The fleeing wolf-riders were swift, but the Plains Elves on their axe-beaks rode them down. It had been a long hunt, with relays of riders and birds, many dropping from exhaustion, as so many gold coins spent in a risky investment.
The wolf-riders had absconded with the Vial of Seeds, holding the two remaining seeds of the Mother Tree, the last to fall to the sands. The Plains Elves had few enough relics left of the One City, lost under the dunes when the trees fled. To lose but one was the tragedy of a generation. And they were not about to allow this to happen.
One by one the wolf riders faltered, or were cut down by the bird riders. A trail of bodies dotted the plains in a line towards the flint strongholds. The last rider fell, snarling and cursing, his back to a flint boulder, mere leagues from safety.
The packs were searched.
The riders were searched.
The wolves were searched.
The Vial of Seeds was not found. Again they searched. To no avail.
"They did not drop it, the Seers would have known."
"No wolves escaped us, I am sure of it."
"None had time to stop and pass it off to another."
"We have accounted for all the riders."
"There is another possibility. The Vial is small. It could have been swallowed."
A murmur went up among the hunters.
"But we do not desecrate the bodies of the dead, even our most vile enemies. It is Anathema."
"This is exception."
"No - we will not succumb to the ways of the scavengers for this."
"It is the Vial."
"I will not allow it."
A slight rider in the back stepped up. "I will take the Anathema."
"Scholar Bialar, this is unnecessary."
"We hold the Seeds for when the trees return, brother Bianyfdar, truly they are more important than the soul of one An'Fauglir."
"But your father..."
"Tell him I rode for the tribe."
They stood back as the solitary Plains Elf took to the gruesome task. Hours later, covered in offal, he held aloft the crystal Vial, two seeds within.
Another hour later, he staggered into the Waste, seeping from the scourges, knowing that the Mother Tree was again safe until the Dry Time was over.