The male, roaring, trotted up, his sides heaving, saliva dripping from his fangs, his eyes a bright green. The female growled at him but backed off until he had disemboweled the carcass.
Then she settled down on the other side of the body, and they began tearing off chunks of meat. The herd had stopped running by then. Indifferent to the fate of the young beast, knowing that there was no more danger for the present, they resumed their feeding.
Anana was only forty feet away from the lions, but she kept on going. The cats wouldn’t be interested in her unless she got too close, and she had no intention of doing that.
The trees were a species she’d not seen before. About twelve feet high, they had bark which was covered with spiral white and red streaks like a barber pole. The branches were short and thick and sprouting broad heart-shaped green leaves.
Each plant had only four “eyes,” round, unblinking, multifaceted, green as emeralds. They also had tentacles. But they must not be dangerous. The lions had walked through them unharmed.
Or was there some sort of special arrangement between the cats and the trees? Had Urthona implanted in them an instinct-mechanism which made them ignore the big cats but not people? It would be like her uncle to do this. He’d be amused at seeing the nomads decide that it was safe to venture among the trees because they’d seen other animals do so. And then, stepping inside the moving forest, suddenly find themselves attacked.
For a moment she thought about taking a chance. If she plunged into that mobile forest, she could play hide-and-seek with her hunters. But that would be too risky, and she would really gain nothing by it.
She looked behind her. The two men had gained a little on her. She stepped up the pace of her trotting. When she’d passed the last of the trees she turned to her left and went past their backs. Maybe Urthona and McKay would try to go through the trees.
No, they wouldn’t. It was doubtful that her uncle would remember just what their nature was. He might think that she had taken refuge in them. So, the two would have to separate to make sure. McKay would go along one side and Urthona on the other. They’d look down the rows to make sure she wasn’t there, and then would meet at the rear. By then, keeping the trees between her and the others, moving in a straight line toward the mountain from the plants, she’d be out of their sight for a while. And they would lose more ground.
She turned and headed toward her goal.
But she slowed. A half a mile away, coming toward her, was a pack of baboons. There were twenty, the males acting as outriders, the females in the middle, some with babies clinging to their backs. Was she their prey? Or had they been attracted by the roaring of the lion and were racing to the kill?
She shifted the Horn to her left hand and pulled the axe from her belt. Her path and theirs would intersect if she kept on going. She stopped and waited. They continued on in the same direction, silently, their broad, short-digited paws striking the ground in unison as if they were trained soldiers on the march. Their long legs moved them swiftly, though they could not match the hoofed plains beasts for speed. They would pick out their prey, a young calf or an injured adult. They would spread out and form a circle. The leader would rush at the quarry, and the frenzied bounding and barking of the others would stampede the herd. The pack would dart in and out of the running leaping antelopes, under their very hooves, often forced to jump sideways to avoid being trampled. But their general direction was toward their intended kill, and the circle would draw tighter. Suddenly, the running calf or limping adult would find itself surrounded. Several of the heavy powerful male simians would leap upon it and bring it to the ground. The others, excepting the mothers carrying infants, would close in.