Return to the Flaming Forest

Bathalgarg walked slowly through the ashes, not exactly sure what he was doing here. It had been almost exactly a year since he had burned down this forest with a careless volley of fireballs, and he still wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Ashamed for causing so much wanton destruction? Proud for causing so much wanton destruction? With him, he carried the trophy the villagers had given him for killing that one super annoying squirrel who was always making fun of people. Why had he brought that? The last thing he remembered was going to sleep in his wizard nest. Was this all a dream?

“Hello Ugly,” called a voice to his right. “I see you still have that stupid beard.”

Bathalgarg whipped around, and there hanging out on a branch like a little jerk was the ghostly apparition of the squirrel he had killed a year ago.

“Oh hello,” said Bathalgarg. “So you decided to come back as a ghost, eh?”

“That’s right,” said the squirrel. “It turns out squirrel heaven is super boring. They just have a bunch of nuts that are already shelled. Also whenever you make fun of someone, they just giggle in this high-pitched voice and say ‘oh you!’ and go back to eating their nuts. Anyway, I kind of like doing the shelling myself, ya know?”

“Not really,” said Bathalgarg. “I have a nut allergy. Hey, did you summon me here with your dumb ghost powers? I spent all day yesterday removing a curse from a king’s seventh son and I’m pretty exhausted, so I’d really like to go back to sleep if you don’t mind.”

“Are you really annoyed?” asked the squirrel, hopping closer and looking hopeful. “I mean, you’re not just acting annoyed for my sake, are you?”

“What?” said Bathalgarg. “No. Why would I do that? You’re a mean little jerk. You know the villagers actually gave me a trophy for killing you, right?”

“Oh wow really?!” cried the squirrel, his eyes filling with ghostly tears. “I mean, I knew I annoyed them, but I guess I never knew how much. You never truly know how much you mean to people until you’re gone.”

“Okay then,” said Bathalgarg, “I’m gonna go ahead and go home now. Please don’t summon me again.”

“What’s that?” asked the squirrel. “Wait until you’re almost asleep again, and then summon you? No problem buddy!”

“Oh for christ’s sake,” muttered Bathalgarg as he turned and marched off. “Now I’m gonna to have to spend an hour when I get home putting up a ward of protection, and I’m not even sure I have any griffin feathers left. I suppose I’ll have to stop by Griffin Mountain on my way home, but it’s really not on the way. Man, I hope they’re still up. I’m not even sure I have any rubies left. Maybe they’d trade for emeralds, although it’s really not their color.”

“Hey wait!” called the squirrel from behind him. “Can I please just ask you one question before you go?”

“Oh for the love of Hoggrath! What?!” cried Bathalgarg, turning around.

“Are you still dumb as shit?” asked the squirrel.

Bathalgarg stood there staring at the squirrel for several minutes. Part of him wanted to laugh, and part of him wanted to cry, but the part that won out was the part that wanted to use the last of his saved up magic gemstones to open a portal that dropped the squirrel directly into the center of hell. Flames shot up from the pit and reached a mile into the air, dragging the squirrel and some unfortunate birds that were flying by down into the deepest part of hell (you know, like right by where the devil lives). The hell flames also burned off the few plants that had begun to grow back in the ashes of the forest. The unearthly glow could be seen all across the kingdom, and people talked about it for years to come. Everyone but Bathalgarg that is. He didn’t even watch it. He just cast the spell and started walking home.

“Fuck I’m exhausted,” he thought.

Art by Miranda Britton

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