The old man held the burning wood above the wooden floor.
“What’s wrong with you?” Badan said. “Put that fire out.”
The old man grinned, but didn’t respond. Trava could see Sajag creeping up behind the old man, but she gestured for him to stop. Knocking the old man over would guarantee the tavern went up in flames.
Trava stepped closer to the old man and glared into his eyes. He’d been intimidated by her gold eye before.
“You stole that flint from me,” Trava said. “And you stole the wood out the room l lent you. The flint and the wood both belong to me. Give them here.” She held out her hand.
The old man waved the burning wood and took a jar out of his cloak. Trava flinched when a spark came near her. “Yerr comin wit me,” he said, his voice slurred from drinking.
“What is he talking about?” Badan said. He turned to face Trava. One of the men with him, Abdullah, did the same. Trava noticed Axel had already slipped out.
Trava frowned, considering what to say. “He’s insane,” Trava said. She didn’t want Badan to know that the old man had asked her to leave the village, which would provide Badan an opportunity to take over the tavern. As long as the old man was about to set the tavern on fire, Trava could keep everyone against him.
Abdullah spoke, “It sounded to me like the old man wanted Trava to leave with him.”.
“Oh,” Badan said. He spoke to Trava again. “Walk out of the tavern, then. Maybe he’ll follow you.”
Trava pursed her lips. “The old man doesn’t want me to leave the tavern with him,” Trava said, her voice quiet. “He wants me to leave the village with him. Permanently.”
Everyone stood silently as the wood continued to burn.
Please just let the old man’s wood burn out, Trava thought. She heard a scream from the old man. He’d stuck the burning wood into his jar. The alcohol in the jar ignited, accelerating the wood’s burning. The old man dropped the flaming wood.
Trava and Sajag lunged for it at the same time. Sajag caught it in his hands, preventing the flame from reaching the wooden floor. Trava’s body slammed into the old man, knocking him over. His jar shattered, and its flames ignited the bar.
Trava saw Badan and Abdullah backing out of the doorway, but Trava refused to give up on the bar that easily.
Water, Trava thought. She spotted her bucket of water in the corner, and she ran toward it.
She grabbed the bucket and turned toward the flaming bar. She cursed. The old man still had the flint, and he was scraping it along the wooden floor near the door, sending out sparks. He struck it against the doorway, and it caught alight.
Trava ran toward the doorway. She gritted her teeth, considering a run through its flames. She was fairly certain she’d make it, though with some burns. I’d be leaving Sajag, Trava thought. She glanced backward and saw Sajag on the floor, hands burned red.
I’d be leaving him to die, Trava thought. She left the doorway and knelt over Sajag
“Go,” Sajag said. “Get out of here before the flames get too thick at the door.”
“I’m not leaving you here to die,” Trava said.
She glanced toward the door. The flames there were thick, now. A dry summer and the start of a dry fall had made the building susceptible to fire. The old man backed into a corner, far from the flames.
We can’t get out of the door, Trava thought, and the building has no other exits. She saw part of the doorway fall away outside. The walls aren’t that thick, Trava thought.
She dragged Sajag to his feet. She couldn’t take his hand, not after his hands had been burned. She picked him up, instead. He was smaller than her, though he was still unwieldy to carry. She glanced over at the old man. He was sitting on the ground. Leave him, Trava thought. She didn’t have time to save the old man, herself, and Sajag. The old man wasn’t a priority.
“Trava, what are you doing?” Sajag asked. “Figure out how to get yourself to safety.”
“I’m getting you out first,” Trava said. She saw a few planks from the wall fall to the ground, widening a hole that was there.
Sajag should fit through there, if I shove him through feet first, Trava thought. She charged toward the hole and punched Sajag’s sandals through. She heard a surprised exclamation from him.
It took a few awkward moments, but she jammed Sajag through the hole. Flames spread across the hole and she stepped back. “Go!” she yelled.
Sajag looked through the burning hole at her, and for a moment, Trava didn’t think he was going to move. Then he moved away from the burning wall. “I’m going to get you out!” he yelled.
Trava didn’t have time to reply as she dodged falling pieces of roof. She coughed in the smoke. She thought she saw a black bird fly through a gap in the roof but that didn’t make sense.
All of the tavern from the door to where she was had caught fire. My room, Trava thought. Her room was farthest from the flames. It would give her the most time to try break through the wall.
She ran back to her room and lifted her straw mattress. She grabbed all the coins she could fit into her clothes. The coins would be all that she had, once the tavern was gone.
Once the tavern was gone. “I’ve failed you, father,” Trava whispered. He’d wanted her to take care of the tavern, but the first night she’d ran it on her own, it had burned down.
She couldn’t keep a tremor from her lips. I’m a failure, Trava thought. Maybe she shouldn’t try to escape. Maybe she should just hope she met her father in the afterlife.
“Trava!” Sajag’s voice yelled from a hole in the wall of her room. “Are you in there?”
Trava looked through the hold and caught a glimpse of him. Sajag, she thought. He’s trying to get me out. “I’m here!” she yelled. She moved over toward the hole, coins jingling in her clothes. She pounded the wall the make the hole big enough to crawl though.
She hear little from the other side. Isn’t he going to kick it? Trava thought.
Part of the roof fell toward Trava, and she dodged it. A spark came from it, igniting her straw mattress. She finally heard a kick from the other side of the wall.
“Get through!” Sajag yelled.
Trava didn’t have to be told twice. She dashed through the hole in the wall. She stopped by Sajag and saw his charred hands holding a dagger. He had cut through part of the wall, Trava thought, at least enough so he could kick it down. She couldn’t imagine how much that must have hurt, since his hands were burned.
“Should we go back for the old man?” he asked.
Trava was surprised Sajag was considering that.
“He’s probably dead,” Trava said. “We should get away from here.” The building had been burning quickly, thanks to its dry wood and the alcohol catching fire.
Sajag looked conflicted for a moment, then he nodded and walked away from the tavern. Trava followed.
We’re walking on my father’s grave, Trava thought with a chill. She felt tears come to her eyes. She’d failed at the last thing he’d asked her to do.
Trava’s head snapped up. No, she thought, I haven’t. Her father’s absolute last request had been to find her mother. To tell her mother that her father had loved her.
I need to do that, Trava thought. Whatever it takes. She had failed at taking care of her father’s tavern. She couldn’t let herself fail at finding her mother.
As they walked into the woods, Trava turned back to look at the tavern. Next to it, Sajag’s hut was on fire. She grabbed Sajag’s shoulders. “Your hut,” she said. Sajag’s hut was thatch. It had probably only taken a spark to ignite it.
“I know,” Sajag said. He looked up at her. “It seems we’re both homeless.”
Trava leaned against a tree trunk. “What are you going to do, then?” she asked. She felt awful that Sajag had been caught up in her business with the old man.
“We can be homeless together,” Sajag said.
His grey eyes met Trava’s. “I’ll stick with you.”
Trava felt a genuine smile cross her lips for the first time since her father had died. “Thank you,” she said. She looked up at the night sky. “We should probably get some sleep,” she said. “We’re going to try to find my mother in the morning.”