Jade and Fat Solomon were no more than ten feet out the door when the Lagohedron bounded up behind them.
“Wait! I had, like, the totally best idea ever!” he said. “It could help both of us!”
“Uh huh…” said Jade.
The Lagohedron jumped up and down as he spoke. “Ok, so, you’re going to the Oasis, right? Well, if I’m going to find my brother, then I might as well look there too. We should go together! You could protect me from anything dangerous along the way!”
“What’s in it for us?” asked Fat Solomon.
“We get to spend more time together!”
Fat Solomon grimaced. “I’ll pass.”
“Also, the automated defenses outside the Oasis will shoot down any unauthorized visitors.”
Jade shook her head. “Of course. Why would it ever be easy? And I’m guessing that you, of all people, have clearance.”
The Lagohedron grinned. “Not only do I have clearance, but I’m actually a very esteemed member of the Grand Mage’s inner circle.”
“Well, I’ve lost all faith in the Grand Mage,” said Fat Solomon.
Jade looked over the small creature slowly. “If you’re part of the Grand Mage’s group, why are you slumming it up down here? The Grand Mage can’t magic you up somewhere better to live?”
“Oh, no, no, no,” said the Lagohedron. “This is all part of my disguise. Technically, I’m on guard duty. It’s my job to notify the Oasis if I see any Black Rim troops around here. The Black Rim Clan is an evil-“
“Yeah, yeah, we don’t have time for your fantasy background lore bullcrap,” said Jade. “Can you get us into the Oasis or not?”
“Yes indeedy-do!” shouted the Lagomorph.
“Great, then let’s get out of here,” said Jade. She and Fat Solomon turned to continue forward, but the Lagohedron didn’t follow. He just stood in the same spot, grinning inanely. Jade turned back around. “I said, let’s go, bub.”
The Lagohedron sheepishly kicked up some dirt and looked down at the ground. “Well, I actually have a tiny request before we go…”
Fat Solomon clenched his fists. “Yes?”
Seeing their faces, the Lagohedron quickly finished, “And you’re so much taller than me that I was wondering if I could ride on the shoulders of the fat one.”
A moment passed as the two detectives just stared.
Fat Solomon’s face flushed red and he started forward. “Absolutely no way in hell-!“
Jade pulled him away. “Fat Solomon, can I have a word with you in private?”
“Jade, I’m not going to let some pint-sized, idiotic bunny rabbit ride me like a -“
“Shhh!” said Jade, looking over at the Lagomorph, who had turned his attention to comparing various rocks. “I’m not that pleased with it either, but if he’s the only way we’re going to get out of here, then we need to help him out.
“What did I do to deserve this?” Fat Solomon groaned.
“Well, you did eat his semi-alive brother.”
“So did you!”
“Please, I had a leg at most. Look, if…” she turned to the Lagomorph. “Hey, what’s your name?”
He looked up from his rocks. “Lumpy!”
“Oh come on!” said Fat Solomon. “Lumpy?!”
Jade rolled her eyes. “If Lumpy says he needs to ride on your back, then you bend down, shut up, and let him ride.”
“You’re enjoying this,” scowled Fat Solomon.
Jade smiled sweetly. “Absolutely.”
It was night by the time they arrived, although it was impossible to tell due to the bright light streaming off the Oasis. Up close, the size of the dome was even more impressive; the highest point hundreds, if not thousands of feet in the air. The wall was completely opaque and there didn’t seem to be any features along the sides. It was just a single, pure, smooth white wall, as if someone has screwed a lightbulb directly into the ground.
Jade held her hands in front of her face as she walked towards the edge. “I feel like an idiot. Someone let me know if I’m about to walk face first into the wall.”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Fat Solomon. “Because I think I’m blind.”
“Hey, Lumpy,” said Jade. “Are we supposed to just keep going or what? Is someone going to come out to greet you?”
As they continued forward, Jade passed over a small dent in the ground that circled around the circumference of the Oasis. Suddenly, large panels opened up in the side of the dome and spit out a stream of fire that singed the ground, and would have fried Jade if she hadn’t jumped out of the way at the last second.
Jade put her hands up. “Lumpy, now would be a great time to show some credentials or something!” She looked back at Fat Solomon, who also had his empty arms in the air. “Where’s Lumpy?”
Fat Solomon looked around to his back and shrugged. “I think he left.”
The holes in the wall sizzled with flames as whatever was inside charged up for a second blast.
“That good for nothing, conniving, little-“
Multiple jets of flame shot out towards Jade, but just as they were about to hit her, the ground surged beneath their feet and formed into a protective mud barrier. A second one rose in front of Fat Solomon. Bits of fire managed to burn their way through, but by that point they had faded to harmless embers.
Jade ran her hand over the mud wall. “Huh. Well, that’s interesting.”
A voice called out from near the Oasis. “You might want to head inside. We’re only willing to shut down our defense for so long. After that you’re on your own.”
Jade looked around the edge of the wall. A larger hole had opened at the base of the Oasis, and a figure was standing inside.
“You’ll have to forgive us if we don’t trust any of the lunatics around here,” called Jade. “Just who are you supposed to be?”
The figure stepped forward and the ground bloomed where she stepped, grass sprouting from the barren dirt. As the figure came out of the shadows, Jade could see she was it was a tall woman in a flowing green robe, trails of vines and flowers winding through her floor length hair. Jade estimated the woman was in her late twenties, but despite her age, her face was clearly the one they had seen in the photograph.
“What’s it look like?” said Eden. “I’m the Grand Mage.”