“Come on, Evalieh! Wake up!” Hanali slammed his hands down on the rock.
Evalieh woke with a jolt and smashed his head into the rock. “Ouch!” He rubbed his sore head and crawled out of the rock fuming. “What do you want?! I could have broken my nose!”
“Look, the shamans are gone—I think.” Hanali scanned the area and dashed around, climbing rocks for a better view.
Evalieh backed against the hole, not wanting to be left out in the open. He scurried over to Hanali’s side and climbed onto the rock beside him. “Where did they all go?” Evalieh asked.
“I don’t know, but this could be our chance to make some good time.” Hanali leaped down, beckoning Evalieh to follow. “Let’s go!” He hurried through the tall weeds and dashed behind a few rocks.
Evalieh gripped the rock and looked down, not realizing how far he climbed. He felt lightheaded as he slid down the rock, grinding his nails into the rough surface. He hit a bump on the rock, bounced off, and landed in the dirt with a thud. Evalieh groaned and jumped up, clenching his fist. “Will you wait on me?!” he said.
Moments later, the two caught up with one another and Hanali led the way. The air across the planes grew humid as the day stretched on. With no change in sight, spires of rocks, craters, and tall grass dotted the landscape. There was no trace of any shamans or the darlurchs. Every now and then, a flock of birds, stray fox, or a lone rabbit would pop out of the grass and run away as they passed by. In the distance, beyond the rocks and grass, the horizon rose into hills where a wall of trees climbed into the sky.
Evalieh felt at ease, knowing the shamans were elsewhere. However, he kept a watchful eye for any surprise that might jump out at them.
By mid-afternoon, their stomachs were growling and Evalieh was staggering behind with a headache. He massaged his forehead, trying to keep calm and avoid growing irritable. “When will we get to eat?” he asked.
Hanali stopped and Evalieh bumped into him. Without a word, Hanali leaped into the tall grass and vanished.
Feeling nervous, Evalieh shuffled closer to the weeds. “Where did you go, Hanali?” A squeal and a growl cut through the grass, making Evalieh flinch. A chilling shiver shot through his body. “What’s going on, Hanali?”
Hanali huffed and grunted like he was wrestling something. The grass rustled more violently and tumbled closer to Evalieh. The noise grew closer and out popped Hanali. He rolled onto the ground, wrestling something boorish. It was a large tomato half his size wiggling around in one arm, while he held a carrot by its leafy greens in the other hand.
Evalieh pinned himself against a rock, holding his breath. He couldn’t tear his gaze away as Hanali whacked the two vegetables together. They squealed and kicked their stubby legs around. With a sharp edge of one of his bracelets, he cut their stems off, silencing them. The vegetables fell limp and their juices dribbled out. Evalieh frowned in disgust and moved closer to look. “What are those things?” he asked.
“I got us food,” Hanali said.
“Food? That isn’t food!”
“Yes, it is. These are rouge vegetables.” Hanali lifted the tomato and carrot up, showing how they had no eyes, arms, or innards. “These are the Earth Clan’s modified vegetables. They’re not a Hyborie if that’s what you’re thinking. These crafty little devils were made for faster harvesting. After the Shaman Clan wrecked this region, some of these plants were left behind,” he said.
Evalieh stared with wide eyes and nodded as if everything was okay. “Brutal…”
Hanali looked up with a smile on his face and sliced the tomato without flinching. Evalieh was stunned, it was too gross to look away. This boy just tore something’s head off without any remorse, it’s unbelievable. Hanali pried the tomato’s stem off and got slimy seeds all over him. He then handed Evalieh a big slice. “Go on, take a big bite.”
Evalieh reluctantly held the tomato close to his face and sniffed it. He hoped it wasn’t something gross, but to his surprise, Hanali happily chomped away at his slices. Evalieh took a big gulp and chomped on the tomato. A tangy acidic flavor filled his mouth as juice and seeds dripped from his mouth. The taste wasn’t so bad, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting as his earlier meal.
Hanali chomped and crunched on the carrot. He ate a lot faster than Evalieh. “You want some of this too?” He held a big slice up; it was the size of a large plate.
Evalieh shook his head and put his tomato down. He had eaten everything except the husk and slung his hands around to get the goop off. “Gross, I feel dirty. What’ll we do about a bath?” he asked.
“A bath?” Hanali looked perplexed, with his cheeks full of food. He looked around and gulped. “I don’t think we’ll find those out here. You might have to take a dip in the nearest lake or river,” he said.
“I don’t think so! What kind of person do you think I am?”
“Well, right now, I don’t think you’re a very clean person.” Hanali laughed and swallowed his food in a hurry.
Evalieh blushed and his eyes turned red. He grumbled and cringed, feeling a heat rise within him before his antennas sprang up from his head. They tingled and jingled, leaving him frustrated and embarrassed. He took a deep breath and screamed on the inside before snatching the compass from Hanali. Evalieh whirled around, tied his antennas around his chin, and stormed off, leaving scorch marks for footprints.