It left before the sun went down. The meat animal was sleeping or unconscious. The Need was not. It was a roaring which demanded to be fed. Even now, with many strides between them, the meat animal in the cave was searing the Harvester-which-chose-not-to-harvest’s senses. There was a wadi, if it moved quickly, unhindered, it could just make it. Pain came with every step against the pull to go and feed.
When the Harvester-which-chose-not-to-harvest was still some way off from the wadi and the moon was rising it became aware of the presence of kin. Other harvesters rising from the cooling sand where they had slept the heat of the day away and continuing their own journeys to the wadi and water. It was a natural gathering spot. With the last predatory meat animal’s nest destroyed they would be returning to the collective with the spoil in their crops bulging with blood, bile, marrow and gore. Any one of them could share with the Harvester-which-chose-not-to-harvest. A new plan sprung fully formed into its mind and it adjusted its route to intercept the nearest kin traveling alone.
While the Harvester-which-chose-not-to-harvest was still a long way off however, the kin it was pursuing altered its own course. No longer moving directly for the wadi, it was edging toward other kin and away from the Harvester-which-chose-not-to-harvest. It was running away!
The Harvester-which-chose-not-to-harvest nearly came to a stop. What reason would the kin have to avoid it? Unless…
It changed plans and course again, continued on to the wadi. It was going for water now. It was no threat. There would be plenty for all the kin. It would gather what it needed as quickly as possible and leave. The new, awakened part of its mind recognized this plan as “hope.” It noticed the way the kin to either side were clustering together. It sensed a clot of its kin already at the wadi waiting. The hope dwindled.
It crested the rise and there was the muddy pool below. A few plants clinging to life around the water’s rim and six kin harvesters spread out between it and the pool’s edge. They appeared anxious. The longer it hesitated the more kin would arrive. Even now four more appeared on the far side of the wadi. The Harvester-which-chose-not-to-harvest cast, THIRST, and made for the pool. The kin did not move but let it pass. It waded directly into the pool up to it’s waist and slowly lowered its head to drink.
The first blow came from behind, the second from the side and the third blended right into the fourth and the fifth and the sixth so it knew not whence they came. It crumpled below the water with the Kin-which-were-no-longer-kin’s cast ringing in its head.
INTRUDER! THREAT! KILL!