Sonny, come on over here, and I'll tell you about the Great Fire of Iverhold. No, I ain't going to lecture you about being careful with fire and all that. I reckon your ma and pa give you enough tell-offs about that as it is. You ought to be happy they went off to market with your grandma. So, ready for a good tale?

Come on, now, don't give me that bull pucky about it being late. Don't you know late stormy nights are perfect for telling tales? I just told you your ma and pa ain't here now, so you just sit down and listen to your old grandpa.

On second thought, sonny, why don't you fetch me my jug first? A fellow's got to wet his throat before he can be telling tales. Ah, that hits the spot. Ain't nothing in this world like a drink of some good whiskey to get the old speech buggy rolling.

Oh, right, the tale. Well, since you asked, I'll tell you all about it. I was there, you know. Young stablehand, not a care in the world, just walking home one hot summer night from work. Long before I started this farm.

So I'm walking along, having myself a good smoke before I got back home. I know, I can't do it anymore because my throat gets to itching, but back then, let me tell you, a good smoke was something to die for. Not as good as that whiskey, but close.

Anyway, I finished up with my smoke, so I just dropped it on the road. It turned out that weren't too bright, but hey, a fellow can be excused for being young and brick-headed. So with it laying on the street, around the corner comes this horse and buggy. And they were coming fast. I had to scramble so they didn't run me down. If I hadn't, we wouldn't be sitting here.

Now, I don't know why, but apparently that horse weren't trained worth his weight. Nothing like the horses your pa raises. So it stepped right on where I dropped my smoke, and let me tell you, that horse panicked. I don't rightly know why, since you'd think the hoof or horseshoe would have made it not feel the thing. Either way, horse panicked, and the buggy got jerked to the side.

The thing is, that buggy driver, like most people, didn't have good night eyes. He had a lantern sitting beside him, so he could see. When that buggy jerked, the lantern went flying, and hit the window of the tavern right there. That was a good solid window, too, didn't break. The lantern did, so it got oil all over the side of the tavern.

That being a tavern, sonny, it was full of people. In fact, there was a fellow sitting at the table right on the other side, having a drink. Of course, he was shocked up by the sound of the lantern breaking. Can't blame him, that would be enough to shock anyone, except your grandma. There ain't nothing that scares her.

Turned out the fellow was so shocked, he flung his beer mug through the air. And it landed right in the fireplace in that tavern. You can bet all the people there were in a right uproar after that.

In Iverhold, we had these great big owls that lived up on top of the buildings, and ate all the rats they could get. Well, one of them was flying overhead, and flew right over the tavern's chimney just as that beer landed in the fire. Huge puff of smoke went up, went right in that owl's eyes.

Owl let out this loud screech, which got my attention. I look up to see that dumb owl fly right into a window, breaking through to the other side. I don't know if that window was well made or not, but I reckon that it don't matter much against big heavy stupid owls.

Well, it turned out the room behind that window was where a sorcerer lived. Now the thing about sorcerers I've learned is that they need to focus on their spells completely, or the whole thing ends up being bull pucky at best.

So, I found out later he was summoning a fire elemental, and the owl kind of messed up his spell. Oh, the fire elemental came out all right, but she weren't under his control, and she weren't happy. So she let loose, and that whole floor of that building blew up.

Of course, you have something like that happen, sonny, and you get pieces of stuff flying everywhere. So one piece of wood came down right on top of the blacksmith next door, breaking through the roof and landing right in the forge. Since the whole thing was open from the front like most smiths' places, the coals flew out into the street.

The buggy driver had parked the buggy right there, and had been trying to calm the horse down when one of those coals flied out and hit that horse right on the side. Horse panicked again, and takes off running, the buggy still attached. I reckon the driver had wished he'd picked a different horse or something.

Anyway, all this racket got one of the city guard running, and he ran right around that corner just in time to get run down by that horse and buggy. He was carrying a torch, so that torch got caught on the buggy and set the whole thing on fire. Horse just ran faster, and went right around that corner.

Now, by this point my mouth had near done fallen off my face. As crazy as all this sounds, it was all happening right there, with me just looking on. I don't think any other fellow could make up this tale, but it was what it was, sure as birds fly. It probably was a good thing I weren't aware of what else was happening, or I'd really be shocked.

You see, sonny, that horse ran with that buggy straight out of the city, into the forest. And being a hot dry summer, you can guess what happened next.

There was this merchant caravan camped right outside the city. I know this because I got to talk to one of them after this all was over. Seems the inns were packed full that night, didn't have any rooms. Anyway, that horse and buggy came right through their camp, and they all ran for it. They were lucky, but it hit their campfire, scattered the logs every which way, and set off a fire in the forest.

It was right about then that I got myself together and went to go bring a bucket brigade. Not that I thought they'd do much good, seeing as how half that street was on fire, but hey, better than standing around like a dead tree.

It took some doing, but I finally got a group together, and we got to work. One of the boys had already gotten a bucket of water, so he went ahead and threw that on the tavern, which was burning down right there. It was a good thing everyone had gotten out real quick, because it turned out that boy was so sleepy he had grabbed a bucket of oil, not water.

That tavern burned down in a hurry, let me tell you. I don't think I've ever seen a fellow as sheepish as that boy was. You can bet he never forgot about that.

Now, we had started to carry buckets, with real water from the sea, but it weren't working. Fire spread too fast for us to put out.

Then, one of them high-talking inventors showed up. You know, like the ones that come by the farm every few months, trying to sell their fancy metal devices? Well, this fellow claimed his device would put out the fires real quick. We probably shouldn't have listened to him, but water weren't working, so we let him try.

Sonny, you should have seen that thing. The fellow had some kind of metal keg on his back, attached to a tube. He pointed that thing at the fire, and it made the most strangest sound I ever heard. But it seemed to work, at least where he pointed it. A couple of the fellows began to clap.

Then the metal keg blew up. I don't want to tell you what was left of that inventor fellow, except that it weren't a lot, and it weren't very pretty. I reckon that his toy got a little too hot, going from what a couple of the pieces did to a pair of the fellows there. At least they were still around to tell about it.

By that point, we all reckoned that we weren't putting this fire out, so we all split up and went to get everyone we could out of Iverhold. Ain't no sense in sticking around to burn to death, let me tell you.

Hold on, let me take another drink, then I'll keep going. Your grandpa's old voice ain't what it used to be. There was a time I could tell tales all night long, until the rooster crowed.

Well, the next thing was I ended up at the monastery on the west side of town. I didn't know a thing about the monks there, and to be honest I didn't rightly care. Just was trying to save their lives, was all.

I banged so loud on their door, I thought it'd be enough to wake the dead. Took them long enough to get up though, so I guess it weren't as loud as I thought. Anyway, one of them opened the door, told me to come in, and turned around and stumbled right there.

What I didn't know was that the monastery had these great big brazier things right beside their doors. So when that monk stumbled, he knocked the brazier off, scattering coals everywhere. At least these coals had cooled off. We didn't need another place catching on fire, let me tell you.

We got all the monks out, except for a couple of stubborn old fellows who wouldn't go anywhere. They probably died in there. Don't give me that look, sonny, can't force a fellow to go where they don't want to.

It was then that I looked up and realized the forests around the city were on fire. Sky glowing red, and it was a sight to see. At that point, I got smart, and reckoned we needed to get to the harbor and get on a ship. About the safest thing left to do at that point.

So we headed on down to the harbor, running pretty quickly. Bunch of people joined us when they saw us. I guess they were pretty smart, getting what we were thinking.

We finally made it to the harbor, and got on one of them merchant ships. Galleon, I think is the right proper name. Anyway, we waited a while, making sure other people caught up or got on one of the other ships. It was a little tense there, sonny, waiting while watching Iverhold burn.

Finally, we cast off, and away we sailed. I think six or seven ships made it out of that city safely, all full of people. Course, at least three times as many didn't make it. I won't lie, it's rough, knowing all them fellows died while I made it out. Especially since my smoke started the whole thing.

Though I don't know this for sure, I heard later that the fire went around for a hundred leagues, and burned everything. All the villages nearby, all the farm fields, all got burned to the ground. Really makes me feel bad, knowing how crazy it got.

Worst part is, they say they can't even begin to rebuild anything there for another twenty years or so. I don't know if they're right, but I reckon they ain't too far off.

But let me tell you, it weren't all bad. I wouldn't have met your grandma on one of them ships if this hadn't happened. Of course, I didn't rightly know who she was when I first met her, but I found out soon enough. I didn't hold it against her though, and we hitched up soon enough. Not every fellow gets to marry a fire elemental, after all.

So that's the Great Fire. I know some high-talking fellows call the whole thing Iverhold's Folly instead, but it weren't that. Just a run of really bad luck, could happen anywhere.

Now, I think your old grandpa needs his sleep, so that's all for tonight. If I don't get up first thing tomorrow, remember to wake me. These old bones ain't what they used to be, let me tell you.


Author's Note: I really enjoyed writing this one. Too bad it turned out to be another contest failure, but hey, what can you do?

It was amusing how precise I had to be in creating the dialect the story's told in. If you pay attention, you'll realize that the narration actually does have its own set of grammar rules...just not standard English ones!

Enjoy!