As they passed lower into the valley, the last remnants of rain were replaced by a light breeze that mostly served to dry the rest of the goop to their clothing. After a bit, Fat Solomon held up his hand and paused.
“What?” asked Jade. “We got trouble?”
Fat Solomon sniffed the air. “Something’s cooking. Smells like food.”
Jade rolled her eyes. “You think everything smells like food. Probably just some wild animal that wandered too close to a magma pillar, or whatever the hell those fire things are.”
“You doubting the nose?”
“I’m not going to dignify that question with a response.”
Fat Solomon looked pained. “That hurts, you know.”
“You’ll get over it.”
“I have a tender soul, Jade.”
“I’ve seen you rip someone’s intestines out with your bare hands.”
“He wasn’t human. And if he didn’t want them to be pulled out, he shouldn’t have had them hanging on the outside anyway. Poor evolution.”
Jade sarcastically put her hand over her heart. “Yes, you’re quite the delicate flower.”
“I’m still right about the food,” said Fat Solomon. “Look.”
Down the path from them were the remains of a large stone building, ancient etchings and symbols carved into the fallen walls and columns. The roof had been forcibly torn off, either from wind or from some creature, and a column of smoke was lazily drifting out from inside.
“So it’s on fire,” said Jade. “Everything here is on fire. I’d be more surprised if we saw something that wasn’t a charred wreck.”
Fat Solomon urged her forward. As they got closer even Jade couldn’t deny the unmistakable scent of burning meat coming from the building, although it didn’t smell like anything recognizable. Jade stopped and picked up a pile of something from the ground. She opened her hand and a stream of multicolored sand fell through her fingers, shining in the firelight.
“Even the sand glows?” asked Fat Solomon.
“Not sand. Stained glass windows. Used to be, at least,” said Jade, pointing up to empty holes in the wall. “Looks like someone didn’t like em.”
“That would be an understatement. Bomb?”
Jade picked up a speck the glass and examined it closer. “A blast of some sort. Had to be something strong to pulverize them so completely.” She walked around the corner and looked in through the doorframe. “Knock Knock. Sorry for barging in but something tells me that rules of etiquette here went out the window a while ago. No pun intended.”
The building contained a large room, with two lines of splintered benches stretched down the central aisle. There was a stage, or perhaps an altar, placed at the far end. Multiple humanoid statues were scattered over the perimeter of the room, all of them missing arms or legs, although whether that was their original form was unclear.
“It’s a church?” said Fat Solomon, barely squeezing through the door.
“Damn it. Of course. There’s always some religious symbolism,” said Jade, rolling her eyes. “You’d think that just once there could be a fantasy realm where-“
“Aha! Food! Told you!” said Fat Solomon, pointing towards the front of the room. A crude bonfire had been built on top of the altar, which was the source of the smoke. As Jade followed Fat Solomon over, she could see that the body of a small creature had been tied to a stick hanging over the flames. It looked a bit like a rabbit, only with blue fur and sharper angles, its body almost cube-like in shape.
“I can’t believe you smelled this…thing… from so far away,” said Jade.
“I told you, don’t doubt the nose,” said Fat Solomon as he lifted the stick and body off of its makeshift post. “Especially when I’m hungry.”
“You know, if the fire is still going that means this is fairly recent. The owner could come back at any second, and we might be stealing his only source of food in miles.”
Fat Solomon lowered the stick, but didn’t put it completely back. “So?”
“So we should probably eat it sooner rather than later,” grinned Jade.
“This…this is my favorite part of the whole gig,” said Fat Solomon, picking a string of blue fur out of his teeth. “Infinite alternate universes, infinite tiny animals to eat.”
Jade patted her stomach. “You wouldn’t think something that can survive in such a barren wasteland could be so delicious, huh?” She stood up and wiped the remaining bits of bone off her pants. “Doesn’t beat a good burger though. Which is just another reason why it’s time to get serious and find a way out of this place.”
“Agreed,” said Fat Solomon. “I’m not living like a caveman for the rest of my life.”
“Sorry, Fats, but I don’t think that’s going to change no matter where we go.”
They turned to leave, and noticed that something had appeared in the doorway. It was another of the blue-cube-rabbit-creatures, similar to the one they had just had for dinner, only a bit smaller. Surprisingly, it walked on its hind legs, a feat that was all the more impressive considering how small and stubby they were. It noticed Jade and Fat Solomon, and waddled over in their direction.
Jade leaned over and whispered to Fat Solomon. “Don’t make any sudden movements. I’ve seen sentient teddy bears rip people’s eyes out.”
The rabbit-thing got closer and looked up at them with big, round eyes.
“It doesn’t look very intelligent,” said Fat Solomon.
“Yeah, well you don’t seem too bright yourself,” said the rabbit.
Fat Solomon and Jade looked at each other.
“What? You can dish it out, but you can’t take it, huh?” continued the creature in a nasally, high-pitched voice. “No respect anymore. I don’t come into your home and insult you, now do I?”
“I…apologize for my oaf of a partner,” said Jade. “We’re not from around here.”
“Hey, no worries. No worries! I’m just messing with ya!” said the rabbit. “I’m looking for my brother. You guys happen to see another Lagohedron around here? Looks like me, only a bit larger? Usually scowling? Goes by the name of Ralph?”
“Well, there was one that we-“ began Fat Solomon before Jade elbowed him in the stomach. She quietly kicked some bones into a small crack in the floor.
“Nope. You’re the first.”
The Lagohedron sighed and walked over to the empty bonfire. “Well he’s not here anymore. Figures. I go to all the trouble of setting him up to roast here, and he walks away without so much of a thanks.”
“Wait, you tied him to that fire?” asked Jade.
The Lagohedron stared at her incredulously. “Of course I did! He was dead. He may be annoying, but he’s still my brother.”
“You’ve lost me,” said Fat Solomon.
“And buddy, with your size, that’s tough to do,” said the creature, as he burst out laughing.
“Can I shoot him?” asked Fat Solomon. “Please say I can shoot him.”
“He seems slightly unstable,” said Jade. “For our own safety, you might just have to.”
Fat Solomon pulled out a revolver twice the size of the creature.
“Woah, ok, ok! Not the joke type, got it. Look, you know what a Phoenix is? We’re kinda like that. Cook us in a nice fire for twenty minutes, and BAM, reborn from the ashes, good as new. A nice bit of immortality, unless some idiot interrupts the process.”
Jade and Fat Solomon shared another glance. “I can see how that would be…a problem,” she said.
“Anyway,” said the Lagohedron. “I’d welcome you to my home, but you’ve already gone and made yourselves comfortable. Can I get you anything? Rocks? Stones? Rubble?”
“Actually, we were just leaving,” said Jade. “You wouldn’t happen to know of any magic users around here, would you? Like a wizard or a genie?”
“Well…there’s the Grand Mage in the Oasis…That might be magic….”
“Yeah, over there.” He pointed out towards the horizon.
Jade followed his finger. “You mean the giant, glowing, white magical force field of magic?”
“Yeah, that works.”