There were only a dozen storks. But on that murky midnight, with the fire burning low and blue from the stink of vanished cities that bubbled up from beneath the plains, there might as well have been a hundred. Charops’ drab leather outfit was somewhat beak-resistant. Not enough to make her comfortable; the horror birds were known carriers of pestilence, so filthy that their diseases bore diseases. She jumped over the furrows of fallow civilizations, stabbing wildly with her long Strategist’s knife.