The cliff edge was in dark shadow now and the warbirds had been sent through to scour the undergrowth all along the valley to clear out any other predators out of place. “Why were they here?” Dag asked as Zazu and a dozen other girls had their injuries tended to. “I mean I've never heard of tigers this far into the desert.”
“I don't know.”
Director Sander paced over, overseeing their setting up camp. “I'm sorry. I should have thought.” He looked tired.
“Well,” Dag said. “There was an enormous explosion in the heart of Nadumon claimed lands. There's probably a hundred or more vile nests of various kinds of predators forced out, shaken out, driven out in whatever way. The tigers were probably running from something that might eat them.”
Sander blinked at her. “Zardukar Dagdohva, you are likely correct.” Zaru, next to her sister Zazu rolled her eyes over her veil, but didn't stop her work until her sister's wrist was bound immobile. “We will set up a space for a lin and hope that the Milari will be here soon and the refugees from Nadumon as well.”
“Of course Director.”
Dag and Zaz and Zar all dropped their gazes properly but in Dag's case it was to keep from laughing out loud at him. He was an older Hive Lord. The fact that he was capable of seeing the zardukar as more than just bed partners was unusual enough.
He turned back toward her. “Yes, Dag?”
“It seems to me that the new flock are going to be in some dangerous places. Perhaps the younger riders, girls or boys, should be trained in how to fight when their bird fights?”
Dag could feel the weight of regard of everyone around them. Not just Zaz and Zar. She'd raised her voice and there were a dozen listening to hear his answer. Beyond that circle the warbirds who had killed and gorged themselves were sleeping fluffballs, heads buried under wings and all feathers fluffed as they snored. Beyond the sleeping chicks, other zardukar were poking the branches of the asparagus trees to drive the spike mice away, so no one would end up with droppings on them or in their mouths while they slept.
“Dagdohva... I hrmm. Umm. Well...”
She dropped her voice till only the sisters could hear her. “Sander. I was at court right after the old man died and my son fought the other contender for the throne. Your daughters are already working and fighting for Lainz longer and harder than any flashy featherspitting boy.”
“Hrummph.” He quit clearing his throat and stared at her and then around at all the girls and women setting up camp around them, if not quite as efficiently as a military group, then almost. His voice boomed out along the valley. “Of course you need to learn to fight on bird-back. You need to be able to handle anything that comes out of the badlands!”
“I heartily approve that the youngsters are going to learn to fight,” Dag said, quietly.
Director Sander's grin bunched his veil. “I didn't say just the youngsters Dag. You're getting the training too. It will be up to you to show these larvae that an older lady can hold her own.”
“But... well, um--”
“Dag... you were the only one who held onto her saddle when her bird started bouncing.”
Dagdohva blinked and adjusted her veil, that needed no adjustment. “I... suppose.” Can I just go back to wandering around in code, mad as a bakon flea? This being sane business is crazy.
“From what I saw, Dag, and from what you can mander, it looks like you'd be far more than an ahymander warrior.”
“We don't need hand-to-hand warriors anymore, Sander!” Her voice had risen again and people were stopping to listen.
“Dag.” He wasn't teasing her any longer, not in any way. “We'll need people who can fight in any way to protect our children. On warbird. In code. Perhaps off the planet one day soon. Everywhere.”