The female Hunter surveys the swamp around her.
She is sitting on a clutch of four eggs, each a long, shelled new potential life. These are on a roughly assembled bed of half-rotted clubleaves, caked together with mud.
Something moves in amongst the Clubferns, and the mother growls.
From amongst the plants comes a male Hunter, her mate, and she relaxes. In his maxillipeds is a Kinek leg, battered and bleeding. He lays it before her, and she rips it apart ravenously. He goes back for more.
In the Clubtree above, two Flyer Kineks watch. Their own clutch has just hatched, and the offspring mew and wander around their nest. They cannot go too far, but they wouldn't want to- their parents break down food and regurgitate it for their children.
There are other animals here too. Kivens burrow through the roots around them, occasionally appearing over the ground level, from between exposed roots or at a pool's edge. Their young have recently hatched too, and they travel around within the dark earth.
The Hunters are unaware of this, but all too aware of the needs of their offspring. They must hunt more regularly now, feeding each other and soon their children too. Prey is common at this time, but competition is fierce- there are many other Tigrids in this neck of the woods.
The male is back, this time with the torso. He drags it over onto the nest, and they both begin feeding. Cthonia's sun is just on the horizon, ready to fall.
Soon, the eggs will hatch, and there will be four more mouths to feed.
In the nest, one of the eggs rolls over. They are beginning to hatch.
Inside the egg, the baby Hunter is chipping away at the shell with its mandibles. This is hard work, and takes up to an hour.
But a crack has begun to appear; the mother nuzzles the egg and cracks it gently with her maxillipeds to help the young along. Amongst the spilling fluid falls a baby Tigrid- we'll call him Speedy.
The other eggs are moving now, so the parents go to tend to them.
Once all the eggs are hatched, the babies need feeding. The young are not demanding of their parents, as they have not evolved to chirp or squeak. The male is bringing a carcass to the nest, chewing it within his jaws.
Now, he drops it and goes up to the young. Into each mouth he deposits a ball of chewed-up meat, perfect for his offspring.
(To be continued)