Unexpected hostage, unexpected rescue
(The tale of Trex & Sara)
Trex groaned softly as he started to regain consciousness. He could make out a flickering bright light in front of him through his still closed eyelids. Opening his eyes a fraction, he realized that it was a camp fire of some kind. It took his eyes a moment to adjust, but he quickly recognized that it was late evening. All around him the darkness surrounded the campsite, framing everything near the bright yellow flames. Stiff and sore, Trex tried to move his limbs in an attempt to relieve his aching hands. Unfortunately for him, he soon found out that the bounds holding his wrists were too tight. The young lion then realized that his legs were also bound.
Memories came flooding back about the previous fight. Tensing up automatically, Trex immediately tried to calm himself down again, breathing deeply. If he was lucky, no one should have noticed that he had regained consciousness. Trex immediately concentrated on his ears, as the large furry lobes reacted automatically to track sound, it would be a dead give away.
‘The message has been placed,’ said a voice Trex did not recognize.
The newcomer had obviously just returned.
‘Good,’ said the red wolf Philton.
Trex could make out the newcomer taking a seat by the fire.
‘Where is everyone?’
‘Setting up traps around the camp, I want everyone to get a good night’s sleep tonight,’ answered Philton. ‘Tomorrow is not going to be easy.’
‘No lookout then?’
‘No,’ replied Philton.
Trex opened his eyes just enough to see that it was the same old wolf that had hit him into unconsciousness that was now talking to Philton. Even without opening his eyes, Trex could have recognized him by the smell that suddenly found its way to the lion’s triangular nose; so repulsive was the odour that the young lion had to stop himself from gagging.
Trex would have known that he was in a wolf camp even if he was blindfolded. He knew wolves sometimes didn’t wash as often as lions, but not even he had expected them to live with the smell that now surrounded him. Trex took the risk and restricted the flow of air through his nose. He was suddenly very glad that lions had developed this ability in their sandy desert environment.
‘How’s Shurrn?’ asked the smelly older exiles.
‘Still out cold. That lion got him good. That damn poison won’t wear off for another day.’
‘What are we going to do with him?’
Trex could feel that the attention had shifted towards him, the lion youth concentrating hard to look asleep.
‘I have a few ideas,’ replied Philton. His tone did not carry any particular malice. ‘He could be useful if dear Filfia is reluctant to come out of her home.’
‘There is a down side to being able to get information from the animals of the forest,’ said Philton casually. ‘They’re stupid, and easy to trick if you know how.’
‘He he he,’ laughed the old wolf, the evil sounding chuckle coming close to a rasp, he understood the leader’s train of thought. ‘An injured lion is an injured lion.’
‘Considering what information Sage Filfia has at hand, I would say our dear friend over there could come in very handy tomorrow.’
For some reason Trex suddenly noticed that the wolf males were not wearing any shirts, something he had overlooked until now. He couldn’t remember any other time when he had seen a wolf without one. He knew it was a custom for wolf males to wear shirts to cover their chests, something to do with modesty apparently. Trex had never understood it himself, mature female lions also wore cropped shirts or tops, but that was a matter of practicality. It was done to protect their chest bindings when they were working. Nudity in general was not a big issue for lions, for wolves, however, it was apparently.
Thinking back, Trex realized that there were no females at all in the group that had attacked him.
Perhaps they were exiles, Trex thought to himself. Trex had heard of these before, and it made sense, removing their shirts would be a good sign of opposing the female dominated society that had rejected them.
The young male lion was interrupted in his thoughts when he suddenly heard someone coming from behind the tree he was leaning on. Trex could also feel the hostility flowing from the approaching individual. The hatred and anger projecting from the figure left Trex in little doubt about who it was. This was confirmed seconds later when the young lion received a kick to his side, sending him to the ground.
‘When are we going to kill this little bastard?’ spat the newly arrived brown wolf.
Trex groaned audibly, there was no point pretending to be asleep now. Scowling, the young lion glared at the brown wolf.
The brown wolf’s arm was heavily bandaged where Trex had stabbed him. Remembering his own wound, Trex looked down, his shorts had been torn and his upper thigh bandaged. As he felt no pain he assumed healing ointment had been applied. At least that was a good sign.
Trex had obviously not hit anything vital in the brown wolf’s arm, as it was not in a sling. Trex’s side throbbed from the kick, and he hoped the brutal young wolf’s arm hurt like heck.
‘You may not get the chance to kill him Tomn,’ said Philton.
Both Trex and the brown wolf Tomn turned to look at the exile leader in shock.
‘After we kill Filfia we will not be very popular in our own kingdom,’ said Philton. He poked the fire absent mindedly with a large stick. ‘It wouldn’t be a good idea to do something that would give the lions a reason to hunt us as well.’
‘I’m not scared of lions,’ spat Tomn with bravado, his tail flicking back and forth in defiance.
‘Look at your arm Tomn,’ warned the older scruffy wolf, ‘and he’s only a youth. Your strength alone is not enough against a lion, they’re used to it.’
‘Horrist is right,’ said Philton, referring to the old wolf sitting next to him.
Tomn stared at the two senior wolves, his ears flat in irritation. Turning to Trex he growled him a warning.
‘You had better be useful lion. There is still a chance I’ll get my way.’
Trex glared back at the teenage Anthro, he was too irritated to be scared, but that would change soon enough.
It was a few hours later and Trex was close to falling asleep. As suspected, he had not been offered food or water by his captors and the young lion’s mouth was dry. Shifting his weight to try and get comfortable, he looked around the encampment. All the wolves lay asleep, surrounding the dying fire in the centre of the camp. Now that Trex had had time to look around properly he realized that he had been taken to the same ruins that he had wanted to come to in the first place. How ironic that the wolves would chose to camp here.
They were in the central courtyard of a very old palace complex. The surrounding thick stone buildings with their caved in roofs and overgrown toppled walls looking rather peaceful in the occasional moonlight that filtered through a cloudy night sky. The ruins themselves seemed to back onto a cliff face that reached up high above them. The central complex was flanked on both sides by majestic waterfalls and fast running streams. There was only really one way into the area that the exiles where, and that itself was up a steep slope.
Trex calculated that the wolves must have ridden hard for the rest of the day to get here. Trying to free himself from his bonds one more time, the tired lion eventually decided to save his strength, if he was lucky he would get a chance to make a break for it tomorrow.
Trex was in a lot of discomfort, they had also taken his weapons and cloak. He could see them unceremoniously heaped on the other side of the camp.
In the last few hours the young lion had experienced many emotions, fear, pity and anger being only a few of them, none really helped his circumstances however. He had also been worried about the outcome of Flint, he couldn’t see the young horse and hoped that meant that the young animal had gotten away and not killed.
As sore as Trex was, exhaustion was starting to kick in. His eyelids where growing heavy, at least if he were asleep there would be no pain.
This was not going to be the case, however, as his ears suddenly picked up the slightest of sounds. Someone was sneaking around. Trex tensed automatically, but kept quiet.
Now what was coming? the young lion thought to himself.
Sara could see the camp closely now. Scanning the dark ground ahead of her she tried to remember all the places she had seen the traps and alarms placed.
The young female wolf had ridden fast all day to keep up with the exiles. She couldn’t have passed them at any stage anyway, so staying on their heels the whole time had been a great advantage. It was too dangerous to travel now, the path being too difficult to follow at night.
Instead, Sara had recognized where the exiles would set camp for the evening. Having quickly tied up Misha the young female wolf had sprinted up the side of the hill after the exiles. She had successfully infiltrated the ruins and found a hiding place before the male wolves had doubled back to set up traps and alarms. Sara had seen the older wolf leave and come back a few hours later, what he had been up to, she could only guess at.
Sara had gotten in, the problem was, now she probably couldn’t get out.
Having waited for dark, Sara had snuck across to a position where she could get a good look at the camp and hopefully see what they were up to. Looking over a high wall she had recognized the leader of the exiles and the mad looking brown wolf, their features illuminated by the firelight. What she had not expected was to recognize the lion they had captured from earlier in the day.
It was Trex? Again! Sara couldn’t believe it, it was as if her childhood friend was haunting her actions the last few days. What in the world was he doing here?
Leave him there, or get him out? she had asked herself. She knew instantly in her heart that it was a rhetorical question. It would have been difficult in any case for her to leave any lion in the hands of the exiles. Considering it was Trex, there was no longer a choice; she simply couldn’t risk them killing him before she got another chance to get him out.
Sara frowned in the dark. Why did it feel like she had no more control of her actions? Ever since she had gotten into this mess her decisions had been driven by something not particularly logical as far as she was concerned. Sara damned her conscience, when she got back she would have to seriously review her morals.
Once again, Sara found herself sneaking around. She had been doing this a lot lately. You would assume she would be getting better at it.
Trex turned to look at the newcomer who had now come into view from the surrounding dark. The young lion’s eyes instantly grew wide in recognition.
Sara placed a finger to her lips, telling him to keep quiet. The wolf youth froze in mid step, if Trex had heard her, perhaps someone else had. Sara had assumed they were all asleep by now, there had been no movement for some time, but suddenly she was not so sure. The female remembered that lions were much lighter sleepers then wolves and had more acute hearing; moving forward again, she withdrew her dagger.
Kneeling beside the lion she worked carefully to remove his bonds. Standing back up she indicated for Trex to follow her. She was surprised when he suddenly shook his head.
Trex had quickly recovered from his shock of seeing Sara again. His tired mind had started to focus instantly on calculating the new options available to him, and these options where quite limited without a few key items that were still missing, his cloak and his staff.
The importance of a lion’s equipment had been drilled into Trex’s mind throughout his schooling, to the point where the lion now felt quite naked without his special staff and cloak. Though lions could manipulate many types of wood and metal, nothing was as effective as the federation issued items.
Waving his hands, Trex indicated for Sara to remain where she was and that he was going to collect his belongings. Sara didn’t understand at first, her dumbfounded expression communicating this quite well without words.
Sara couldn’t understand Trex’s connection to his belongings, she needed no such things. But for lions it was the only advantage they had, and without it they were no match for wolves.
Trex turned to walk quietly towards the dying fire. He walked right through the middle of the camp. The young lion was seemingly unaware of his leg wound, as the healing cream numbing the immediate area. His focused mind cancelled out the unusual feelings coming from his upper thigh.
Had he still been looking at Sara he would have seen her expression turn to one of shock. She frantically waved her arms at him, but her feet remained rooted to the spot, unwilling to run forward to stop the lion.
Trex, for his part, was completely unconcerned. He could see every step he needed to take planned out in front of him. Where he would move and how he needed to do it.
The young lion knew from his training that the sleeping mind easily heard someone trying to be quite. It seemed to stand out as something to worry about in the primitive-mind’s ancient hardwiring. The mind seemed to ask itself: Why did the person sneaking around not want me to hear them, are they a danger to me? Someone being quiet while moving past fluently, seemingly unconcerned and acting normally, that didn’t register for some reason.
Sara held her hands to her mouth as Trex simply walked between the sleeping bodies. The lion youth suddenly jumped to one side then pushing off some rocks to land quietly next to Philton. If Sara wasn’t in such a state of continued shock she would have been quite impressed with how quiet Trex was, and worried that this was something many lions could do.
Trex leant down and calmly collected his belonging. Next to him, Philton turned away from the light rustling that his unconscious mind could hear. Trex remained calm, knowing that his own lack of emotions helped his brazen activity. Wolves could smell fear, but if there was none, they were as docile as sheep. Contemplating disabling the leader, Trex realized that there was nothing he could do; anything he tried would only get him and Sara killed. Placing the last of the weapons away, Trex walked quickly back around the other side of the camp. He increased his speed, allowing him to hurdle the last obstacle before rolling silently to come back up in front of the stunned female wolf.
Trex receive a very vicious scowl from his childhood friend.
Indicating back towards the camp of sleeping wolves the lion shrugged his shoulders, as if to say: what, they’re still asleep?
Sara’s arms were crossed in front of her, one of her feet taping rhythmically with irritation. She didn’t appreciate that the individual she was currently risking her life to save was so quickly putting himself back into danger. Trex gave her an overly innocent look, unable to stop himself. Despite his state of concentration, the action seemed to come naturally to counter her disapproving glare.
Letting out a long breath, Sara turned around to move back into the dark surrounding forest. Her sharp arm movements indicating in no uncertain terms that Trex should now follow her closely.
The two youths moved quietly through the undergrowth.
With Sara leading the way, Trex had time to reflect on his situation. He still had no idea what was going on, but he did have a powerful desire to get away from the wolf exiles, particularly the crazy brown wolf he had injured. Looking back momentarily towards the direction of the camp, he unwittingly walked into the back of the sneaking Sara.
‘Watch it,’ Sara hissed.
‘Sorry,’ whispered Trex, taking a step back.
Sara was studying the ground intently, trying to spot something in the limited light. Trex looked over her shoulder. He could just see a snare line about half a meter ahead. Pointing to it over her shoulder he whispered:
‘The snare line is there.’
Sara blinked a few times, and then moved forward to step over the trap.
‘Thanks,’ she said, though not at all convincingly.
‘Maybe I should take the lead?’ offered the lion. Both of them knew that lions could see better in the dark, but this was not something Sara wanted to admit at the moment. She was still upset with his antics before at the camp to trust him. Anyway, this was her rescue.
‘I’ll be fine,’ Sara grumbled. Thinking that she had correctly recognized a bent tree in the darkness, she pushed herself through some undergrowth without concern.
‘CRACK! Clink-a-clank!’ went some hollowed iron cups. Obviously she had been mistaken.
Trex froze, he wanted to run, but he knew there were traps everywhere around him. Sara jumped back from the bushes as if it had stung her. The stunned wolf landed on Trex, who effectively had to catch her. With her mind racing she ignored the petrified stare of the young lion. All of his previous calm mental state had apparently abandoned him.
‘Come on!’ she hissed, grabbing his hand. Trex was dragged into some further bushes, not in the direction he anticipated, but back towards the ruins.
‘What the heck?’ grumbled an exile as he threw off his light sheet. Around the camp, others were stirring.
‘The lion’s escaped!’ shouted Tomn, retrieving one of his short sword he kept by him at all times.
‘Damn it!’ swore Philton, now standing up himself.
All of the able exiles were now up and scanning the surrounding darkness. The wolves didn’t move from the camp, seemingly waiting for a command from their leader.
‘Well get out there and find him!’ shouted the red wolf, himself walking towards the trap that the alarm call had come from. ‘And be careful of the traps!’ Philton shouted after his exiles, as they ran into the surrounding undergrowth with little regard to the possible dangers. The red wolf once again couldn’t help thinking that his small band of males were almost as big a danger to themselves as they were to others.
As Philton suspected, it didn’t take long for one of his group to get caught in a trap. A sharp yell indicating that the unfortunate exile had been pulled up and off the ground by a weighted rope. To Philton’s left another alarm call sounded. Shouts and yells from two fellow comrades indicating some more distress for the former kidnappers. In front of him Horrist and another wolf had gone far down the hill and were at least communicating with each other well.
Philton himself had lagged behind, taking his time to look at the last movements of the lion from the marks he could see on the ground. Looking closer at the tracks he could make out that the lion was not alone out there, there was a wolf, and by the look of it a young one. Following the tracks as far as he could into the darkness Philton stopped for a second. Ahead another trap went off, and more yelling from his male wolves. If his gang was having this much difficulty with the traps, surely the two fugitives would have been caught in one. Even if the lion could see better in the dark, the escaped youth couldn’t move quickly enough and still spot all the traps.
Looking behind him back towards the camp, Philton could see the ruins of the old palace complex.
Is there really no other way out of this palace then back down the hill? Philton thought to himself. He wasn’t sure. Next to him, another exile, Mert, suddenly appeared.
‘It doesn’t look like he went down the west river bank,’ Mert said, slightly out of breath.
‘If they really went down the hill Horrist will catch them,’ said Philton calmly. His steady gaze was still on the campsite.
Mert looked questioningly at his commander.
‘Come with me,’ the leader of the exiles instructed.
Mert had to move quickly, as Philton suddenly disappeared back into the undergrowth.
High above them, the moon had made an appearance from behind one of the many dark clouds roaming the sky. Down below, the extra light did much to help the searchers, as well as the escapees.
Sara and Trex ran, jumped and climbed their way through the eastern part of the ruins. The two moved along the edge of the wild running river that marked that boundary of the long abandoned inner palace.
Jumping onto the remains of a column, Sara stopped to take advantage of the extra light. The moonlight helped to confirm her fears, there was no way to cross the small river. In front of her were white-water rapids, starting from one waterfall that flowed down the mighty cliffs and continuing until it disappeared over the edge of another cliff down a second waterfall. There had been bridges spanning the rapids a long time ago, but now all that remained were the foundations, and unfortunately no vegetation had grown to somehow close the gap.
Behind Sara, Trex was catching up. The lion could not jump as high or as far as Sara, so had had to assemble his staff to assist him. Even with his morphing staff the lion was still slower, as he had to think of ways to move forward using his tools, while Sara simply powered through.
Trex took a small run-up and used the staff as a pole vault, increased his jumping distance to land on the wide column base next to the wolf.
Sara automatically moved to give him a little room.
‘No way over ha?’ said Trex, slightly out of breath.
‘No,’ replied Sara. Looking towards the other side of the palace, she noticed that over there the ruins were higher, perhaps there was still hope. ‘We’ll have to try the other side.’ The female took a standing leap to a nearby ledge. Looking back she was annoyed as Trex once again had to think of a way of making the distance. ‘Will you hurry up,’ she urged impatiently.
‘I can’t jump that far,’ Trex hissed back, irritated at her choice of path. Ignoring her, he continued to look for a way forward.
Sara had little sympathy and was suddenly glad he had gone back to get his stupid staff. She didn’t want to think how more useless he was without it. Seeing a way forward, Trex hissed back to his impatient saviour.
‘Get moving, I’ll catch up,’ he said. Trex could feel her impatience even at his distance, it felt like an icy wind.
Sara doubted that Trex would be able to catch up if she really started to make a run for it.
Behind Trex, Sara could suddenly see Philton and Mert appear through an old gate about one hundred meters away. Unfortunately, they could also see Trex.
Trex noticed how Sara’s expression suddenly changed, turning his head, he saw why.
‘There he is!’ called Mert
Sara allowed herself to become scared, getting ready to run.
‘You… you just catch up then,’ she said quickly, fear evident in her voice.
The young female wolf turned to run off into the darkness, spurred on by her fear. Once again the moon disappeared behind a cloud.
Trex wasted no more time in moving forward. He jumped down to a level one below that which Sara had been able to jump to. Dashing into an ancient corridor the lion had to scamper across ruins in the dark. He could hear Sara in the level above him as she cut her way through some vegetation using her sword. The two made their respective ways through the maze of ruins.
Coming to an open area, Sara could see Trex running into the open one level below her. He was actually ahead of her. Doubling her efforts, she scampered up a wall to run along an old roofline. Sara preferred it up here were the limited starlight made it easier for her to see where she was going. Coming to a larger opening she sped up momentarily, jumping the expanse and rolling skilfully upon landing. Throwing herself over an edge she used some vines to climb down into what appeared to be an old temple, the large circular pillar arrangement now about all that was left. Jumping down the last section, she wondered where Trex was.
He should be coming through this way, she thought, surely there was no way he had beaten her here already. She turned as the silhouette of someone appeared in an open doorway. The figure ran into the dim light that filtered through the open roof.
Only then did she realize that it was not Trex, but an exile.