Volcano Friends

Beatrix continued hiking up the mountain as rivers of hot lava flowed past her on either side. She knew her Air Conditioning spell wouldn’t hold out much longer, even though she bumped it up to Level 7 recently. She felt sweat dripping between her eyes and down her back. It was pretty gross, to tell you the truth. It would all be worth it though if the flower she sought was there. You know the one. Mortals and wizards alike call it:

“The Flower of Infinite Reboot!”

If you haven’t heard of it, first of all, weird. Secondly, it’s a flower that only grows at the top of volcanos while they’re erupting. Mountains are pretty much the most magical things on Earth, and volcanos are the most magical of mountains, and an erupting volcano is the most magical kind of volcano so… I mean, you know, that’s pretty much it as far as magical things on earth go (other than The Orb of Power, but it’s not a good idea to go messing around with that thing). Of course, there’s stuff in other dimensions that make erupting volcanoes look like imp droppings* (which are actually pretty powerful, so like, it’s not that much of a difference). Point being, if you’re a wizard hanging around on Earth and you wanna gather some magical ingredients on your way home and you see a volcano erupting, it doesn’t matter how long a day you’ve had, you’re going to stop by.

*coincidently, the anus of a pooping imp looks almost exactly like an erupting volcano.

One of the best things you can get if you’re stopping by an erupting volcano is The Flower of Infinite Reboot. It’s this flower (duh) that lets you start anything over again as often as you like. It has a time limit of one moment, and if you wanna exactly know how long a “moment” is, you should start a website called “Stories About Science Nerds” and write all about it.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks to the F of IR, and honestly, things don’t go well for most wizards who find one. “Oh I’m gonna fight this gold dragon, and if it doesn’t go well, I’ll just use my flower to start again,” they say. Then the dragon breaths Cloudkill on them, and suddenly they’re too busy being dead to do much of anything.

Still, if they aren’t a complete idiot about it, you can see how the flower would be useful for a wizard, like if they are trying out a new spell and keep setting their hut on fire, or whatever.

Beatrix was just heading home from curing some king’s warts when she saw a volcano off to her left about to blow. “Welp Bea,” she said to herself, “you’d better hustle up! If you wanna find that flower you’ve always wanted, this is your chance!”

She’d spent the past several hours hiking up the side of the volcano avoiding rocks, lava, and the occasional swarm of mud sprites (who hatch during volcanic eruptions and always seem to be having a really good time). By the time she got to the top, she was pretty exhausted, but her efforts were not in vain. There on the ground, right next to the charred remains of what was once a very curious but slow squirrel, was the flower looking all glowy and magical and shit.

She bent down to pick it, and right as she wrapped her hands around the stem, she felt fingers brush against her own. She looked up but didn’t see anybody, so right away she knew it was another wizard who had turned themself invisible.

“Um, excuse me,” said Beatrix, “but as you can see, my hand was here before yours. I’m sure I saw some lovely magical hematite back the way I came, and I’d be only too glad to help you gather some up as soon as you let go of my flower.”

“Excuse me,” said a wizard appearing before her. “My name is Smafelgard, and as you could not see, I’ve been standing here for several minutes now waiting to dig up this flower, but thus far have been unable to locate the trowel in my bag of holding. You know how those things can be. As far as hematite goes, we both know that stuff is for Level Ones who want to make some baby potions for babies. If you found it to be so lovely, I’d be happy to help you gather as much as you like as soon as you unhand my flower.”

Beatrix and Smafelgard’s eyes locked for a few insanely intense seconds, then they both made a wish in their hearts.

Beatrix crested the peak of the mountain and spied the flower immediately. She sprinted full speed toward it and did a pretty awesome face-first slide to grab it. Unfortunately, Smafelgard was standing there the whole time and had been frantically and invisibly digging. “Shit!” she cried as she bruised her fingertips on the back side of his trowel.

“Look,” said Smafelgard, “I already told you that I’d been standing here for a while, so there’s no use in starting this moment over, as I’m clearly going to be closer every time. The only reason I haven’t left already is because, unlike some people, I wasn’t just going to pluck this flower like it was a common field daisy. I planned to dig it up and actually replant it. If grown properly, it could expand its powers to go back perhaps two or even three moments. Who knows? In a few years it might even been able to go all the way back to a while ago.”

“That’s a noble pursuit indeed,” said Beatrix, who actually thought Smafelgard’s plan sounded like bullshit. “But the thing is, ever since I was young, my parents have been, well… tough to please let’s say. I thought if could get this flower they’d finally be proud of me. Also, I’ve never really been able to talk to them properly. I mean, I know what I want to say, but it never comes out right. I thought if I had the flower, I could finally have a conversation with them, like really talk, you know? This way, if I screwed up again, I could just restart until I get it right… I guess this probably sounds pretty dumb, but I just want a chance to finally have a solid relationship with them.”

“That doesn’t sound dumb at all,” answered Smafelgard, smiling down on her. “My mom left when I was little, and my father and I have always had more of a business relationship than a personal one. He really felt I should be some sort of summoner or, like, a transmogrifier. ‘Always money in transmogrification,’ he’d say to me. ‘Never underestimate how much people want to be something else.’ I think with mom gone, he just wanted to make sure I could take care of myself. I think it broke his heart when I told him I wanted to be an herbalist.”

“Hey everybody loves a good herbalist,” said Beatrix. “It, like, totally helps you focus when you’re doing those long incantations duuuuuude.”

“Hahaha! Well that was another problem dad had with it, actually,” laughed Smafelgard. “He’s not exactly the most open-minded guy ever… Look, you seem very nice, and I really wish there was another flower or something, but I’m just going to have to put my foot down here and say I was in fact here first and, to be blunt, I think I know more about plant care than you. As much as it pains me to do so, I think I’m going to have to just take the flower and head home.

“I totally understand. No hard feelings at all,” said Beatrix, as her hand snuck around the edge of the trowel. “The important thing is that we really shared a moment just now.”

“Oh crap,” said Smafelgard.

Smafelgard and Beatrix stared at each other across the flower, neither knowing exactly how long it had been. Days? A week? More? They’d lost count of the cycles somewhere around 50, but they were certainly into triple digits at this point. Hot ash filled the air, and lava continued to flow around them as they spoke.

“Tell me again about the kid who stole your sandwich when you were young?” asked Smafelgard.

“Tried to steal my sandwich, you mean,” said Beatrix, grinning. “I ended up turning him into a juice box and letting one of my friends drink him. I swear I could hear him scream when she poked the straw in.”
“Hahaha!” laughed Smafelgard. “Now was this before or after that whole thing with the griffin?”
“After,” answered Beatrix. “Probably why I was feeling so sassy. Oh, by the way, I meant to ask, why were you invisible when we first met?”

“Oh,” said Smafelgard. “That’s kind of a weird story. I met this unicorn at a tavern who–”

Suddenly, a giant explosion rocked the volcano. A huge chunk of the mountain collapsed, sending the two wizards into the boiling pit of molten rock below.

“Jesus Bea, that was the closet one yet,” said Smafelgard. “We should really get out of here… Look, you’re right, you did touch the flower first. You should just take it. I’ll even dig it up for you. Just maybe let me come study it sometime?”

“No, no,” answered Beatrix. “You should have it. I’ve been thinking that ever since you told me its whole taxonomy and listed all the wizards in the western kingdom who’ve ever used one. I swear I was going to be the first living being to fall asleep on the side of an erupting volcano.”

“Hey, you have to admit that story about Confabular the Hesitant using it to make the perfect grilled cheese is kind of interesting!” said Smafelgard.

“Um, sure, that was great,” said Beatrix. “Anyway, you should have it for sure. No tricks this time.”

“Wow, thanks Bea,” said Smafelgard, starting to tear up. “You… you don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Yeah I do dummy,” said Beatrix. “That’s why I’m giving it to you.”

It was right as they started to hug that a gigantic smoldering boulder fell out of the sky and crushed both of them before they could even think about using the flower again. If it makes you feel any better, they set the record for the most number of times the Flower of Infinite Reboot has been used before the wizard using it died. Although, not if you divide it by two, which some people insist is only fair.

Art by Miranda Britton

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