“You say we are parasites. Freeloaders. Thieves.” Aachi said. “I say that we are survivors, living by our wits, though that which sustained us is long gone.”

“A thief never admits to being a thief,” Took said. “There is always an excuse.”

“For generations, we followed the great beasts of the plains, eating what they stirred, picking parasites from their flesh. We could not nest and brood our offspring, so we left them with fosters as we followed the great beasts.”

“Go back there, then,” hissed Took. “Go back to your beasts.”

“When the striders came, they killed the great beasts and we were left starving.”

“So should you have starved, then.”

“Would you have said that to your mate, your chicks? No. We survived. The striders killed the beasts, yes, but they also killed the trees that had kept us from the lands toward the rising sun. We expanded, we adapted, we survived. I will not apologize for that, any more than you would apologize for cracking a seed hull to fill your belly.”

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