Winter Doom

Futura inserted a peppermint stick into the candy keyhole and turned, locking his front door. A wizard, Futura defied tradition and lived in a gingerbread house, a confectionary architecture style typically favored by witches. This was perhaps the only non-wizardry thing about Futura, who otherwise kept the traditions attributed to magical scholars deep in his heart.

A snowball hit Futura on the back and the sound of howling laughter filled the surrounding forest. “Good morning, master wizard,” a voice rang out, its owner having vanished before the ensuing volley of retaliatory magic was inevitably cast.

“I will get you yet, Mushroom!” Futura snarled as he dusted the snow from his cloak. He glowered as he headed into the forest for the day’s work: researching wintertaste fungus.

Like many wizards, Futura spent much of his time researching extremely nuanced aspects of the land surrounding his home, measuring its effects on the local environs, its contributions to local magic auras, and ways said magic could be extracted and used.

And like many monsters living near a wizard, Mushroom, a forest gnome, spent much of his time tormenting Futura.

That evening, upon returning home, Futura brewed a pot of onyxcrush coffee and laid out the notes he had taken earlier. One pot of coffee, two cubes of precisely measured sugar, one small pitcher of cold icecloud cream, one spoon, one saucer, one cup, one journal, one pen. Futura was so regimented his clocks had all retired years ago and relied on him to tell the time.

The wizard sat down in the study’s sole chair and poured one of the four cups of coffee he would drink and began to read his notes.

“Mushroom.” Futura glowered. He set his research aside and started pacing the room. “The gnome must be dealt with, distractions are mounting.” From a small cubby on the south wall, Futura withdrew a scroll and cast an Illusion of One Known spell, summoning an image of his feisty forest foe. The scroll, its magic spent, burned to smokeless ash.

It wasn’t until the logs in the fireplace popped that Futura realized he had been staring at the illusion’s summer-warm brown eyes. Futura caught himself smiling with a start. Annoyed, he waved his hands frantically through the illusion, dissolving it.

The eyes faded last.

The next morning, on schedule, Futura turned the peppermint key into the candy keyhole and locked his gingerbread front door and, on schedule, Mushroom threw snowballs — but they went through Futura cleanly. “What is this?” Mushroom called out merrily.

“YOUR DOOM!” Futura cried out, bringing down an entire cloud’s worth of snow onto Mushroom. The Futura at the door flickered then vanished, an illusion.

Mushroom, howling with laughter, climbed out of the pile and slowly got to his feet — just as Futura was knocked down with a snowball hurled from an unseen party. Mushroom laughed louder than before, grabbing onto a tree to steady himself. Unfortunately for Futura, Mushroom’s belly laughs shook the tree so hard a batch of snow fell on him, and at this, Mushroom laughed so hard he fell over into the snow.

“What was that?!” Futura demanded!

“Your doom, master wizard,” Mushroom giggled as he began making a snowball. “That was the good miss Strawberry and undoubtedly her wife, Red Kelp. We best prepare a counter attack if we are to survive and drink cocoa later.”

“On the same side?” Futura brightened at the idea participating in a snow war and then drinking cocoa. “Together?” he asked tentatively, his voice a half-note higher in anticipation.

Mushroom winked and handed him a snowball, “It’s a date!”

Futura paused a moment, watching Mushroom run in the direction of the unseen Strawberry and Red Kelp. “Date?” he repeated, with a soft smile and a softer tone. His reverie was short lived.

“We best run! They will have a fortified snowbank nearby, we must catch them before they reach it!” Mushroom called.