Reluctant acceptance of needed help
(The tail of Trex and Sara.)
Sara slowly awoke from her deep sleep. She had just had one of the strangest dreams; it wasn’t what you would call a nightmare, just disorientating.
Never one for getting up quickly, Sara momentarily forgot about were she actually was. Wherever it was, it sure seemed warm and comfortable… and soft.
Wait a second… thought Sara.
Her mind suddenly registered that something was not right. Blinking a few times, she opened her eyes properly, Orange fur? That was definitely wrong. She appeared to be curled around it, but at least it was… warm? Shaking her head to clear it, Sara removed herself from her warm pillow, which turned out to be the curled up, fuzzy pale orange ball that was Trex, still fast asleep.
Recognition came as a bit of a shock and Sara backed away on all fours. Trex, in the meantime, appeared to sleep on peacefully. Sara could hear him purring softly.
The young wolf stood up, still a little disorientated and a bit embarrassed. How long had she been curled up with the lion? All night? Sara really hoped that Trex hadn’t noticed.
He had, however, seemingly noticed the removal of her body heat. The young lion quickly came out of his quiet dozing. Uncurling slowly, Trex seemed to extend beyond any normal proportion. Stretching elastically to a comical angle, he let out a huge yawn, turning around to be on all fours, he did another stretch; arching his back, a small crack came from somewhere in his lower spine, the young lion grinned in satisfaction.
Outside, it was still only very early morning. The birds of the upper mountains were already singing, but the sun was not yet up.
Sara was giving Trex an odd look.
‘What?’ asked Trex.
Sara was still watching him sceptically.
‘You do that every morning?’ she asked a little hesitantly.
‘Yep,’ replied Trex with satisfaction. ‘It feels great; you should give it a go.’
While Trex bend backwards again Sara heard another audible crack. Trex’s face contorted, as if still deciding whether the most recent crack was a good thing or a disaster. A moment later his expression changed to lazy contentedness.
‘I think I’ll pass,’ said Sara. The young female wolf ran her hands through her hair out of habit. Sara, like most Anthro females, was lucky that her long hair didn’t seem to get tied into knots too easily. It only needed the odd bit of maintenance, something her claws could handle well enough.
‘So you slept well in the end?’ asked Trex casually.
‘In the end?’
‘Well, you were sort of restless last night, you kept me awake.’
Sara stopped to examine Trex’s face carefully, his expression seemed innocent enough.
‘Yeah, about last night…’ she trailed of questioningly.
Trex suddenly remembered what he had done that might have caused Sara to act as she currently was.
‘Yeah well…’ he said a little nervously. ‘You seemed cold, so I sort of moved over to be able to cover you with some of my cloak.’
Sara analysed his expression carefully, but again there was nothing but honesty. Though she had touched the young lion on numerous occasions yesterday, the thought of him cuddling-up to her last night was still disturbing to her. To be honest, she was still embarrassed that this morning it was her who was cuddling up to him.
Trex looked confused by the question, unsure of how to take it.
‘No, nothing more,’ Trex said eventually. ‘Why, was something wrong?’ he asked, genuinely concerned.
‘No,’ replied Sara hesitantly. She turned away, suddenly uncomfortable with the situation.
‘Thanks,’ she said simply.
The flustered female youth moved out into the open. Stepping out from under the ruined building’s remains, Sara needed to clear her head, she looked around for somewhere to wash herself.
Apart from the two larger waterfalls that surrounded the central ruined city, a whole series of smaller waterways fell and tumbled their way down the upper cliffs. It didn’t take long for Sara to find a small pond to wash herself in, moving closer to the rocks she drinks from the flowing water.
Trex appeared beside her and start to wash his face in the same pond. Kneeling, Trex examined his leg wound. It was throbbing slightly but the cut did not appear to be too deep. The healing cream and rough bandage would be good enough for now. At least the wound didn’t hinder his movements.
‘It doesn’t look as difficult to get down from here in the light,’ said Trex in casual conversation, while washing his face and torso.
Sara stared out beyond the edge of the lower cliffs, moving towards it to get a better view. It wouldn’t be too difficult for them to make their way down from here.
‘How long do you think we have?’ asked Trex. He hoped that Sara could guess how long it would take the exiles to catch up to them.
Sara was lost in her own thoughts. The view was quite magnificent from up here. The weather has breaking up slightly and only a few puffy clouds sailed lazily high above them, tinged yellow in the fresh morning light. Trex took a drink of water, also filling up a small leather pouch he magically retrieved from somewhere. Trex, like all lions, was always well equipped for any eventuality. Filling the pouch, he then slung it around his shoulder.
Sara remained on her stone perch, the morning wind playing with her skirt and hair. The robust material of the travel skirt was now stained and dirty from her adventures the last few days.
Coming up beside her, Trex looked towards where the exiles camp was across the rapids. It was far too close for his comfort.
‘Do you think they will try to catch us again?’ Trex asked. ‘It would only take them an hour or so to get around. They may actually be close already,’
Sara calmly looked towards the west coast, seemingly unconcerned.
‘No. Their aim is to kill Sage Filfia, not us,’ Sara said calmly.
‘But after all the effort last night?’ Trex persisted.
‘That was last night, and we got away.’
Trex could only watch as the wolf female started to make her way towards the overgrown ridge-way that led to the forest below. After a surprised second’s hesitation, Trex quickly ran to get his belongings. He fumbled to get himself travel ready while chasing after the wolf.
‘Hey, wait up!’ he called in irritation. He was struggling to get his quiver and staff sections in place on the straps on his back.
Sara didn’t react, simply forging ahead.
Ducking and weaving through the thick vegetation, Trex finally managed to catch up. The young lion was clearly irritated at being ignored by the female wolf.
‘Thanks for waiting,’ said Trex sarcastically. He was not used to working as a team either, which made Sara’s obvious dismissal of his offered help all the more irritating. Trex had to remind himself that even if he had decided to help warn Sage Filfia, this was still Sara’s rescue. Recognizing his annoyance as it surfaced in his mind, he suppressed the urge to simply let the arrogant wolf girl go on her own way.
‘You don’t have to follow me,’ Sara said, her eyes focused on some distant point.
‘Are you kidding?’ Trex said, looking around uncertainly. ‘They could still be around, we are safer together.’
Trex spoke in a matter of fact voice, trying to convince Sara, and himself, that they were better off together. Trex would not normally have had a problem to just slip away on his own if the circumstances had been different, but he had made up his mind now.
‘They’re not here anymore,’ replied Sara confidently
‘How do you know that?’
Sara stopped. Her expression was so focused she looked a little scary,
‘I can feel it,’ she informed him, then moved on.
Trex stood there for a second before again following the wolf, unsure of what else to do.
Another ten minutes of hasty decent lead the two young Anthros back into the thick forest. Turning back towards the middle part of the ruined city, Sara made her way along the lower cliff’s base.
Trex was still somewhat annoyed with his companion, but followed her while he thought through the situation. He did know that wolves could accurately, feel, if another Anthro was around by detecting the energy of their stray emotions; he had used the opposite end of this idea to his advantage the night Sara had saved him from the exiles. It was because of this that the lion also knew that the rather unique sense could be deceived, so he was reluctant to accept Sara’s assurances, regardless of how confident she was. Experienced wolves could have a strong emotion without projecting it, so not giving away their feelings and intentions.
Sara felt the lion’s irritation, but ignored it. She didn’t have time, not for the consideration of others, or for doubt in herself. She had to act quickly, or completely lose the reason for having come this far.
Sara did have a few concerns; she knew that the exiles probably knew how to mask their emotions, at least a few of the more experienced ones. She suppressed her concerns with a mask of overconfidence, which she fuelled through anger and pride.
If I meet an exile I will deal with him, she told herself arrogantly.
At the end of the day, her final aim was a foolhardy, almost suicidal adventure anyway. Why should anything else leading up to this event be any less foolhardy?
They had been travelling for another fifteen minutes. Sara had broken into a brisk jog once the vegetation had cleared a little. Trex was having increasing difficulty in keeping up with the wolf. Though Trex’s leg wound had been well tended too, it had not had time to heal, and the rapid movement was causing it to rub painfully.
‘What’s the plan?’ asked Trex between strained breaths. The young lion did not want to admit that he was having difficulty keeping up, and so hoped that by getting her to talk he could slow her down.
‘Get to Sage Filfia as quickly as possible,’ Sara replied quickly. Her speech was not affected at all by her high speed run.
‘What happens… if you… meet an exile?’
‘Rush past or fight, whichever is quicker.’
‘You… call… that… a plan!?’ Trex asked in surprise. He wouldn’t be able to hold this pace for much longer.
‘I don’t have time for anything else, they will kill her as soon as they see her,’ said Sara. Running on for a second, Sara couldn’t help but notice the laboured breath of her companion. ‘Listen Trex,’ she said more kindly, slowing down slightly. ‘I am running back to my horse… I’ve been thinking about it and to carry both of us would just slow me down, you may as well just go home.’
Trex ran on.
Turning a corner of the small track they were following they came upon the small gully where Sara had left Misha. Defeated, Trex began to lag behind. He was surprised when Sara suddenly stopped up ahead. Jogging up to her slowly, Trex looked down into the gully, his hands on his knees, he was panting heavily.
With her hand on the hilt of her sword, Sara was scanning the area with her large golden eyes. There was a strange horse next to Misha and Sara suddenly couldn’t help thinking that she had walked into a trap.
‘Flint!’ Trex called out beside her with the last of his breath.
Flint looked up from the grass he was nibbling on. Elated to see his owner, he trotted over quickly.
Trex’s horse, Flint, had had a rough few days. Just as things were looking up for the horse, that scary mountain liezon had appeared. Then the mounted wolves had turned up, the hostility in them and their horses was a totally new experience for the young horse. They had run, but then his owner had done something strange, Trex had sent him away, not only that he had scared him away. Flint had wanted to return to Trex, but could sense that his master was now surrounded by the hostile wolves and horses.
Flint, as with other horses of the planes, had the ability to easily feel another being’s emotions. This was a reason why wolves made such great riders on the animals.
Flint then tagged along behind the exiles to see if perhaps he would be reunited with his master.
That night the group had stopped, and while trotting around aimlessly, Flint had found another horse, one that was not hostile or angry. Happy to have found one of his own kind, Flint had stayed with the fellow animal.
Not having sensed his owner anymore as part of the group that left the next morning, he had decided to stay were he was.
Elated to see his owner once more, Flint ran over and nuzzled Trex happily as the young lion continued to fight for breath.
‘Good boy!’ Trex said enthusiastically, honestly amazed at the horses sudden appearance. He gave the horses snout a loving hug.
‘He’s yours?’ asked Sara, genuinely surprised. She couldn’t recognize the horse from the distance she had seen it running the one time.
‘Yep, isn’t he great!’ said Trex proudly.
Sara blinked away her surprise before moving over to Misha.
‘So there is no reason I can’t come along now,’ said Trex, slowly recovering from his previous exhausted state.
Sara continued to secure her belongings to Misha. The still dirty horse greeted her owner enthusiastically.
‘You don’t have to go you know,’ said Sara, her quiet voice hard as stone. ‘I won’t slow down for you.’
Trex watched the wolf thoughtfully for a second before loading his own belongings onto Flint.
This was one of, those moments, like in all of the books that Trex had read, where you decided what type of Anthro you really were. Had he really believed all those ideas about moral and character he had read about? Or was it all just something to pass the time, something others did. It was time to decide if he could move beyond the story.
‘I know,’ Trex replied, his voice full of confidence. The young lion had made his choice. ‘But I want to help. After all, what is family for?’ he said finally.
Sara stopped for a second and gave him an odd look. Trex was busy tending to his animal. She would never have thought of Trex as family. Sara supposed that through some distant twisted description they could be considered family of some sort. The whole idea of being even remotely related to a lion by marriage instantly created a sense of disgust in the young wolf; but she couldn’t really further the reaction, it was hard to dislike someone who had done nothing to you, and had saved your life.
If Sara was honest with herself, she would have realized that despite her arrogance she was actually very happy to have someone who was going along with her. Despite of her supposed dislike of lions, she was happy to have anyone on her side. After feeling alone for so long it was an added strength, in many more ways then she realized.
Mounting up, Sara saw Trex doing the same. It was time to go.
‘Well then, let’s go save a Sage,’ exclaimed Trex, a hint of confidence in the lion’s voice.
Sara simply gave the lion a brief cocky smile, in recognition of his bravado, before shouting a crisp: ‘Hiut!’
Both animals sprung forward on command.
Mert, the exile, sat lazily on a large rock. The morning sun was warming the young male’s bones after the ride in the cool, fresh morning air. The occasional wind was still cold up in the exposed narrow mountain pass, but that didn’t concern him. His fur bristled and he shivered happily, the sun felt too good.
He and the old veteran Horrist had been left behind to guard the pass. Initially, Mert had thought it stupid to leave someone behind, when everyone was needed to take down the Sage. Horrist had then reminded him that if the element of surprise was lost, the number of attackers would be irrelevant. As there was a good chance that someone would now try to warn the Sage, it was a good idea to leave a team to stop any other Anthros from getting through. Secretly, Mert didn’t mind being left behind. As much as he prided himself in being as brave as the rest, he did not relish the idea of taking part in the murder of anyone. The idea of murder was, after all, completely foreign to most Anthros.
Mert had not been an exile for long. His reason for having been exiled had actually been because of love and not because of violence. The young wolf had had an affair with a female from a much higher family. As so often happened in these circumstances in wolf society, once discovered, she had been sent away by her family, while he had been given the blame for the whole affair and forced into exile. His exile had also been in the dead of winter, something that would normally have resulted in his death.
Betrayed, hurt and starving, he had managed to cling to existence by roaming from town to town. Stealing what he needed to survive, he had stayed one step ahead of the law. Nevertheless, he had eventually been caught out, and after a desperate struggle, he had just managed to escape into the wilds. There, he had almost starved to death. If it had not been for the passing by of Philton and his group, Mert would surely have died. The gang’s generosity was something he would be eternally grateful for.
As casual as Mert looked, he was actually watching carefully for any movement at the edge of the forest a few hundred meters away. He and Horrist had developed a good plan, if the two youths were foolish enough to attempt to go past they would surely be taken prisoner, or worse. From his perch, Mert could see easily in all directions across the grassy field. He glanced across to where Horrist was hiding in the forest on their side of the ridge.
Mert reflected on Horrist for a second, the crotchety old exile was an enigma. He was surely the oldest exile alive. Only Philton seemed to be able to get along with him. Mert himself didn’t mind the smelly old wolf’s mannerisms and had even managed to be graced with a type of tolerance by the old wolf.
Mert’s large triangular ears moved automatically to track an unusual sound, the young wolf’s head turning a second later. It was them, the male lion and female wolf, and by the looks of it the lion had found his horse, this was unexpected and complicated matters. Jumping up, Mert let out a sharp whistle to draw Horrist’s attention. Making elaborate hand signals known only to the other exiles, Mert indicated that there were two horse riders approaching. He ran across to his own horse, not even waiting to check if he had gotten a return signal. Mounting up, he heard a well known bird call. The trap was set.
Sara had already drawn her sword. Galloping hard through the grassland of the mountain pass, she watched as the distant figure of Mert began closing in on them from her left. With the appearance of the exile she suddenly wished that she had agreed on some sort of plan with Trex.
Trex had already taken his own steps to counter the new threat. Having turned his staff into a shorter bow he was positioning himself for his first shot. Trex slowed Flint down, so as to fall behind Sara slightly, keeping the female wolf between him and the exile.
Mert recognized the danger of the bow, veering off from his head-on course. He spurred his horse on so as to ride just out of arrow shot distance and slightly ahead of the two youngsters as they approached the crest of the pass. The young exile grabbed for his wooden shield while trying to maintain his speed.
Sara and Trex cleared the crest of the ridge. Sara could see a natural path developing in the higher grassland in front of her. It seemed to be leading into the taller trees about five hundred meters away.
Having pushed Sara and Trex towards the east side of the ridge, Mert seemed happy enough to let them run, something that immediately made Sara suspicious; she was expecting a trap.
Turning Misha to her left, Sara aimed to cross behind Mert’s tracks.
Trex was slow to follow and came out wider before turning to follow his friend.
Mert saw the movement behind him and in a great display of horsemanship he was able to circle back around quickly to close on Trex, who was now lagging behind Sara.
Trex turned Flint away from the approaching danger, doubling back to avoid getting too close to Mert. Releasing Flint’s reins, Trex positioned himself to fire an arrow at the approaching exile. The lion youth was unsteady on the rapidly moving horse as Flint struggled to travel over some uneven ground. Trex was inexperienced in compensating for the animals movements and fired well high.
Mert’s confidence rose as the arrow missed him by a spectacular distance. Speeding up, he closed on his target.
Sara, meanwhile, had looped back around and was trying to cut off the speeding Mert.
The exile had been watching for incoming arrows and reacted late, not expecting the young female to be as good a rider as she was. Racing down a small incline, Mert held his direction, daring Sara to persist with her collision course.
Sara was not in a mood to back down. Switching her sword to her left hand, she urged Misha on to jump over an old log just ahead. Jumping high, Misha landed adjacent to Mert and his startled horse.
Mert’s horse had started turning at the last second to avoid the collision. Though Mert held his sword in his right hand he could not wield it properly, and only deflected Sara’s viscous blow down between them. The two riders collided. Sara threw her weight against the exile, which was lucky on her part, any less and the two riders would have been thrown off their horses as the greater weight of their animals bounced against each other.
Tangled together and galloping side by side, Mert tried to use his shield to bash Sara off her horse. Sara had no weapon in her right hand and she bruised her arm deflecting the jab. Pulling away, she had to block a second sword swish as the two horses parted.
Misha automatically turned in a tight circle, slowing down. Unused to mounted combat, Sara let the horse chose its direction as she regained her balance. Mert, disorientated after the attack, had started to turn his horse automatically to head back against Sara.
Trex in the meantime had swung back around and after checking the ground in front of his horse, lined up another shot. Mert caught the incoming arrow out of the corner of his eye, but was too late to do anything about it. The arrow pierced his upper thigh, Mert screamed loudly, causing his startled horse to rear up.
‘Sara, run!’ shouted Trex as he closed on the almost stationary female wolf and her horse. ‘He’ll be out in a minute!’ yelled Trex as he raced past.
Sara could see Mert swear before pulling out the dulled arrow head. Turning Misha around, Sara gave chase after Trex.
Mert was furious, kicking viscously to spur his horse forward.
Trex raced towards the path they were originally guided towards by Mert, unaware of why Sara had tried to avoid it in the first place.
‘Trex wait!’ called out Sara desperately, ‘it’s a trap!’
Trex pulled on the reins, slowing Flint down to an uneven eager trot. Looking back, he could see Sara once again heading for a different area of the forest. Mert was in hot pursuit.
‘Follow me!’ Sara yelled.
Trex headed out in the new direction.
Sara had maintained her speed and would enter the forest first.
Trex was right behind her as he entered the thicker vegetation. Raising his arm to protect his face from a branch, Trex opened his eyes just in time to watch a rope spring taught in front of Misha. The poor horse did not stand a chance, tripping up unceremoniously.
Sara screamed as she was thrown forward and clear of the tumbling horse.
Trex had just enough time to induce Flint to jump high over the tripwire. Flint landed safely on all fours and Trex hastily reined him in.
Jumping off the sliding Flint, Trex landed next to the sprawled body of Sara.
‘Sara!’ called Trex desperately. He wanted to bend down to inspect the fallen wolf, but knew he had to keep his guard up.
Misha lay a little way off and then got up in a daze, thankfully the horse seemed unhurt.
Below the prone form of Trex, lay Sara. The female wolf let out an unhappy moan, a good sign.
Trex changed his stance, the bow transforming into a staff in record time, pulling out his dagger he clicked it into place at the one end of his newly transformed weapon.
Breathing heavily, Trex scanned the surrounding forest with suspicion, he was wondering what happened to the wolf on horseback. Through reflexes alone, Trex ducked out of the way as he sensed an incoming dart flying towards him.
A split second later, Horrist sprang from the bushes, rushing towards the concentrated young lion.
Trex sprang forward in an unexpected hostile move to make space between himself and the fallen Sara. The two Anthro’s clashed head on. The overpowered Trex summoned strength from desperation in an attempt to hold the experienced old wolf at bay. Trex gave ground reluctantly, his muscles straining as his staff absorbed blow after blow.
Behind the two fighters, Mert had finally appeared. He was in no position to help his comrade Horrist as the poison from Trex’s arrow was already taking effect. Dazed and sweating profusely, the young exile dismounted, his damaged leg instantly gave out underneath him and he collapsed into a heap next to his horse.
Sara pulled herself up from the ground slowly, trying to force air into her severely winded lungs. Stumbling slightly she could see Trex fight desperately. Sara fumbled for her weapon but it was not in her sheath, she had dropped it when she had fallen from her horse Misha.
‘Give up!’ grunted Trex through clenched teeth. ‘Once she has her sword you are outnumbered.’
Horrist gave a massive push forward, throwing the young lion against a tree.
‘Not if I kill you first,’ Horrist said darkly, enraged by the arrogant threat from the youth.
The veteran exile’s projection of anger and hostility had been building steadily and Trex was close to succumbing as it was. Ducking just in time, Trex avoided the sword as it slammed into the tree behind him. Horrist pulled the embedded sword free, viciously tearing out a massive chunk of bark.
Trex’s concentration finally snapped and he fell backwards fearfully. Sara had just retrieved her sword but was too far away to help.
Horrist towered over the fallen lion.
Trex raised his staff in desperation, but it was smashed back down easily. Trex froze in fear as the old wolf pulled back again for a strong finishing blow. He could see it happening in slow motion, but was two petrified to act.
Sara could also see the sword go back in slow motion. Her system overloaded; her rage, anguish, fear and determination spilled out from her instantaneously. The built-up emotions flowed form the female wolf like the strong winds of a storm.
‘Trex! Noooooo!’ Sara shouted.
The effect of her projected emotions hit Horrist like a brick, he hesitated momentarily before recovering enough to swing down with all his force.
Sara’s stream of emotions had by then luckily also hit Trex. Impacting on the lion’s susceptible mind, it instantly empowered him beyond anything that he had ever felt in his life. Trex could feel his muscles tighten like steel spring. His hands grasped his staff solidly and he swung his weapon up. A mighty roar escaped Trex’s lips as the two weapons met.
In an intense flash of light and explosion of sound, Horrist’s blade disintegrated. The older wolf was thrown back by an unseen force, seemingly released from his destroyed blade.
Trex sprung to his feet in one fluid motion. The normally calm lion was unrecognizable with his menacing figure and deathly expression highlighted by a viscous snarl. Horrist was barely able to back away from the advancing lion, completely perplexed by this unexpected sight. Never in his long life had the old exile ever seen a lion enraged and seemingly using it to such devastating effect. Backing further away, Horrist was surprised when he ran into something soft. Turning sharply, he found himself looking down into the intimidating face of Sara. It suddenly became obvious to the old wolf that Trex was feeding off of his wolf friend’s projected emotions. Before he could contemplate anything else, Sara landed a massive right hook which sent the exile crashing unconscious onto the forest floor.
Sara let her emotions go, breathing deeply to once again bring her levels down and regain her calm. She shook off the pain in her fist. The exiles jaw had been hard as stone. Next to her, Trex was stunned, blinking numerous times, he felt as if he was coming out of a daze.
‘What… was that!?’ he gasped, clutching his stomach as if he was going to be sick.
‘That was the overpowering desire to fight and win,’ said Sara in a husky voice between breaths. She herself was still coming down from her emotional high.
‘Lions are not supposed to feel that!’ said Trex desperately. The feelings had been very alien to him, he had spent his life controlling his emotions, such an outburst was far more then the young lion had ever experienced, and it shook him up.
‘That’s because it’s normally directed against you, not for you,’ said Sara.
‘You can do that?’
‘Sure. You feed off others, it builds up,’ replied Sara, her voice approaching normal. With the adrenalin leaving her system she rapidly started to feel the numerous cuts and bruises that were afflicting her body.
Trex couldn’t help but to think about facing an entire army of wolves emotionally ‘charged’ like he had just been, surely it would be impossible to stand up to such a force. Obviously concentration was cumulative as well for a group of lions, it had to be, no one lion concentrating independently in a larger lion army could ever face a thousand of that running at them.
‘Misha,’ called Sara. Her trusted horse emerged from the bushes. The animal was also cut and bruised, but otherwise seemingly ok. Flint followed immediately behind.
Trex turned to look at the fallen exiles.
‘What should we do with them?’ he asked.
‘Leave them,’ Sara instructed. ‘We don’t have any time.’ Sara got back up onto Misha. Her eyes narrowed into renewed grim determination. This was proving to be harder and more painful then even her pessimistic mind could have contemplated.
Running forwards quickly, Trex jumped back onto Flint. There was scantly time to look around again before he had to take off after the fast disappearing Sara.