Mastery

This is a fantasy story I'm working on. It's a bit hard to explain so just give it a go and see what you make of it.

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9. Chapter Eight

~Six hours passed. Clashing, crashing and destruction continued until they were replaced by confusion as the darkness deepened and the groups fighting became increasingly broken up and isolated. Eventually it was impossible to tell who was winning, who was losing, even which side anyone was on.  Hungry, tired men pushed on without purpose. Armies scattered and leaders cut off there was no direction making every painful, desperate last push useless. They felt they ought to keep on doing something but hardly knew what they were expected to do in the circumstances. Aluna’s forces were in enemy territory. If they left it would appear to be a retreat and Morella’s men would feel they’d won the battle. However they couldn’t stay here indefinitely.
A dark shape was becoming visible on the horizon.  As the fighting stopped across the camp, some of the men were starting to notice. Those with energy to move were standing on the walls to get a view.  Others remained slumped against walls. A few were clumsily waving swords or shooting the occasional arrow. 
 Flames burst up into the sky and rolled across the ground towards the camp in waves which separated and ran in trickles into the battle and formed a wall around every person. A few people tried to escape but the walls only grew higher and thicker.  Finally the half-hearted fighting stopped completely. The fire-breathers came running and cartwheeling and dancing until they were in amongst those imprisoned in the flames. As instructed they searched for Morella. Sneeg found her in a corridor and did a gesture with his hands which made the fire buckle and fall in folds to the ground as if it were a velvety fabric. 

 “You must identify your side. When the walls close in, those you have not released will die.”
 “Surely there is another way? You forget these used to be our friends.”
 Sneeg clapped and the walls contracted into tighter rings. Sweat ran across the foreheads of the prisoners and smoke spread across the ground rising as it formed.
 “You have 30 time units.”
 After a quick eye roll she led the way around the camp, silently indicating which men were hers. Most made a circle with their hands as a gesture of thanks and friendship but some of the more enthusiastic pulled the uncomfortable firebreathers into warm hugs.
 Once released the men could help identify their side to speed up their release. With others to finish her task, Morella went in search of Gaeldum in hope he’d be more willing to compromise than Sneeg. Her progress through the long halls was slowed as she stopped to heal wounds of men draped lifelessly across the floor in pools of blood. The minor wounds could wait but for these men it would be too late. For some it already was. In almost every room she’d find a body of someone she knew. 
 Whenever she found someone still on their feet they were sent to set up beds in the great hall for the wounded and prepare medicines. Once she’d given up on finding Gaeldum, she herself went to the great hall. There she found Gaeldum, scrubbing the floors on his hands and knees before the beds were put in place. He didn’t notice her come in; his face was close to the floor and he was hard at work. Only when he sat up to stretch his back did he see her.
 Surprised she exclaimed, “We will get this under control now I am here to organise things properly. You don’t need to do that.”
 “Your men don’t seem to understand that the battle is not yet over. Infection is still free to go about the camp killing far more of your men than the fighting took.”
 “Can I have a private word?”
Gaeldum snapped his long fingers and a fire-breather appeared from the crowd. He passed him the bucket and cloth and asked him to ensure every surface was washed thoroughly. The fire-breather nodded quickly and went straight into the job he’d been assigned.
Morella took Gaeldum’s arm and dragged him outside the cramped hall.
 “You’re not seriously going to kill all those people.”
Gaeldum sighed. After a pause he looked up at her and thought for a few seconds.
 “I don’t see a better alternative. It is better than them coming back and killing you. The loss of life is out of our control, I can’t change the numbers I can only make the selection between them or you.”
 “We don’t have to send them back to Aluna. Why not banish them outside the tamed world to the place in your books. If we scattered them far apart, surely they could pose no threat. They’d be too preoccupied with their own survival.” He smiled but did not reply until the matter was settled in his mind.
 “That is what we shall do.”

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