He sat himself in the sands, facing Little Rock. Acceptance washed over him. Death wouldn’t be so bad, he concluded. Maybe a little painful at first, but it all made sense now. His entire life. Working on the farm. Harvesting SLP. None of it mattered. The only thing that mattered was those he loved.
His vision started to return as he saw the big fist pulling back, getting ready to launch at his body.
‘Go ahead,’ he said. ‘Get it over with.’
Little Rock threw his arm at Poysenberry when a set of teeth sunk into the Plant’s back, causing him a great deal of pain for a brief moment before he was firmly yanked out of the creature’s reach. The fist swiped at the air right in front of Poysenberry’s nose, missing him by inches.
Poysenberry felt himself being yanked even further back and then the teeth let go of his back. Nightshade rushed in front of him and came toe-to-toe with Little Rock while another Axie moved in front of Poysenberry as well. He could tell it was Woodman by the blurry pile of timber on his back. And also how the old Axie spat into air, making it seem as if he was disgusted that he had to clamp his teeth on Poysenberry’s back.
‘Yammy boy!’ shouted Woodman. ‘Can you stand?’
Poysenberry pushed himself up, ignoring the sharp pain in his back leg. ‘Yes,’ he said, gritting his teeth. ‘I can.’
‘Good. You be ready then. We got one shot at this. And it has to go right.’
‘Nightshade, what are you doing up there!’ said Poysenberry. ‘You get behind me!’
‘No,’ said Woodman. ‘She’s right. The lass knows what she’s doing. We need your speed and high damage attacks at the back.’
Poysenberry gulped as a bead of sweat rushed down his face. Nightshade jumped after the Little Rock, using the small leafs on her head to hit against his body, causing a small amount of damage. Then she turned around quickly and started hitting him with her carrot. However, Little Rock seemed unaffected by her attacks.
Even though Poysenberry had not fully regained his vision, he could see that Nightshade’s two forehead leaves were glowing yellow. As she stepped back, her lone flower began to glow as well, and a thin white shield appeared around her body. Woodman leapt over Nightshade and took a bite out of Little Rock before he fumbled back into his place in line.
Enraged, Little Rock pumped his fist into the air then pulled his arm back and hurled a punch at Nightshade. The first one broke through her thin shield and smacked her in the face. Her carrot started to glow. He retracted his fist and landed another punch on her, this time leaving a nasty welt on her body. Nightshade moaned in pain, but her parts continued to glow.
‘This is your chance, Fishy,’ said Woodman. ‘She’s going to pass you the energy and by God, you’d better use those beautiful teeth God gave you!’
Poysenberry shook his head. ‘But I can’t see!’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ barked Woodman. ‘Aim for his mid section. He may act like a big scary rock, but he’s nothing more than a slimy fiend.’
‘What are you saying?’
By this time, the glow turned into shining orbs as they started to travel from Nightshade’s leaves towards Poysenberry at the back. The orb hovered over his head, while another orb left from her carrot. Then all at once, both orbs touched his skin and were absorbed into his body.
The pain in his back leg faded away. For the first time in his life, he felt powerful — bursting with energy. As if he could bite that stupid Little Rock four times in a row if he needed to. A rage built up within his small plant body. He thought his eyes must have been glowing like red hot pokers and it felt as if his teeth were already covered in blood.
‘Bite him twice if you can,’ said Woodman. ‘He’ll expect that on the third attack, so mix it up, and use that Yam of yours.’
Poysenberry knew exactly what he meant. It all made sense to him now. He was ready to lunge.
‘I’ll cover you. Go now!’
As if being fired from a gun, Poysenberry sprang off the ground, opened his mouth wide and aimed for the blurry midsection of the creature. He crashed into a slimy substance and took a massive chomp. Before he could even think, he retracted for a second, causing Little Rock to flinch.
With gusto, Poysenberry whipped around and shot out one burst of gas, making Little Rock cough.
‘Get out of the way!’ said Woodman.
Poysenberry jumped aside as Woodman came charging forward with his Beech horn and rammed it into the creature’s midsection. With that hit, Little Rock disintegrated — its slimy body melted while its rocky parts fell onto the sands. Poysenberry opened his eyes and saw the stones laying near them. He felt a huge rush of excitement and shouted into the air.
‘Take that! Wooo!’
‘Don’t get cocky,’ said Woodman. ‘Now, if you two plan on escaping this place, I suggest we save the victory dance for later and make our moves now.’
‘Oh, right,’ said Poysenberry.
‘Agreed,’ said Nightshade a little shaken.
‘I still can’t see though.’
Woodman snorted. ‘You’re the most heroic yet useless Axie I’ve ever met.’ Then Woodman went to Poysenberry’s side and pushed him up. ‘Let’s go.’
The three of them rushed to the broken hole in the wooden fence where, Poysenberry presumed, Little Rock found his way in in the first place.
It was strange leaving the farm for his first time ever. Poysenberry had no time to process this mixed feeling of liberation and fear as they ran through and carried on forward into the open Savannah.
They raced out from the farm, leaving behind the sounds of exploding toadies and the shouts and yells from their owner and the other Axies back inside the gates. None of them slowed down as they raced toward the river’s edge.
‘Wait for me you all!’ said Poysenberry. ‘I can’t see you guys!’
He saw blurred figures moving further away but found it difficult to make out any clear shapes. Their footsteps could be heard ahead. And slowly, he sensed himself getting left behind. Then he felt Nightshade’s warm body touching his.
‘Nobody is leaving you behind,’ she said, placing her biden flower onto his back. ‘Stick close to me and you’ll be fine.’
Her flower comforted him. Having it on his skin eased his fears of abandonment, and washed away the concerns about the darkness surrounding him. She walked alongside him, leading him closer to the babbling river’s edge.
‘What the hell happened back there?’ he said.
‘I don’t know.’
‘We got attacked, that’s what happened,’ said Woodman. ‘Now pipe down and keep moving.’
They scurried along, expanding the distance between themselves and the chaos in the farm behind.
‘I don’t get it,’ he said. ‘Those things have never attacked before.’
‘I’m not sure I understand either,’ said Nightshade. ‘Little Rocks don’t normally break into such areas unless provoked or lured into – ‘
‘Would you two keep it down?’ said Woodman. ‘Save your breath for something useful.’
The sounds behind grew more and more faint. The echos faded to a dull roar. Poysenberry felt safe having Nightshade beside him keeping an eye on the path.
‘It was dangerous of you two to return for me,’ said Poysenberry. ‘I never meant to put either of you in harm’s way.’
‘You didn’t,’ said Nightshade. ‘I was already engaged in battle with that creature. And once you’ve started to battle with another opponent, there’s no backing out.’
Poysenberry’s feet splashed in the water. He started to slip when Nightshade pulled him up and away from the river. Even Woodman stopped to come back and help.
‘Sorry,’ said Poysenberry. ‘I can’t see so well.’
‘The lady is right,’ said Woodman, using his horn to push Poysenberry further from the river. ‘Once you’ve committed to a battle with any other creature in Lunacia, you either see it to the end, or surrender and pray your enemy looks upon you mercifully.’
‘I don’t get what you mean?’
Woodman gave him another prod and started them walking. Nightshade set her flower on his back once more.
‘He’s referring to the Blood Moon Curse,’ she said.
‘What the heck is that?’
‘It’s a mystic bond between Axies and all other Lunacians,’ he said. ‘Every battle is sacred whether you realise it or not. Once you’ve joined in battle with another Lunacian, the bond is invoked.’
Nightshade stopped him before going further, then helped him over a log pile laying in front of them.
‘The Blood Moon Curse watches over us, making sure the battle is completed,’ said Woodman. ‘If one party should run without surrendering or both parties are equally matched, then the great orb above turns a reddish-purple while slowly draining the life forces from both parties until a clear winner is declared.’
Poysenberry shivered. He’d never heard of such a thing before.
‘Now, enough chatter,’ said Woodman. ‘We have to make it as far away as we can from that farm before anyone realises we’re missing. Or worse, they send the birds to come and find us.’
Poysenberry closed his mouth and did as he was instructed. He was enjoying the feeling of Nightshade’s skin touching his own. The flower lay gentle yet firm on his back, like a perfect rope to keep him in line. Then another question arose in his mind.
‘What made you come back to help me then?’ said Poysenberry. ‘If you were’t already locked in battle?’
Woodman cleared his throat but didn’t respond. Poysenberry accepted this, but not without even more questions arising in his mind.
To be continued in Season 2…