Harski licked each of his twelve fingers slowly in turn, relishing every drop of the sweet, sticky nectar. The harvest had been especially bountiful, more shining dark purple pods swelling to ripeness at the top of waxy lavender stalks than he had ever seen. The stalks were so heavy with nectar pods they bent toward the ground within easy reach. He had worked long and hard, carefully stripping the glistening globules without damaging the stalks.
The only problem was how to store all those pods. Harski had already filled his two favorite hollow logs and had almost filled a small, dry cave. The cave was far from the stalk field and the pods felt heavier with every trip he made there. He rarely returned to his nest, sleeping in the open under the three Moons to save time. If he hurried, he might be able to find a second cave before moonset to store the abundant nectar. There were still a handful of sleeps to go before he’d have to hunker down in the dark.
He spread his tattered lupt on the carpet of leaves in the shade next to the velvety red trunk of a hraffli tree. Lying on his back, Harski filled his lungs with the fragrant air then exhaled a contented sigh. He untucked his ear flaps, gave them a long, satisfying stretch, and brought them around to cover his eyes, blocking out the dim light filtering through the umbrella of yellow-orange leaves. He wondered if other dreffigs were having the same wonderful harvest in other stalk fields, enjoying full bellies, working hard until moonset. Did they dream, like him, of one day living in a colony with thousands of other Gwims instead of eking out a lonely existence harvesting and trading nectar?
Stop it. No colony wants dreffigs, only nectar. He drifted off, wondering what life in the Great Tree Colony was like, or if he might prefer the Mountain Rocks.
Harski woke with a start, instinctively thrusting his enormous ears straight up. He blinked his large, luminous black eyes, angled his head and twitched both ears searching for the source of the sound. For a moment, all he could hear was the fast thrump-thrumpity-thrump of his pounding heart.
Still a long time before moonset… His nostrils, two vertical slits above his wide mouth, vibrated with terror. Too soon for—
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