Zinnia Trotter recognized those masks, and it was mainly for that reason that she shoved Ellie against the nearest street lamp. Fortunately, in the chaos of everything, no one took notice of her being rough with the heiress. And doubly fortunately, Sunflower misinterpreted it as a “crash into Ellie and pin her in place” game.
“What the hell? That hurt!” She pushed Sunflower away. “What’d you do that for?”
“I’m keeping you from getting yourself killed,” Zinnia said.
“You didn’t have to throw me like that.” Ellie grimaced, rubbing her back.
“Ellie!” The Chieftess’ voice rang out over the dispersing crowds. She ran over, two officers trailing after her. Glancing around her, Zinnia could see more staff members filing out of the Town Hall in a hurry.
A relay line of water buckets had begun. Draft, pass along the row, toss, and back again to the start. People retrieved leather fire buckets from their home, adding to the effort. They were only biding time until the fire brigade arrived with their engine. She’d seen it a few times in her life, the wagon-like contraption fitted with a hose and pump system.
Zinnia hoped that the group’s fire starting activities were limited to the Town Hall area. It wasn’t like Stockbrunn was equipped with that many fire engines. If the protesters wanted to, they could take down the whole of Stockbrunn.
Whose idea was it for them to resort to arson? The last time she’d been at their meetings, they’d talked about peaceful measures. They were supposed to spread their message and recruit citizens to agree with their ideas. Inciting violence hadn’t been a part of it.
Smoke darkened the sky.
“It’s not safe here. Escort Ellie and Ms. Trotter to their homes, and hurry,” the Chieftess told her officers. They nodded, confirming the directive. Somehow, in the midst of everything, she didn’t seem the least bit frazzled. She was her usual authorative self.
“Mom, I can get Sunflower to chase after them,” Ellie said.
“No, you’re going home. Arthas and Raynard will take you there, then they’ll take Ms. Trotter home.” Her tone made it clear that there was no room for arguments.
But that didn’t stop her daughter from trying, anyway. “We can’t let them get away with this.”
“We have trained people to take care of that. Go.” The Chieftess turned on her heels, leaving them and ignoring Ellie’s protesting. She had a firefighting effort to lead before anything got any worse.
Officers raced in and out of the Town Hall. They rescued stacks of books and papers, important materials from the archives in case the fire reached them. Zinnia saw Intendant Navarette urging them along. She waved her hands as she talked.
“This isn’t right. We should be doing something, too,” Ellie said. “You should’ve just let me go.”
Zinnia shook her head with a sigh.
“Heiress Navarette, I’m afraid we should get going,” one of the men (Arthas? Raynard?) said.
As they walked, Zinnia racked her mind for where Noemi could be. She hadn’t definitively picked her out in the crowd. It was difficult for her to single out anyone in that mess, actually. They’d been such an angry, swarming mass of people. In her time away from their secret meetings, they’d transformed into something unrecognizable.
A splinter group?
That was possible. It wasn’t like everyone had the same unified vision. They were upset with the government, yes, but to varying degrees and extremes. Everyone had different reasons for joining up, didn’t they?
All the speculating hurt her head. She needed to find Noemi, make sure she wasn’t part of what happened, and then…and then see if there was anything to salvage after this. It almost felt like someone was purposefully trying to undermine their efforts. Weren’t there better ways out there for getting noticed?
Everyone’s heard us, but now we’re lumped in with a bunch of criminals.
I need to find her.
A/N: Sorry about this short tease of a chapter. Ran out of time. Just a note, I foolishly scheduled my cat’s vet appointment for next Tuesday, so that’s probably going to affect the length of the next chapter, too.
We had 14 votes on last chapter’s poll, far more than I expected! 8 voted for Zinnia holding Ellie back, and 6 voted for Ellie getting away and chasing after the protesters. Very close vote!
Voting will end on Sunday, September 24th at 11:59 PM EST. Next chapter will be Tuesday, September 26th.
Also, here’s your weekly reminder to check out this other cool interactive serial. Like humor? Like sci-fi? Love lesbians? Then click over here.