It so happened that in the mighty kingdom or Erareon, a king came to the throne when his father died. This king had been troubled since a young age by demons of insanity, and frequently flew into rages, made arbitrary demands, or experienced things that were not real. Nevertheless, there was no other heir, and several nobles schemed to take power themselves by manipulating the Erareonian king. So he was enthroned and duly crowned.

It then transpired that the nobles who had backed him over more stable cousins or a regency council had underestimated the new king. For although he was troubled by inasnity and caprice, he was nevertheless his father’s son and possessed considerable intelligence, and cunning. Within the first years of his reign, all the nobles who had hoped to influence him had been driven from power into exile or execution.

Once the threats to his rule had been removed, replaced by pliable and cowed men, the king began plotting a series of elaborate entertainments and festivities. Each more spectacular than the last, they included masquerades, dances, and darker spectacles like witch burnings and executions. The final entertainment was the most elaborate of all: a great harvest dance, with the banquet hall decorated with sheafs of corn while the king and his courtiers dressed as scarecrows with dried pumpkin heads. Recognizing the danger of fire in such an environment, light was provided by expensive oil braziers on the ceiling and bonfires in the yard reflected inside via mirrors.

It so happened, though, that a courtier arrived late to the masquerade. He had not read the strict instructions, which banned open flames, and bore a lit torch. A stray ember from his flame caught a dry corn husk, and within moments the hall was an inferno.

None escaped.

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