Two arrows, wreathed in flame, streaked through the night air. Striking wood with a dull thud, no one saw them through the fog or heard them over the sounds of revelry in the surrounding camps. They would never be found. Minutes after, when the flame from the arrows finally penetrated the wooden kegs to set the brandiwine spirits they contained alight, the cool, almost invisible flame still attracted no notice in such dismal weather conditions. Only once the wooden kegs themselves began to break apart and burn did the fire attract notice, and by then it was far too late.
When the main store of brandiwine kegs finally erupted in flame, it did so all at once, sending a great ball of fire skyward and drawing a rush of dew-soaked air behind it with a ‘whoosh’ that grabbed everyone’s attention within a hundred yards. The light scent of burning brandiwine, almost candy-sweet, mingled with the darker smell of the burning wood as if to dilute the seriousness of the danger the camp now faced. The great disturbance of air from the initial upward eruption of flame and the foggy air that rushed inward to replace it, not only diminished the fog momentarily, but also served to fan the flames like a bellows, heating the fire hotter and driving the gathering crowd backward.
The alarm was shouted out immediately and relayed throughout the entire camp. Soldiers of all types rushed toward the conflagration, buckets in hand, to help as embers began to rain down upon the surrounding tents. A fire brigade was organized within minutes, but before the first buckets of water could be brought to bear, several nearby tents were alight. The brigade, being an experienced unit, adjusted quickly, creating multiple bucket lines as more and more men arrived to help, delivering water to the main fire via several lines and directing new lines to the secondary fires as needed. The fires, being super-heated by the ample supply of air and fueled by abundant wood and spirits, proved tenacious, seeming to drink up the water, bucket after bucket, as if it were a roaring, living thing.
Then tragedy struck. A wall of brandi kegs, stacked three and four layers high and two to three kegs deep, all disgorged their contents seemingly at once, creating a vast pool of rippling blue flame that spread outward from the center in a rush. It caught the brave men closest to the fire unawares and the slightly viscous brandiwine was immediately sloshing about their ankles and setting their boots and trousers afire. Men screamed as they fell to the ground, only to be swallowed up by the flaming brandi.
Elsewhere in the camp, more secondary fires sprang up from the falling embers. Several smithies were alight and food stores were burning. By now, the fire had created such great currents of air over the camp that the fog was completely gone. Speckled here and there across the camp, a number of pavilions were now aflame and blazing bright in the clear night air.
“It’s Filthy Greenbacks what’s done this!” came a shout from a man in the main bucket line.
The Fire Marshal tried to maintain order. “Mind your jobs, boys! There will be plenty of time to sort things out-“
“When? After they’ve done in all the brandi? Bastards, the lot o’ them! They’ll pay for this!”
“You’re a liar! Followers would ne’er do a thing such as this!” came another shout.
“Quiet or I’ll have you pulling scullery duty for a month! Now mind your jobs, I say!” the Fire Marshal tried again.
“The Marshal must be a Greenback! Just listen to ‘im!”
“Mind your jobs, men!” the Fire Marshal yelled back.
The shoving and taunts erupted into a brawl and the bucket brigade’s discipline crumbled into a sloppy melee of angry curses and furious punches. The Fire Marshal’s attempts to restore order were useless and he found himself absorbed into the brawl fighting for his life. Followers of the Greenway, momentarily outnumbered, did their best to break away from the fight and form themselves into groups to protect themselves from the Believers of the Golden Rule who held the initial advantage. The fire continued unabated and slowly spread. A gruesome tactic soon became popular among the Golden Rule’s Believers which they called “sending a green man back to his fire”. The maelstrom of fire and men continued for hours into the night. At one point when the men started to wear down it was discovered that a great many kegs of honeymead had been smashed open, their precious contents spilled upon the ground, leading to a renewal of the fighting, this time with the Greenway’s Followers holding the upper hand.
By dawn, the camp was a wasteland. Soldiers lay exhausted and bloody; hundreds were dead – some from fire and some from being literally beaten to death. The destruction of property was almost total. Men stumbled through the wreckage, hoping to find anything of value as they checked for survivors. At the center of the encampment the command pavilion was discovered to have burned to the ground, obviously ignited by the large store of brandiwine kegs which had been laid aside. Seven ashen bodies were discovered among the coals, all that remained of Grand Master Dunstan Molle and his six Lord Marshals. In one tragic night, fire and internal strife managed to do what centuries of battlefield adversaries never could: eliminate the entire top echelon of the Order of the Golden Sovereign’s command structure..