The rest of the family woke up, and Bluebeak told them her story as quickly as she could. They all started asking questions.
“ How far away are the lizards?”
“They will get here before the sun fully rises.”
“How about Goldenback and Hardfoot, Grassbeak and Greynose?”
“As far as I know, only Grassbeak's family is left.”
“Will we have to go toward the lizards to reach them?”
“Not at all. We should go and fly there.”
Arrowfeather knew Grassbeak lived at the edge of the desert on the other side of the oasis with his sons and aunt. His home lay on the other side of the river.
“Come on! Let's go.”
Arrowfeather swooped through the thin Mallee trunks with his family close behind. Soon he crossed a dry and pebbly creekbed, turning to fly away from a broken-looking hill on the southern side of the oasis. It was covered with black dots.
The family stopped just outside the main oasis, on a stone-covered hilltop. The hill had a commanding view of the small valley. On the south side of the valley was the broken-looking hill, now swarming with lizards.
“The lizards.” Bluebeak whispered. “There are as many of them as there are trees in my territory.”
On the other side of the hill, Arrowfeather knew, was a copse of trees that may have been sheltering the lizards.
To the north of the oasis was a very flat valley surrounded by a steep slope leading up to the plateau. The valley squiggled out of sight, but Arrowfeather knew that it gradually sloped up to become the plateau, and if the family followed the riverbed, by the time the sun rose they would be at the group of trees where Grassbeak lived, lonely and surrounded by barren desert. The lizards would never find them there.
After a long flight up a valley where only shrubs grew, some trees came in sight. Soon Arrowfeather was under trees again, and was in sight of the termite mound where Grassbeak nested.
“Who goes there?” It was the sharp voice of one of Grassbeak's sons.
“Lizards are invading! We're trying to find shelter. Please help us.”
The bird flew into the termite mound. “Wake up, Grassbeak! More birds have come.”
Grassbeak flew out of the nest. “More refugees! I'd be glad to take you. Maleefoot from Goldenback's family has already come. The lizards killed the rest of his family.”
“So you know about the lizards already?” It was Yellowbeak who answered. “Are they coming this direction?”
“They seemed to have turned back. We will be safe here.”
“Do you know where the lizards came from?”
“From the north. They might return the same way.”
Arrowfeather let the two birds talk and retreated inside the abandoned termite mound where Grassbeak,s family slept. Checking to make sure there were no eggs in the nest, Arrowfeather found a place to sleep. He slept quickly, after a night of little sleep.
By noon the lizards had returned to the camp. Blood Claw walked straight up to Green Shadow. His lizards had caught just eight more kookaburras.
After seeing the pitiful amount, Blood Claw got angry. “That is all? You didn't catch the kookaburra that escaped, either! No food for any of you!”
He turned to another lizard. “Red Shadow, at least you have stayed helpful. Take out our secret weapon.”
“But it's dangerous. It could destroy our entire army!”
“I have already thought of that. Activate the weapon on the other side of the ridge. Meanwhile, we move on. Remember we will be going to the east.”
Blood Claw was happy he had such a weapon. It could crumble giant areas to grey dust. It could kill anything for many kilometres round. People were the only other ones to use it. And the only price to pay was a few pieces of hard wood. . . .
Blood Claw walked to Black Sand, who was on the other side of the camp. “Get everybody ready. We are going to the east, as fast as we can!”