The shadows are getting longer, the light is getting dimmer. The big light is going to rest, leaving a fiery trail behind it, until the world goes dark and the millions of eyes of the sky begin watching.
Now, it is time to wake up.
The moutains of sand are still warm when they leave their refuge, under the distorted trunk of an old, decrepit tree. The ground - which can look almost as white as the big light under it's hot wrath - is now a blueish purple, and the silver circle, the one that brings the comfort of darkness, takes it's rightful place among the eyes of the sky. It is now that they are active, and when the hunting begins.
They touch each other, in an act of intimacy that is not allowed for anybody else. Making soft calls, they reaffirm their relationship as monogamous partners - in this endlessly vast landscape, there are not many others to mate with anyway. This is their first year together though, and fortunately she is already about to lay her first clutch of eggs. The hatchlings that survive the first years will be taken care of until they're too big to share the food with. But for now, the two are still the only ones that need to feed.
As the winds get colder, the two start surveying their den's vicinity. They go separate ways, each looking for small creatures that can be easily overpowered and quickly consumed; many of those also leave their hiding holes and burrows only when the heat is gone. Their most common prey are darters: they can be hard to spot when standing still amongst the sand, but are usually easy to capture since they can't run away for too long before stopping to rest. In the areas where plants and bushes are more plentiful, especially around the running waters, the furry ones can also be found. Those are a little trickier to catch, since they run very fast and often bite back. A precise jump however, and they are killed.
The female captured a couple of darters, but that wasn't enough for a good meal. She needed more to lay healthy eggs, and there was one place that could provide a nice feast once in a while, if they were bold enough to try: the grunters' land.
The grunters are dangerous and noisy. They wander around in small groups, except for the breeding season when many gather in the dry plains to mate. The males are too big to tackle, and the females can be tough; they bite hard with their beaks and their tail spikes can hurt reckless predators, even though they're not really used as weapons. But the younglings, the old and the sick ones, these are an easy target if taken by surprise, away from the group.
The female barks softly, the sound echoing trough the dunes. She's calling the male, for an attack directed at the grunters must be made at least in pairs; attempting otherwise is far too dangerous. Reunited, they head towards the territory known to be frequented by their ill-tempered neighbours: a patch of scrubland with a few trees and bushes. The grunters are mostly sleeping; unlike them, grunters do not rest once every cycle, instead taking naps when the big light makes the sand too hot, or the dark winds make the air too cold. The pair of hunters silently climb up a short tree, flapping their plumed wings to aid in lift, and try to spot some easy prey.
One of the grunters seems to act abnormally. Away from the main group, it appears restless and tired, making moaning noises and low distress calls. The predators know this one might be wounded. It is a female, but not yet fully-grown. There's no smell of blood in the air, but there's something definetely wrong. Not wasting any more time, they climb down the tree and walk towards the target, while avoiding the main herd.
The young female is trying to lay eggs, but something is not going well. In search of a safe place to nest, she has put herself in danger. While the young grunter struggles to lay her clutch, the feathered ones approach her from behind. The female makes herself clearly visible, trying to drive her farther and farther away from the others. The grunters do not have a good sense of unity: if a feathered foe is spotted, each one takes care of itself, although the dominant male may charge at the potential carnivore or egg thief to ensure the safety of his harem. The targeted grunter runs away noisily, but the others won't try to help her now. While one of the killers makes sure the prey is far enough to be safely butchered, the other approaches by surprise and jumps on top of the grunter's back, sinking his claws on her hide and biting her neck. The young grunter is no bigger than her assailants, and against two of them there is no chance.
When the big light rises again from behind the mountains, the sand has been tinted red. Through the death of one, life will be given to many.