Torch’s Export
Torch’s Export

Torch’s Export

(parna conflagratio)

I’d returned from a month in the field, as it were, to Phoenix, an Indep burg half-way between Glorium and soXa (or however you spell the name of the barmy place). I was surprised to find the place burned to the ground. The dense forests surrounding the burg’d gone, replaced by scorched, blasted terrain reminiscent more of Avernus than the Outlands. Worried for the safety of the inhabitants, I asked a local githzerai carpenter whether this was the work of the fiends or slaadi:

“No basher, it weren’t neither. This happens every cycle, about this time. Take your concerns elsewhere, berk, ‘cos they’re not needed here. We’re hardy people, and we were expecting it. The burg’ll be up again before the week is out.”

My ill-timed curiosity’d already taken hold, however, and I wasn’t about to leave the questions which jostled in my brain unanswered. “Then what happened here?” I pondered aloud, hoping the grumpy cutter’d take pity on my ignorance.

“T’was the Fire Ferns,” he answered gruffly, like I was Clueless. “Some cutters call ’em Torch’s Export: They say the seeds come from that sodding burg. Once they blossom, the whole place goes up in flames. Happens all the time. No big deal.”

“Please, tell me more of them. I’ve got jink.” Could he tell I was desperate? “I’m a Guvner,” I added, thinking it’d make a difference.

“If you insist, basher,” he finally conceded, when he saw the coins. “But it’ll have to be short, I’ve still got three kips to rebuild today.

“Fire ferns only grow in a few parts, and this be one of ’em,” he began, apparently proud of the fact. “Chant is they came through a portal from Gehenna and liked it here. See, the ferns are harmless most of the time; it’s just when they flower that the blazes start.

“They’re green and red flowers on black stems, but the dangerous bit’s the bladders that grow under the ground. They swell up with this explosive liquid, see, about the time the seeds ripen, and poke out of the ground. It only takes one careless sod to set ’em off; if he treads on the sac and bursts it he’ll be showered with the sticky liquid. Thing is, it catches fire as soon as its in air, and the flames that spout out soon spread to the rest of the plant. The whole merry thing explodes like a barmy wizard spell, and tornadoes of flame shoot across the forest. ‘Course, that sets off all the other ferns, until the whole place is burning away. Looks a fine sight, it does.”

“Don’t the ferns destroy themselves?” I asked, puzzled by the strange life-cycle of the plants.

“Nope. They likes the fire, see. It creates these uplifting drafts, and that carries the seeds away. They need to be hot to grow, and if they’re still burning when they hit the ground, they’ll burn away all the other plants too. No competition then, see. The parent gets a good deal out of it too, cutter, as it’s got the corpse of the unlucky sod who set the whole fire off to feed on. Everyone’s happy. Except the other plants, and us who’ve lost our cases, I suppose.

“Well, that’s about all there is to tell. It’s about time you were sodding off anyway, berk. Your type ask more questions than’s healthy.” The githzerai left, presumably to continue rebuilding the small burg.

I can only conclude that the good people of Phoenix are either too leatherheaded or too stubborn to move their kips somewhere safer, or else they’re sitting on something real dark that they’re not willing to share. The fact that they’re rebuilding their burg with wood rather than stone suggests the former, I reckon. Though I can’t help wondering how much a vial of that flammable sap would fetch in the Great Bazaar.

Source: Jon Winter-Holt,

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