A youthful female, variegated in emerald and violet, was less interested in the scavengers than the carrion they consumed. All around her, fellow Gomphid Nurturers gently added their limp young to makeshift tombs. N-Argi had not been a part of the preparation of the graves. The deep depressions in the soil had been carved, with great care and over many long cycles, by industrious platinum coleo (all of whom had been forcibly evicted by Gomphid Hunters.)
"N-Argi, come away from there." A large silvery male sidled up to her, his wings frayed but functional. Focused as she was on the dead, she saw him without seeing him. He continued, trying to grab her attention. "This isn't healthy. Come on, you need a break."
He finally registered. "S-Pehn," she replied limply. "Go where?"
"Anywhere but here. Come on." He dipped away from the proceedings and on towards a pool. It would be a better place. Not by much, but it would be better. N-Argi trailed behind him, ignoring the other traffic between the pool and the vacated coleo nests.
The pair finally hovered over the Double Moon Pool, and S-Pehn considered that, maybe, this hadn't been his best idea. Raindrops hit the surface of the water with punctuated splashes, radially pushing aside a crowd of white dipter larvae who quickly moved to fill the vacancy again. The surface was thick with them.
The vespin had started dying a long cycle ago, possibly more. Without them, and the benefit of pollination, the riparian flora dependent on sexual reproduction died off in the cool season only to have no new growth to offer in the warm. Nymphs of the pool lost the respite of the shade the leaves provided, and the extra oxygen the foliage exhaled. They could not survive. The dipter, however, thrived. The imagos feasted on scavenged flesh, and used the extra energy to produce aquatic eggs in quantity. The maggots, for their part, loved the heat.
"We couldn't save them," N-Argi muttered. "There was no place else."
"No," S-Pehn agreed. "The Pool of the Ginkgo is almost as squalid."
"And other tribes, with better pools, they couldn't help. Or wouldn't."
"They're probably afraid."
N-Argi considered that, her attention on a reddish gold female who dove to pull a first instar hatchling from the water.
"They're probably afraid, but D-Proi was not, and neither am I."
S-Pehn noted that some of the old vigor had returned to N-Argi's motion. Mission accomplished, he thought to himself before replying, "Whatever happened to your mate, anyway?"
"Scouting mission," she clipped. "He went forward with two others, and never did come back." With that, she charged away from the stagnant place, nearly colliding with three other tribemates in quick succession. By the time they recovered, she was out of view, and they joined S-Pehn, continuing in that grimmest of recovery efforts.
A great cycad grew, deeply rooted, at the top of an escarpment. From there it overlooked the territory of the Gomphid and beyond. The fronds were black as midnight with the exception of the deep ruby veins that cut through them. At over four feet at their broadest points, and with nearly three times that in length, the leaves curved gently out. The resulting platforms were perfectly proportioned to Aeshnida landing platforms. It was there, at the Dying Star Cycad, that the Gomphid Elder Council met.
All six of the Council were convened, facing the brilliantly scarlet male cone in the center of the plant, when the young Nurturer arrived unannounced in front of them. The Elder Healer, olive-green and world-weary, saw her first and rose to attention. "N-Argi, what is the emergency?" asked the Healer.
"Emergency? Have you not seen the pools?"
"Of course I've seen the pools, N-Argi. We've all seen the pools," she answered. L-Ydia, a minute creature with red-striped wings, was patient as always.
"And we know how you feel," added the Elder Dancer, S-Vul. Her brilliant orange whipped through the air with the eloquence only Dancers came to achieve. "You fed them lore as well as meat. You knew them."
"We all knew them," N-Argi protested. "Story time or not, we all knew them. And without them we are nothing."
A third Elder, the color of an overcast sky, answered now. His left forewing had long since been crippled, and so he used a limited form of Common Alighted, moving his other three wings as best he could. One attendant, another Dancer, translated. "Do you believe we are doing nothing? Did we not bid the Gomphid stop circling over water when we saw the vespin start to fall? Have we not sent scouts into Epepreo skies to find new life?"
"And has that worked? D-Proi is not back. Nobody is back," N-Argi replied.
"D-Proi is your mate, correct?" asked the third Elder, who was in fact the Council Sentry and knew the caste under his command.
"That is correct, S-Fon, sir. Will you be sending somebody to look for him?"
"No," he answered after a moment. "N-Argi, we are convened here today..."
The Elder Hunter, A-Cya, interrupted. "With all due respect, sir, is this the wisest time to announce?" She hung in the air with her question.
"The ire of even the gentlest of Nurturers is risen. What better time? We have convened here today," he repeated, "to take the most drastic of actions. We declare war upon the Epepreo, who have but cannot willingly spare the stuff of life."
N-Argi let that sink in. "About time," she finally replied.