Blood. He could smell it, mixed with the fresh scent of upturned earth, crushed vegetation and sweat. The chick’s nostrils quivered as he dreamed. Every time Vas closed his eyes, it all came back to him. That day, they’d found a recent Scythetail kill of a large ridgeback. Triv was not with them; he had been scouting out other game. It appeared that the Scythetails had eaten their fill of the beast and there was still good meat on it.

Their mother had gone first, watchful for a pack of the foul creatures. The chicks had lain in the bushes until she was sure they were long gone. Then, she had whistled for them. Happily, Vas had tumbled out of their hiding place with his brothers and sister.

He felt the cool grass swishing against his heels and tickling his belly as he rolled and chirped. Their mother trilled and scolded them for playing when it was time to eat. Vas remembered. He’d circled the carcass, while Riva had jumped up onto one of the protruding ridges.

There were strange vines on the ridgeback’s head, wrapped around it. Vas tilted his head and nibbled on one, wondering if it was good to eat. They weren’t. Dry and hard.

Rustling leaves and tree limbs. The bushes were moving, and then there was a shadow. Vas heard his mother screech a warning.