Chapter 9- Fire

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Alex had been in a deep, blissful sleep until he heard the sounds of footsteps running outside his door. He'd usually dismiss it, but these footsteps just did not stop. Then the shouts came.

Something was going on.

Curious, Alex popped his head outside the door.

"What's going on?" he asked a passing servant.

"Fire in the lower town, sir," the man panted.

Alex said nothing, sprinting back inside his bedroom and opening his windows wide. He moved back in shock as he watched the night sky fill with smoke from the lower town. Flames licked the sky, burning bright even from a distance. He couldn't see a single house.

Without even hesitating, he pulled on some trousers, a shirt, cloak and hardy shoes. Whatever was happening, he had to help in any way he could.

Nobody stopped him as he ran to the lower village, as everyone seemed to be hurrying around in a rush to help. Servants carried buckets of water, some carried on the back of carts. Citizens grabbed blankets and clothes, bundling up against the winter cold. Alex had never seen Lyle Hill so lively, ever, and wished it was for a different reason.

That fire burned bright.

Alex eventually reached the safe zone, the blaze cordoned off by town marshals. He couldn't help but gasp at the sight.

The entirety of the old industrial area was completely ablaze, the wooden homes and businesses crumbling under the immense heat. Men, women and children rushed out, coughing and covered in ash. Women cradled sobbing infants in their arms. Men carried their families on their backs. It was a terrifying sight.

Nobody really noticed Alex as he slipped through the crowd to the front.

"Your Highness," a marshal looked panicked at the sight of the prince, "You cannot be here, it's not safe."

"They're my people in there, I command you let me through."

"Sir, you could be hurt."

"I wouldn't be a very good prince if I didn't risk that," Alex snapped as he pushed past the marshal into the zone.

The heat had been ferocious when he was outside of the line, but it went to a new level once he arrived nearer the area. It was a strangling sort of heat, one that gripped him and would not let go. The wind blew the heat further away from its sources, burying the residents in an inferno. Alex was already dripping with sweat, but he pushed through.

He could just about make some figures out in the smoke.

"You there!" he called out.

It was two more of the marshals, who looked horrified at the sight of the prince so close to the flames. They bowed quickly, their faces red hot.

"What's the situation?"

"The entirety of the old industrial area is aflame. We think it may have been a knocked candle, but we cannot know for sure. Well, as you can see, it has burned through the wood. We're trying to get as much water on it as we can, but the pumps are far and few between in this neighbourhood, we have to get them from other parts of town. An evacuation order was put in place and we think we have most people out, but there's no reliable census."

Alex nodded. It was time to take charge.

"There's a shortcut next to the mill that leads on to the stables. There are plenty of water pumps there for the horses, send every able bodied servant to fill them up and bring them back. We'll use the dance hall as a place for those who have lost their homes. Get them all in there and have details written down- names, homes etc. If someone is missing, we find them fast because I honestly don't think we have much longer. Ask everyone who can spare food, blankets and other supplies to bring them here. We will sort out accommodation for those who need it, but we need to gauge the need for it first. Get medics out here- prioritise the elderly, children and the infirm. Anyone who needs it gets sent to the royal medical wing for treatment. Get servants to bring beverages from the cellar, as much as we need. Anyone who isn't part of the effort to take the fire out needs to be in that safe zone. Got it?"

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