Phantasmagoria - Chapter 17

Author: Andrew


The Wildfire

Chells lay in his small, gray hut trying to drift off to sleep. For the past few evenings, he has had boughts of insomnia and felt on edge. This night was cool and quiet. A slight breeze rattled the trees above his roof. Each leaf ticked and tumbled down the shingles above his head. The Believer tried once more to close his eyes and let sleep envelope him. He smirked to himself as he wished he could use his Templar ability on himself: "I believe I will get a good night's sleep!"

The symphony of night insects had just faded from Chells' drowsy mind when it was replaced by a sudden, echoing "Whoosh!" Showers of leaves and sticks clattered onto the roof. The entire room was illuminated by a flash of light from the tiny window at the back of Chell's home. The entire hut shook from some distant eruption. Bedding flew as Chells bolted from his mattress and peered out the window. A blazing geyser of flame towered above the the tree-lined hill outside of the town wards.

"Shit.... Shit.... Shit...." he muttered as he threw on some clothes and grabbed sword and satchel.

Outside, in the fiery light, Thomas' slender form created long, spindly shadows on grass of the town green. The doors of the Trader's hut and Temple flew open almost simultaneously. Clambering to don their weapons, armor and magic charms, Stone and Kelloran joined the other two men standing and staring up at the towering holocaust.

Thomas turned to Kelloran. "What the Hells did you throw in Starwatch this time?!"

"Me... I..." Kelloran began to retort when Chells cut him off.

"It's not Starwatch. It's the Plain of Ash!"

Unlike many in town Chells and then Squire Thomas had seen the Plain of Ash as few had. For the past decade, it would have been more aptly clamed the Plain of Grass, but Chells and Thomas had seen it a dozen years ago when it was a frightening blaze of smoke, ash and fire. It was clear to them that now for whatever reason the Plain of Ash had re-ignited.

The four men tensed as they witnessed vast clouds of sparks showering down upon the forested hill. Some if those sparks began to flit and flutter about like incandescent fireflies.

"Some of those sparks are alive!" Stone whispered loudly.

"Living or not, they're going to burn down woods if we don't do something." Thomas retorted.

"Good point." Kelloran said snapping out of his fire-induced fugue.

Chells began to move first. "Let's split up and cover more ground. Call out or Thought Transfer if you need help."


Hours passed and the dawn's light began to break through the veil of smoke and falling ash. A few minutes before, the roaring Wildfire had just vanished as suddenly as it had appeared leaving char and mysteries behind. Kelloran was the first to return to town, followed shortly by Stone and then Thomas. All three men were covered in soot and ashes. Chells arrived last. He too resembled a Chimney Sweep but his clothes were also torn and his skin had numerous cuts that were puckering and fading as he cast healing spells upon himself.

With a smoke-hoarse voice Stone spoke. "So how has everyone's morning been." Apparently, the blare had not snuffed out his helping of smart ass.

"Great." Thomas half-chuckled, half-laughed. "I found these red flowers and a glass disk."

"Thomas, you were supposed to Keep the woods from burning down not loot them!!" Kelloran chortled.

"I was! I was stomping out small fires when I saw them. After the fricking inferno went out, I cast ID on them. The flowers are called Surtur Bloom; they're rare in the Shadowlands but common in fire realms. They can be used as alchemical components or for making magical stuff. The orange, glass disk is an Ember Eye like those Air Eyes and Watery Eyes."

"Sea Eye!" Kelloran corrected. "Watery Eyes is what we are all going to have for the next week from all that smoke. Well, all I found was a roasted rune and dead guy. I ran down the trail and came out below the Plain of Ash. There was a rune there, but it was trashed like someone hit it with Erase Rune. Nearby, I found a dead guy.

"It was Owain, one of the Town Guard. He told me his name when I was finally able to raise him. It took awhile for my Raise Dead to kick in. Apparently, his spirit was knocked into the Spirit Realm for a bit. When he came back, Owain found a bunch of his channeled items, potions and other magic gear was toast. Seems this particular fire likes to chew up magic such as runes and items. We better keep Raith's pouch away from any future fires or else his scroll stash could blow up the whole area!"

Chells tried to brush off his clothes and then lit up his tobacco. Stone scoffed. "Didn't you get enough smoke?!"

"Good point." He snuffed out his butt. "Well, I found a dead guy too, but mine was real pissed off! Doom Herald said it was a Burning Dead, some kind of jabbering, flaming skeleton thing. He actually was pretty tough but eventually I crushed him. He was blathering really fast and, mainly, the message I was getting was that he really wanted to kill me, but I did hear him say 'Bazarmoth' and 'Dark Legion.'"

"My encounter was a lot more peaceful. I was putting out fires near the Paupers graveyard and, apparently, that irritated a fire fairy that was nearby. She was some kind of fire nymph who loves looking at flames. Despite my crushing her ''art," she wasn't hostile. She just seemed sad and far from home. When I reached the edge of the fire, I cast Commune with Nature. Seems like this will be the first of many eruptions of elemental fire from the Plain of Ash. The plain is a thin point between the Shadowlands and the Realm of Fire. Seems like we'll all be seeing more of this Wildfire, Thomas' loot as well as our fiery visitors."

Kelloran piped in. "So we know what is happening but the big question remains, why is it happening."

The four soot-stained friends looked up at the scarlet dawn light, the drifting bits of ash and stood in silence waiting for the answers yet to come.