From an essay by Orram's son, Orticon:
Imagine Nidok the ahlork following his fellow flock-boss Sartak down the well-worn trail that cuts a shallow path through debris filling the streets and courtyards of the ruins towering over him. He once said he felt dwarfed, to use an English phrase, and worse, shut off from the sky. He probably cringed a little as he lumbered among the remains of the huge buildings, for he was born to the open land and the free wind. He much preferred to stay high in the ruins, tending to the ahlork's traditional mining business, sorting and cleaning reusable material on the ancient balconies of the forebears then retiring to the caves below for the darker periods.
Ahlork faces sport square harmless jaws that can crack hoat nuts, but the tiles of chitin that cover their wings prove more deadly. Likewise, their prehensile wing-tips, which can pick up straw or strangle a noisy kelp bird. Ahlork are not pleasant when they grow careless with anger.
Conn once explained to his human daughter, Shawne, "They don't like to be called birds. They don't have plumes or feathers. They are covered with overlapping chitinous plates, and the pointed nose where the brow comes to a point is not a bill. Though some are smart and have learned to speak Varokian in the last millenium, they are unlike any other biped on Earth or Ellason. They have their own ways. Their flocks take great pride in their ability to select from the ruins what is truly re-usable. They extract minerals without wasting energy or disrupting anything, especially the ilara nesting ground on Leahnyahorkah."
Ahlork prefer to browse alone or in small groups in the shallows and on the rocks below their caves. They also hunt small creatures on the edge of the Misted Ocean. Only in the last few millennia have they begun to range in large flocks, grumbling hoarsely about their lost heritage and domination by varoks, whom they deride as a weak and poorly defended species that did not deserve to inherit the planet from the ahlorks' magnificent aerial cousins, the forebears.
Summary of Sartak's thinking—Varok had been the province of the ahlork long before the forebears learned to build with steel; it should belong to the ahlork once more.
Nidok has wondered aloud at beings, like varoks, who could lock themselves in on all sides. Ahlork prize their mobility and their freedom too much to invest in permanent shelters. Conn says they play at musical caves with their fellow ahlork all their lives. "To ahlork, the grass is always greener in the next cave up, down, or sideways, near the rocks or not."
Long before the varokian forebears took rock in hand to fashion crude shelters, ages before the light-hoppers hunted shells from the red sands of the Forested Sea and dug their prey from the shallows, eons before ellls and great-fish came to Varok from Ellason—the ahlhork flew in straight lines over Varok, farming the planet's small game. No enemy pursued them, no creature challenged their hunting patterns, for they were the lords of the land. Varok was theirs; the minds of forebears and light-hoppers and daramonts were only just beginning to awaken enough to pass on accumulated knowledge to their young. The struggle of to outwit each other would not reach its climax for another millennium of long Jovian years.
The ahlorks' loss of dominance—their lagging behind in Varok's evolutionary race to intelligence—was blamed on their lack of prehensile digits, but their regression to the chasing of simple prey on the hot acid plains spoke more of their great weariness brought on by their continual bickering and violence against one another. Jealousy, a kind of overextended territorial imperative, ran high between flocks, and lust for an ever larger hunting plain or a higher cliff upon which to nest drove them to frantic campaigns against each other.
Eventually, however, they failed—even in war. They all but disappeared from Varokian histories, reemerging only twice: once in 1507 nr, when their rampant jealousy sent them against the forebears, and again fourteen hundred years later, after the fall of the forebears and the emergence of the varoks, when they took out their mindless wrath on the light-hoppers and mentally stunted daramonts. The Pact Between Species was forged as a result of these conflicts. Then the ahlork disappeared again from Varokian history, until the great-fish came to Varok and established the great learning center, the Concentrate. The great-fish urged their varokian students to include the ahlork and tiny light-hoppers in their study-hours, hoping one day they would use its facilities to temper and expand their minds as best they could.
As the light-hopper intelligence bent more and more toward the mystical and the speculative, eclipsing them as historical beings, the ahlork mind drove toward a keener debating instinct, culminating in the ahlork-elll debates of 3790 ir. The ahlork lost the debates in the long, tangled pathways of the ellls' sense-directed logic. As a result, their ill-tempered rejection of everything elllonian persisted to the days of Nidok and Conn. Conn seemed to enjoy maintaining the ancient conflict, knowing that ahlork were good at insults, but very reluctant to cause real harm.
For generations beyond memory, all the communicative species had respected the ancient codes. Now, Sartak was challenging the delicate balance between the several intelligent species of Varok.
In contrast, Nidok pitied the Free-minds, the young varoks they had captured. They were newly matured youth, inexperienced varoks just out of the Concentrate—dangerous wildings. They didn't know enough about ahlork to insult their way out of their predicament. If ellls had been captures, they would soon anger the ahlork with traded names, then relax them with a contest of insults.
Though the ahlork came from the same root stock of the intelligent species that eventually became known as the forebears—and from which sprang, traumatically, the varoks—they were the most incorrigible of all the sentient populations of Varok. They kept the laws imposed by the more literate species chiefly as a matter of pride, with a grudging obedience drawn more from habit than from respect. Conn believed that Nidok, however, seemed to be a little more rational than most, certainly less paranoid.
"Ahlork are not farmers, they are hunters," he said, "creatures of the inland seas, scavengers who live in caves, restless spirits ferociously jealous of their free flight. Why would they take up web cultivation? For the berries? Not likely. They eat berries only during their mating festival. The Celebration of Web-fruiting is a highly ritualized period in flock life, dependent on flock-wide hormonal changes. Surely ahlork wouldn't eat berries out of season . . . unless they were addictive."
Nidok accepted the Concentrate's judgment that their brains lacked the deep storage and fine association required to build a thorough understanding of many subjects. The ahlork had taken a different turn in their evolution aeons ago, moving slowly along the hunter's route, while the forebears turned to manipulating their environment. Luckily for both and for all, the sentient species living on Varok became interested in preserving the environment, and the ahlork became keepers and miners of the forebears' ruins.
—Orticon, 4230 ir