You might think you understand fire. Maybe you’ve sat around a fireplace, watching logs burn and sputter and snap to life, or perhaps you’ve cooked out under the stars and watched embers float away into the sky. You’ve probably lit a match to lite a candle, a little flame so tender and small that you could snuff it out with your fingertips. Maybe you even did. But this is not that. This is the fire that created the Ruins of When.

Thirty years ago, the fire that destroyed the east side of Windrose city started with a single man, a single match, a single spark. I don’t know why that man was chosen to start the fires. He was a young man with scruff on his neck and smooth cheeks. He used to enjoy puzzles and taking things apart and putting them back together again, but that was before… that was When. I doubt he knows why he was chosen either. But some choices can’t be undone. After they doused the buildings with gasoline, set the perimeter, and the soldiers readied themselves, that young man struck the match and tossed it. It happened so fast, I….

The spark caught, and the fire spread. In moments that first building went up—an old textiles factory still stuffed with fabric just waiting to burn. The people (terrorists, the government called them) were surprised, but they kept fighting the soldiers on the front by the river. After all, that was the important place: the front line. Some disappeared to battle the fire and keep it from spreading, but most stayed to fight the real enemy, the soldiers. But the wind shifted.

You might think that you understand fire. But have you ever seen it race across rooftops? Skipping along in the wind like birds on flaming wings? Or have you seen it eat through curtains and walls and beds and kitchens and clothes and….

You do not understand fire. The flames swam across the east part of the city, and people tried to get out. That young man who lit the fires, he had to watch. Ash and smoke and screams.

Too many people died that day. The smell…

I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

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