the side of the building, where she hid behind a bundle of firewood. She could hear people yelling, shouting out directions to find her- close the gate- watch the hole in the boundary wall. Not that she would head towards the wall when it meant crossing through open fields. That left only one way out of the town.

There weren’t many buildings for her to hide in or behind. There were too far apart for her to travel from one roof top to another. She couldn’t look in all the buildings for what she needed. It would take too long even if they weren’t being checked. She would have to ask this town’s Rí. If the Rí was even still alive.

Faye could see the Hall even from where she hid. It was much taller than any of the other buildings and was easily the most visible structure in the town. It also had a lot of people who wanted to kill her right in front of it. Her arm was still bleeding. Faye felt the first raindrop land on her face a few moments before it began to rain heavily.

Faye narrowed her eyes and bit back a curse at the heavens. She looked again at the Hall, with its increasingly wet walls. She hated it when her only idea was a very bad one. The fires dimmed a little because of the rain, but most of them had plenty of fat and fuel to keep burning. Faye sighed, deciding that the only thing she had going for her was that people tended not to look up while it was raining.

Well, not the only thing. Many of Tadhg’s men had too much to drink. Some of them had blacked out. She crept around the house, keeping an eye out for the men clearly drunk and making a dash to the next hiding place while they weren’t looking. It was risky, Faye knew how much meaner alcohol made some people. She just hoped that they were too smashed to notice her. After doing this three times, Faye lost her nerve and decided to use a distraction.

She almost reached for the beads but getting to them would be too risky. They were in the pack next to the chair Tadhg had been sitting in, in plain sight of all of his men. She still had some of the medical paste. She smeared a little over her wound and then stared at it. She was going to need more of this paste very soon, but she needed to stay alive first.

“Sorry,” she whispered to someone who wasn’t there, before taking aim. She threw the package of paste into one of the nearby fires, ducking behind a barrel immediately after the throw. She didn’t know if it landed in the fire or not. The silence meant that no one had seen her pop up to throw it. Then she heard someone behind her yelling about a smell, and heard the distinct sound of vomiting. Faye held her breath as she crept away. She made it to the back of the Hall before she had to breathe, and even then she did so through her mouth.

The back door of the Hall was heavily splintered. Apparently Tadhg had tried to break in through this way and failed. There was an axe stuck in the door, it’s owner having given up trying to get it out of the wood. Faye used it as her first foot hold.

After that it was difficult for her to find more places to grip, and even when she found them, it was hard to get a reliable hold on the wet stone. She had to go around the building to keep heading up and soon was above the invaders, many of whom were running around trying to find the source of the stench. Faye dry-retched when the smell of the burning paste reached her. Breathing through her mouth only meant that she got a taste of the horrible burning paste as well.

Blocking it off as best she could, Faye went back to climbing. It was slow, tiring work made all the worse by the urgency and fear she felt. She was passing the first set of windows, narrow slits high from the ground, when she felt something touch her leg. Looking down, she saw a small hand tapping her. Faye bent back down to see a young child staring at her.


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