Zacharias had spent most of the day alone, tending to his small flock of sheep. With no children of his own, and his wife long dead from a failed attempt to give birth to one, he went to the field alone every morning with his animals. By evening, when they were safely gathered in their pen, he made himself a small fire, brought to boil a pot of water, and cooked a batch of vegetables for his supper. While his meal cooked, he took up his pair of needles and continued his ongoing work of converting the previous autumn's surplus wool into sweaters for the abandoned children who too often lined the streets of his city. The children, many malformed or so gravely ill that a mild evening breeze could kill them, were of such meager means that even a basic sweater had the potential to prolong their lives. The streets were so dangerous at night that Zacharias dared not travel after the setting of the sun, choosing to toil in his own home and venture out in the morning in search of one unfortunate urchin to help with warm clothes and some leftover soup. All evening he sat in his small home, sewing and humming to himself, doing his best to block out the noise of the familiar nightly chaos outside. He did note that the commotion was louder than normal, but he was still focused on his task when the fire rained down upon him.
* * *
On the morning of the calamity, Achaicus kissed his wife and each of his seven daughters as he did each day before he left to earn some money. He hitched his cart of carvings, seeds and metalworks to his reliable old mare and took her on their daily route. As on any other day, he had to keep a keen eye out for the hands of potential thieves while doing his best to avoid catching the eye of the wayward youths or men of violence. Achaicus was handy with many a material, and had long used his skills to make work as a tradesman, traveling to the surrounding cities every day to trade what he could for enough food to keep his growing family healthy. Alone among the peddlers of his city, Achaicus never demanded more than a fair return for his wares, nor sold anything faulty or ineffective. Some days he would trek as far as Zoar, selling whatever he could, before turning around and bringing his spoils home. He was not yet home when he first inhaled the pungent smell of sulfur in the air, and might have had time to turn his cart around and avoid his fate. Had his family not been at home, he might have.
* * *
Eutychus had never had any fortune, confined since young adulthood to an existence of rags and begging. Both his parents had died before the completion of his tenth year, and the uncle who had taken him in was a man of abject cruelty, one who beat and abused him before leaving him to rot in the streets of the city, sleeping amid the excrement and corpses. The only way he was able to eat every few days was to perform humiliating dances or songs for the richer men of the city, who would demand a performance, chortle the entire time and throw a few coins at him in contempt. Eutychus never stole his bread, degrading himself to earn coins whenever hunger overtook him, and sharing his leftovers with some of the child beggars who couldn't manage even that much. He'd acquired some bread that morning, and was eating in his usual evening resting spot behind a stable when he heard the screams. He spent his final moments watching the sky as the brimstone came down, and got to see many of the men who'd mistreated him perish in the fire before his turn came.
* * *
There wasn't much to the life of Ithamar, who lived alone in a small house, utterly ignored by the population of the city. Physically injured for more than two years, he spent most of his days in bed, painting scenes he remembered from his earlier days on a series of stone tablets. He'd moved to the city as an old man, hoping to live out his days in quiet but instead losing the use of his legs when robbers ambushed him in alley. Since then life had been slow and dull, but honest, a geriatric finishing his life as best he could. When the retribution came, Ithamar was in the process of dragging himself across his floor, his torso balanced on a wooden crutch, working his way toward the latrine in the corner of his home. Ithamar's roof was among the first caved in by the cascade of debris, and the old man's body among the first permanently broken.
* * *
The two messengers were correct in their observation that the city was home to fewer than ten good men, and fulfilled their stated mission in condemning it on those grounds. That didn't negate that there were a few good men left there though, in their flight, the messengers rescued only one. The other decent men - and the decent women and children the messengers didn't even consider in their accounting - burned with the rest, suffering as much as any of the wicked, rewarded for their goodness with only a pillar of salt to overlook their ashen remains.