The Axies decided to stay the night inside the ruin to avoid running into another hungry creature on the prowl. Eventually, they wandered a little outside the ruin to gather up some sticks and dry desert grass to make a fire inside.
Gill, Hook, Minnow and Woodman were the first to fall asleep at the back, while the others stayed up gathered round the fire.
With his foot paw, Poysenberry pushed a small twig back into pile, watching it smoke on top of the outer coals.
Across from him sat Shelly, who was busy rolling up some dried brown leaves into a tight roll. When she was done, she clamped it between her lips then pulled a burning twig from the fire and used it to light the leaf-roll. She tossed the twig back into the fire and removed the roll from her lips, exhaling a cloud of smoke. She grinned.
‘That was your first encounter with a Chimera?’ she said, looking at Poysenberry.
‘He’s fought a Little Rock before,’ said Nightshade. ‘And a couple of Toadies too.’
Shelly smirked. ‘That’s not the same though,’ she said, taking in another deep breath on her dried leaves. ‘Everyone starts with a Toady or a Big Fang, but that’s not the type of Chimera I’m talking about.’
Nightshade looked unamused.
‘You can’t compare a Little Rock to those things,’ said Finn. ‘The ones with big red eyes like that are just pure evil.’
The fire crackled between them. An ember shot out from a log into the ground, slowly fading to black.
‘What’s so different from a Red Jam and that – that thing then?’
Shelly exhaled another plume of smoke as she nodded to Finn. He grinned, ready to talk.
‘There are few different theories,’ Finn said. ‘Some hold more water than others though.’ His eyes narrowed on the fire.
‘What theories?’ said Poysenberry.
Finn sniffed before continuing. ‘How long have you been alive, Mr Plant?’
‘Almost twenty harvest moons and three eclipses.’
‘You’re a few moon shy to really know then,’ said Finn.
Poysenberry glanced between the two Aquas.
‘Right before you were born, things were different in Lunacia,’ said Finn. ‘This world used to be absolute chaos.’
‘How about you Dusky?’ said Shelly.
Nightshade had her arms crossed, seemingly not wanting to answer the question. But then she loosened up and gathered her thoughts.
‘How many eclipses have you seen?’ insisted Shelly.
‘Enough to know,’ she said. ‘But I’m not that much older than him.’
Poysenberry squinted, feeling even more confused by their chat. He cleared his throat and scrunched up his nose.
Finn looked at him. ‘Don’t you worry,’ he said. ‘I haven’t forgotten you. But there’s a reason I’m asking how old you are. Because if you’d been born a little bit earlier, you’d have seen how the world functioned.’
‘I wasn’t there either,’ said Shelly. ‘But I’ve heard enough from the others.’
Resettling himself, Finn sat up straighter and tossed a stray leaf into the fire.
‘Many believe Lunacia is alive,’ he said. ‘The ground you walk on has a life force of its own. If you’ve ever fought under a blood moon curse, you’ll know this much to be true.’
Poysenberry perked his ears to catch the Aqua’s words.
‘There’s a balance in our world,’ Finn continued. ‘And a set amount of life-giving energy. The issue is when the scales tilt too far in either extreme. That’s when problems arise.’
‘Some believe that Axies are made from this life force,’ said Finn. ‘That the very first Aqua was born near the water, alongside fish, but came out differently for some reason. The same goes for plant Axies. When they were first born into being, they were around the trees, or sprouting up amongst the bamboo forests. Each birthed from this world instead of eggs.’
Poysenberry’s eyes widened.
‘And everything was in balance then,’ said Finn. ‘One plant dies, another sprouts up from the ground. Simple right?’
‘Then we Axies learned to breed,’ he said. ‘Which wasn’t a big deal at first. Not until the humans came along and forced us to make them new eggs. The thing with humans is, one egg isn’t enough for them. Two eggs aren’t enough. A truck load of eggs won’t do either. Not even entire farms can quench their thirst. No, they need more and more eggs until the lands are crawling with Axies. Tipping those scales even more towards the extreme end.’
With her lips pursed, Nightshade sat in her spot, gazing sadly into the fire.
‘And what do you think happens when there are too many Axies in Lunacia?’
Poysenberry made a quick glance at Nightshade to see if she knew the answer, but she was lost in her own musings. Then he turned and saw Shelly rubbing out her leaf roll in the ground while letting smoke out of her mouth.
‘I’m not sure,’ said Poysenberry.
‘The world seeks to balance itself,’ said Finn. ‘If it can make Axies then it can make creatures to keep us in check.’
‘We’re the last boom,’ said Shelly. ‘Have you noticed on your old farm that it’s tougher for the pure breeds to have eggs nowadays? Or that the SLP isn’t nearly as strong as it used to be?’
‘I have noticed this much.’
‘That’s because humans stopped breeding for a while,’ said Shelly. ‘They gave Lunacia a chance to breathe and the Chimera subsided. But now the old ways, the mere days before we were born, are coming back afresh.’
Poysenberry shook his head.
‘It’s true,’ said Finn. ‘Even if SLP is weaker and the Axies have a tougher time making eggs, the breeding rates are increasing every day. That’s why you see more Chimera returning.’
Poysenberry wanted to put his hands over his ears to not listen anymore. It wasn’t the kind of world he expected to encounter outside the fence.
‘Have you ever heard of the thousand-day purge?’ said Finn. ‘Or the era of Darkness?’
‘No,’ Poysenberry whispered, shutting his eyes.
‘You’ve spotted the different ruins throughout the land I’m sure,’ said Finn. ‘Heck, we’re sheltered in one right now. But did you ever wonder where they came from? Why these mighty civilisations fell?’
Poysenberry didn’t want to answer. Instead, he waited for the Aqua to continue on his own.
‘Legend says that the world was fiercely out of balance,’ said Finn. ‘That humans kept pumping and grinding every single resource they could until Lunacia fought back, bringing years of endless rain, floods across the lands, and giant Chimera to pick off the over-bred Axie population.’
‘I don’t want to talk about this anymore.’
‘They say we’re heading back into that era,’ said Finn. ‘That the way things are going, we’ll be seeing more drastic changes to our world, until the great reset happens once more.’
Shelly started to laugh.
‘And there isn’t a thing we Axies can do about it.’
Poysenberry stood up and moved to the side.
‘Oh and to answer your original question,’ said Finn. ‘Red Jams, Big Fangs, and the Little Rocks are created from the natural occurring Goo in Lunacia. Whereas the other type you just encountered tonight are born of different components, but not too dissimilar to ourselves.’
‘Thanks,’ said Poysenberry. ‘It’s been a long day though.’
‘Sure, take your rest,’ Finn said. ‘We’ve got a lots more to harvest tomorrow.’
‘Goodnight,’ said Shelly, giving Poysenberry a wink.
And with that, Poysenberry went to the corner where Woodman was sleeping and lay himself down. Before he fell asleep, he peered to see if Nightshade was coming to join him. But she stayed near the fire, keeping her paws warm.
To be continued…