Refuge Cross “The Exiles”

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Chapter 15

Déjà vu, trapped again

(The tale of Trex & Sara)

Misha and Flint sped through the grasslands and forests of the high mountains, spurred on by their nervous owners. Both of the galloping horses were breathing erratically. This was not surprising, considering that they had been at a decent run now for more then an hour. Misha, in particularly, was feeling the strain. Having already taken a nasty tumble today the poor animal now found herself having to carry an extra wolf on her back.

Even with the overflowing positive encouragement from Sara, the horse was deteriorating rapidly to the point of physical exhaustion. Sara could feel the life energy of her gallant steed starting to drain away. It was sapping Sara’s determination. The pain of her beautiful horse was even greater due to Misha’s sacrificial efforts on behalf of her owner.

Anger and determination started to turn into anguish and bewilderment as the emotional feedback between owner and animal spiralled downwards. Finally Misha’s physical exhaustion broke through the dam of emotional support from Sara and Misha slowed to a trot.

Though Flint now trusted his owner Trex, it was far easier for the emotional animal to take encouragement from the Anthro wolf. Without Sara’s support, Flint too began to lose motivation in the face of exhaustion.

Trex felt the sudden low as well, but steeled himself against it. Using his lion training, he blocked the negative emotions from affecting his mind, his expression became impassionate.

Sara, caught in the grip of hopelessness, looked back desperately towards Trex.

‘Misha can’t go on,’ she said in anguish, ‘I don’t know what to do.’

Trex looked around quickly. They were close to the base of a cliff; the rocky outcrop looked just climbable, but impassable for horses. Trex couldn’t help but fall back on a lion’s basic instinct when being chased, climb.

‘We have to climb.’ Trex said sternly. ‘We can try and hold them off from up there.’

He jumped off his tired horse. The young lion was also exhausted. His injured leg felt like it was on fire, the wound had reopened and the bandage was stained with blood. Despite his injuries he was nevertheless focused, spurred on by Sara’s previous determination. He was not going to give up. Trex moved up behind Sara to gently take the unconscious Filfia off Misha’s back. The young lion strained with the adult wolf’s weight, she was considerably heavier then she looked.

Sara also dismounted, immediately moving to cuddle the face of the exhausted Misha.

‘I’m sorry Misha,’ whispered Sara, tears in her eyes.

Trex’s horse Flint immediately moved over to console the distraught pair. Trex turned to look at the group, Sara’s mind was still flooded with emotions, but they were now the wrong type.

‘Sara, we have to move on,’ he said seriously.

‘What’s the point?’ said Sara dismissively. ‘There’s no way we can outrun them.’

Trex had to think about this for a second, unsure of what to say, they were running out of time. Thinking back to his classes on handling emotions, he said, ‘Misha believed in you, and now you have to believe in yourself.’

Sara simply looked at the lion.

‘Or are you going to make Misha’s efforts worthless?’ Trex challenged. ‘Look, we’ll send up a distress arrow and then climb the outcrop over there.’ He pointed to the nearby steep stone slope. ‘I’ll tie Filfia to your back and you can climb. I’ll hang back and slow down the exiles.’

Sara looked over at the cliff, the distraction was working. Trex could feel her mind calming down slightly to consider his idea.

‘I’m not prepared to give up, someone could come, you never know,’ Trex continued, shrugging his shoulders as if the whole thing was just some sort of game. ‘Or are you too scared to try? It’s your life.’

The small-talk seemed to work. Although Trex could not project emotions, his words unlocked new thoughts in Sara’s mind, thoughts that carried their own emotions, and ones that could bring her back from her short term intense despair.

Emerging from a cloud of confusing mental static, Sara breathed deeply. A few tears ran down her face, effectively bleeding out the excessive emotions. Her expression changed and Trex could feel the determination streaming back into her.

Smiling in satisfaction, Trex moved forward. Taking the second section of staff from his back he transformed his short bow into a longbow. Grabbing a signal arrow from his sheath he concentrated for a second to transform the properties of the material in the chemical tip.

‘Right, let’s do this,’ said Sara, her voice gruff with determination.

‘All right little miss power house, you draw the string and I manipulate the bow, we release on my say, ok,’ instructed Trex, now completely in charge.

Sara nodded. Taking the bow and arrow from Trex, she aimed it straight up above her head. Trex moved up next to her and put his hands on either side of her left hand as it gripping the bow. He was just brushing the arrow with his fingers. Concentrating, he could feel Sara pulling back the string powerfully. Trex manipulated the strength and flexibility of his bow, allowing the tension to build. The energy quickly grew to a critical point. Sara grimaced with effort as the bow began to shake slightly. Never before had the wood, metal and bone of the staff/bow have to store so much power. Trex’s last thought was focused on quickly stiffening the arrow to take the acceleration without snapping.

‘Now!’ shouted Trex.

Sara released the string and the arrow screamed into the air. A piercing howl filled the mountain valley as the arrow clawed its way furiously ever higher, it went so high that it was difficult to see against the bright morning sky. The arrow had definitely cleared a lot of the surrounding smaller mountain peaks. With a mechanical snap that sounded like a mini thunderclap, the sky filled with bright red reflective glitter. The sharp sound echoed loudly through the mountains as the pieces of glitter slowly floated away in the wind. It was clear that it would be visible for many kilometres.

‘Wow…’ breathed Trex, never before had he seen a shot go so far into the air. Sara too smiled, but then grimaced.

‘Couldn’t we have used one of these things to warn the Sage?’ Sara asked, a little accusingly. She was still shaking from the effort of bending the bow and pulling back the string.

‘I only have signal arrows that say that, I’m, in danger. That would have only helped the exiles with their trap.’

Sara didn’t react.

Trex ignored her and looked nervously back in the direction that they had come from, expecting the exiles to burst through the forest any second.

‘We should move on.’

Sara accepted Trex’s answer to her question without comment, following the lion over to the unconscious Sage.

‘We have a few minutes,’ reassured Sara. She pulled the unconscious body of the larger female wolf off of the ground with a grunt. ‘They wouldn’t have left their horses too close by. Filfia would have sensed them and become suspicious.’

Trex helped to carry the Sage over to a larger log.

‘Wait a second,’ said Trex. Running off to the anxiously waiting Flint, Trex retrieved a few lengths of rope. He quickly wrapped them around the two wolves, securely tying Filfia’s arms together around Sara’s shoulder like a sling.

‘Is that ok?’

‘Yep, good enough,’ replied Sara. Getting up, she felt the weight of the Sage on her back, it was difficult to move, but not impossible. Sara’s legs trembled below her.

Trex looked on with doubt. He could never dream of moving around with such a load on his back, let alone try to climb with it.

Sara breathed in deeply. She ran encouraging thoughts through her mind to build up her emotional strength. A look of determination returned to Sara’s face and her legs stiffened. With a disgruntled groan she lurched forward. Sara’s eyes didn’t look up anymore; she was completely focused on what was immediately ahead of her feet. All she could do now was climb, it would take all her strength and resolve and the moment she stopped she would collapse.

Trex watched the wolf stride purposefully towards the rocky outcrop at the cliffs base. Rushing back to Flint and Misha, the young lion grabbed what provisions he could from the saddle bags; water, food, rope… He didn’t know how long they would have to hold out.

‘Sorry boy, you’ll just have to wait again. Stay with Sara’s horse, and don’t go too far,’ said Trex. He gave Flint as reassuring a pat as he could.

Sara had already started to climb the rocks themselves as Trex came running up behind her. Transforming his long bow back into a staff, he disconnected half of it, returning a piece to the sheath on his back. Manipulating the other half, he transformed it back into a short bow. Starting to climb, Trex scanned ahead for a good position to hold back and slow down the exiles.

The two youths had only been climbing a few minutes when Trex’s acute hearing picked up the approach of the exiles.

Philton lead the mounted exiles as the approached the natural clearing. They arrived just in time to see Flint and Misha trot away.

The two horses had been alerted to their approach and were intimidated by the anger that drove the group.

The exiles slowed as the two riderless horses disappeared into the forest.

‘There they are!’

Philton’s head turned. His calculating eyes scanned the rocky cliffs. Sara had already managed to climb quite a way up.

‘Tomn, take Thindon and Rauks and head after them,’ said Philton calmly.

‘With pleasure,’ sneered Tomn, dismounting his horse. ‘Shields!’ he shouted, instructing the other two exiles. The group of three quickly ran after the two youngsters.

‘Antrie.’

An older exile turned to face his leader.

‘Build me a trebuchet.’

The other remaining exiles dismounted, retrieving their axes before moving off under the instructions of the exile Antrie.

Philton walked towards the outcrop. Finding a comfortable place to sit, the red wolf crossed his legs and relaxed his posture into a classic meditative position. It didn’t take long before all the exiles felt a surge of energy and purpose.

Up on the cliff, Trex and Sara could feel a sense of dread coming over them. Each of the youngsters fought in their own way to ignore the new external feelings. The sudden appearance of a strange cold wind made it even more difficult to remain positive, something evil was in the air.

Sara’s body had become a machine; it was running on turbo-charge and was stuck in high gear. Gasping for air, she simply powered onwards, any occasional slip on the smooth rocks was just a mild setback in her unstoppable relentless drive to climb. In her mind there were no thoughts anymore, just the desire, the need to climb higher and higher.

Trex was about twenty five meters below her, and looked back with concern. A sudden wind had sprung up and the few clouds in the sky were all seemingly starting to converge above them.

Tomn and his two fellow wolves were also climbing quickly, their powerful muscles and wolf passion propelling them up the rocks.

Taking out an arrow, Trex moved into a firing position. Leaning over from the rocks he aimed and fired in a split second.

‘Lookout!’ screamed Tomn, pushing Thindon to one side.

The arrow missed the surprised wolf by a hair’s width, ricocheting off a rock further below. Thindon lost his grip and slid down the rocks a bit.

‘Shields up!’ commanded Tomn angrily.

With the skilful use of a few arrows and some larger rocks, Trex was able to slow down the Exiles. The continued attacks from above had made the three males almost slower in climbing then Sara.

The two groups were about fifty meters up the side of the cliff. It was becoming much steeper and there were fewer ways to climb. The small number of hand holds made almost vertical climbing difficult and dangerous. Sara had put in one last massive effort to vertically climb a section. After jumping backwards off a rock face across a large gap she stumbled and fell onto the small ledge.

Realising she couldn’t go on, the wolf’s body suddenly gave out. Collapsing back onto the ledge, Sara had just enough energy to role herself and Filfia over on their sides before slipping into unconsciousness.

Trex climbed quickly to avoid becoming a target for those below. Jumping backwards across the gap he spun in mid air to land onto Sara’s ledge, he saw the two female wolves sprawled across the ground. The young lion was simply astonished that Sara had been able to climb so far. He had needed to use both hands to climb the rock face he had just gotten up with.

At least there was no way for pursuers to use their shields to protect themselves and still climb from where Trex was. Considering this to be as good a place as any for a last stand, Trex positioned himself next to the two fallen wolves and waited.

Approaching the steep climb, the three exiles stopped. Looking up, Tomn saw the massing clouds above becoming ever darker, there was already a rumbling in the air. Back down below, he could see the remaining exiles building an improvised trebuchet catapult, using large sections of freshly cut tree trunks. Philton also still sat in front of them, meditating.

‘Looks like Philton doesn’t think we can get them,’ said Tomn, sneering.

‘I’m not so sure that we can,’ replied Rauks.

Tomn gave Rauks a venomous look.

‘He’s waiting up there,’ replied Rauks, as if challenged. ‘I can feel it. There’s no way we can climb and still protect ourselves.’

Tomn looked up again, unwilling to give up.

‘We don’t have to climb,’ he said with an evil grin.

Trex was scared, shaking and cold. His wounds hurt and he was deathly tired. He could sense the exiles were up to something, but could only wait. The small mental stability he still possessed was focused on his weapon.

Then it happened; seemingly springing up from below a wolf flew towards the face of the opposite rock wall, crouching low behind a large shield. Trex immediately pulled back on the bow, but didn’t fire. Once the flying wolf’s large feet had contacted the vertical stone surface he immediately pushed off the stone face and leapt towards Trex’s ledge.

Crouched as low as possible behind his shield, Thindon tried to avoid being hit by an arrow. Trex tracked the jump in mid air, his eyes focused on the feet as they sailed towards him. The exile’s padded bare feet had barely made contact with the ground when the arrow struck his right foot.

Yelping in pain, Thindon was instantly off balance. The injured exile was unable to hold his ground as Trex came ramming into his shield with his shoulder. Tumbling backwards off the ledge, the exile’s life flashed in front of his eyes, this was it.

A few seconds later, and to his own surprise, Thindon opened his eyes again to see the face of Tomn.

‘Damn it!’ shouted Tomn.

Thindon suddenly wondered if it was indeed lucky to still be alive.

Back down at the base of the cliff, the improvised siege weapon was almost ready. Large stones had been tied to one end of a long trunk as a counterweight system for the sling at the other end. Philton sensed the commotion coming from up on the cliffs and opened one of his eyes slowly to check. He could see two exiles coming down, one was obviously limping. Philton smiled as he saw that the third member of the group had remained to keep the three fugitives trapped on the high ledge.

At least that was going to plan, Philton thought to himself.

Closing his eye again, Philton’s small leathery oval nose scrunched up as he increased his concentration.

Over at the nearly completed catapult sling, one of the building wolves shivered suddenly, it was as if the heat was being sucked straight out the air itself.

Up on the ledge, Trex felt this too. Ignoring the new cold, the young lion was looking around to see if there was any way further up the cliff face. A few moments later, Trex felt something else, rain. With each heavy drop that hit his smooth fur it washed away any thoughts of further climbing; it was dangerous enough in the dry. They were definitely trapped. Pulling his cloak further around him the young lion leaned forward to take a glimpse down the cliff. Immediately below him he could see only one exile. The wolf was huddled into a recess so as to stay out of the sudden rain. For a brief moment Trex caught a glimpse of Tomn helping the other wolf back down somewhere to the right.

Trex realised that they would not try to storm their way up the ledge anymore. Lowering his bow, Trex squinted to make out what the other exiles were up too down there. Trex shivered, and it had nothing to do with the cold wind and rain.

The lion youth put his weapon to one side. Using whatever was available, he tried to make the two nearby unconscious females as comfortable as he could. The rain continued to pour as Trex took off his cloak and thinned it out. Taking the second half of his staff he tried to make an elaborate shelter using his cloak, tying down the corners of the fabric with large rocks. Though basic, the makeshift tent effectively kept the three out of the wind and rain. Trex sat at the lower opening, his bow loosely in hand, keeping watch in case the exile was suicidal enough to try and climb on the wet rocks.

Overhead, a lightning flash and boom of thunder added another sinister dimension to the unnatural weather. Trex suddenly noticed something unusually white growing on the rock face beside him.

‘Wispdews?’ said Trex in surprise. Reaching out, he touched the delicate white flower. Trex suddenly realised that it really was quite pretty. Picking a few of the flowers Trex placed them carefully in a small pouch he wore on his belt.

‘Trex,’ said a weak voice from behind the lion. Sara was regaining consciousness. ‘What’s going on?’ she asked weakly.

Trex moved to kneel next to her.

‘We’re trapped,’ said Trex, smiling despite the negative nature of his news. The lion was just glad to have Sara conscious again. He had been feeling increasingly alone for the last few minutes. ‘They can’t get up, but we can’t get down. We’re safe for a little while at least.’

Sara tried to move but her body was exhausted, there was simply nothing left to give and the wolf slumped back down.

‘Just lay still for a while,’ instructed Trex. Grabbing his water pouch, he offered her a drink, which she accepted with a bit of his help. ‘Here, eat this,’ said Trex, handed over a small dried biscuit.

Sara looked at it suspiciously.

‘You brought food?’ she asked with a raised eyebrow.

‘Well, yes. I expect to get away after all… got to be prepared,’ he said with a cheerful smile.

Sara eyed the biscuit suspiciously, not really trusting lion food.

‘Your stubbornness just saved us,’ said Trex with a tired but kind voice. ‘There’s no need to go showing me the bad side of your pig headedness straight away.’

Sara looked at him blankly, then a tired smiled appeared across her face, she nibbled at the biscuit. To the wolf’s surprise, it didn’t taste half bad.

‘It’s raining?’ Sara stated, as well as asked.

‘Yeah, and it’s getting worse, looks like one of the exiles down there is a Sage.’

Sara was shocked.

‘Males can’t be Sages,’ Sara stated blankly.

‘No one told him that,’ replied Trex, looking back out of the shelter towards the wolves below. ‘Anyway, we have male Shaman,’ the lion continued. ‘I don’t see why you can’t have male Sages.’

Sara thought about this, the idea seemed so wrong somehow. Even if male wolves were allowed to be taught, there was no way males were powerful or skilled enough with their emotions, or was there? A large bang outside indicated a lightning strike had just hit the top of the cliff, sending boulders narrowly missing the three on the ledge. Sara tensed up in fear, obviously she had been wrong.

Trex grabbed the edge of the cloak/tent with his free hand. He tried to harden the thin material as best he could. After the falling rocks had passed, Trex carefully looked out of the small half tent into the pouring rain. The material fluttered dangerously in the strong wind, if he was not careful his beloved garment would be blown away.

Suddenly there was another loud crash, but this time not accompanied by a flash of light, nearby rocks crumbled down the cliff.

‘What was that?’ asked Sara, again shocked.

‘They have a siege weapon.’

‘A what?’

‘A catapult sling thingy… a trebuchet’ replied Trex.

‘Help me,’ instructed Sara.

Moving over, Trex helped Sara across to the opening. Looking down, she could see the exiles reloading their hastily constructed siege weapon.

‘For the love of Gaia,’ the young wolf mouthed. ‘This is ridiculous.’

‘I would have to agree,’ Trex commented. He was so fed up with the whole thing that he almost found the situation humorous.

‘We’re sitting ducks up here,’ said Sara, sliding down a bit so as to prop herself up on her arms, her legs were still too weak to hold her weight.’

‘Yep,’ agreed Trex, ‘last time I offer to help someone in the affairs of wolves.’

‘I assure you,’ replied Sara, ‘it’s normally not this bad.’

‘Lucky me then,’ said Trex with an ironic laugh. Sara gave him an odd look.

‘What’s so funny?’

‘Nothing…” replied Trex, “it’s just that when I set out on this trip, it was for a bit of excitement.’

‘I think you got more then you bargained for,’ said Sara. She was also suddenly laughing ironically; there was little else they could do.

The two ducked as a second bolder smashed into the cliffs nearby, sending rock shards flying everywhere.

‘Well it looks like its time for a bit of foolish heroism,’ said Trex with a sigh.

He lowered the arm he had been using to protect his face.

‘Sorry?’

‘I’ll have to attack,’ said Trex, his eyes unfocused and somewhere else, he was thinking about all of his adventure books. He finally had found himself in one of those ridiculous situations he had always read about, there was nothing left to do, but do something… well ridiculous.

‘You have got to do what?’

‘Attack,’ repeated Trex, giving her an odd smile. ‘We can’t rely on wolf inaccuracy for ever.’

Sara gave a slightly hurt expression. Lions were well known for their accuracy, but she had never heard it put like that before. Trex removed his small machete like short sword from his belt. Transforming his bow back into a section of staff he attached the blade.

‘It’s suicide,’ said Sara, uncertainly.

‘Well it wouldn’t be foolish heroism if it didn’t look like that, now would it,’ countered Trex. He was becoming more determined, time was running out.

Sara didn’t understand what Trex was talking about.

Maybe it was simply that Trex had read a little too many adventure books over the last few years. Blinking a few times, he turned to walk over to the way that lead back down.

‘Wait!’ shouted Sara.

Trex turned around, the rain was dripping off his already sodden fur.

‘What about your cloak? And your other section of staff?’

‘You’ll need it,’ said Trex, his normally cheerful expression drained of feeling.

‘Don’t be an idiot!’ shouted Sara, becoming upset. She crawled slightly towards Trex, exposing herself to the weather.

‘You are not going down there to die!’

Trex shrugged his shoulders.

‘It will make little difference.’

‘The heck it won’t! You didn’t say all that rubbish before just to give up now,’ yelled Sara. Despite her weakened state, the young wolf was becoming increasingly angry.

Trex blinked a few times, staring at the glaring wolf.

‘Now I expect you back up here damn it! And you’ll need every stupid lion trick you have to do it.’

Trex stared at her for a few seconds. She definitely was one stubborn girl.

Tomn looked up into the cliffs, he could just make out Trex walking around up there.

‘What the heck are they doing?’ Tomn asked.

Antrie shrugged his shoulders. Two other exiles were currently winding up the counterweight of the sling.

‘Who knows? In a few minutes it won’t matter,’ replied Antrie,

pulling on some ropes to realign the throwing arm.

In front of the small group Philton was still meditating.

Tomn looked up into the storm clouds; the twisting thick black clouds were totally out of place in the otherwise mostly clear sky. It looked like some type of mini cyclone. Even if the Trebuchet catapult didn’t get the small group in the next few minutes, the storm would surely blow them off the cliff itself.

Philton’s mind was focused on the storm; there was little room for anything else. Somewhere deep down, however, he couldn’t help feeling a sudden sense of unease.

Tomn, despite his youth, also sensed it, but the catapult was loaded and ready to fire. His attention turned back to the cliff, surely this one would hit.

‘Lookout!’ screamed one of the exiles who had bean loading. Tomn turned just in time to see the massive fireball as it sailed towards them.

‘Jump!’ Tomn yelled. Grabbing the stunned Antrie, the wolf threw himself to one side as the burning sphere narrowly missed them, smashing into the catapult.

With a massive explosion the siege weapon disintegrated into splinters.

‘Lions!’ yelled an exile.

Tomn stood up to see two lions a few hundred meters away. One, obviously a Shaman, was still recovering from his firing position.

The old lion Shaman was still on his large camel, the unimpressed looking animal had remained quite calm despite the pyrotechnics. The second lion was dismounting from his horse, they had obviously just arrived.

‘Get them!’ yelled Tomn. He knew that they would have to close ranks if they wanted to stand a chance against the lion Shaman.

Nearby on his rock, Philton was struggling to come out of the depth of his meditative state. Still dazed, he unsteadily got to his feet.

‘W….Wait,’ Philton tried to say, but he was still disorientated.

Tomn and the three exiles had their weapons drawn and were already running fast in the direction of the two lions.

‘You two attack the Shaman. Stop him from using his formulas!’ shouted Tomn to the two exiles to his left.

The four attacking wolves were already charged up with anger.

Stood against the approaching exiles were Professor Katan and Captain Felx. The two lions seemed to exchange some words before Felx quickly pulled his orange cloth over his head to wear the changeable fabric like a poncho; he collected his sword and shield, now he was ready to fight.

In an unusual move for a lion, Felx began to close the distance to his adversaries, running towards them on an angel to draw away two of the fighters from the dismounting older Shaman.

Tomn and Antrie reacted as hoped and after a short run clashed with Captain Felx. Tomn’s ears were flat against his head. Teeth gnashing, the wolf jumped high into the air at the last second to bear down on the lion.

Felx seemed to speed up before sliding low to avoid the flying Tomn completely. Swinging his sword up on an angle, the sliding Felx forced Antrie to dive to one side. Antrie’s sword blocked the lions attempt to cut his legs out from under him. Felx’s sword clipped the end of Antrie’s bushy tail, cutting off some hair. Springing up from the cloud of dust, Felx was on-top of Antrie before the wolf knew what was happening. Antrie had never fought anything that moved so fast before. Despite superior strength, Antrie found himself on the back foot. Strength didn’t help at all if the opponent was too quick to hit. Felx ducked and weaved like a snake, using his shield skilfully to deflect the enemy’s blows and not to block them outright.

Antrie was wrong footed and knocked to the ground before Tomn was able to rejoin the fight.

Coming to his comrade’s help, the enraged Tomn was able to deliver a skilful blow to the centre of Felx’s shield and sent the lion flying backwards a few meters through the air. The bearded lion landed on his feet skilfully, springing back into the offensive immediately. Jumping high, Felx deflected a slashing-blow below him and hit Tomn in the side of the head with his shield as he sailed, half spinning, over the wolf, landing safely on the other side. Stunned for a second, Tomn could only block feebly when Felx came at him again moments later. The exile finally went down when Felx hit him in the back of the head with the hilt of his sword.

Antrie barely had a chance to get up before Felx was again in his face. With Tomn down, the wolf’s confidence started to fail, his large pointed ears dropping to either side of his head. With the exile’s strength weakening, Felx was able to disarm the wolf with a few skilful moves.

Finding himself kneeling in the dirt, the stunned wolf could only look on as Felx delivered a blow to his chest with the hilt of his sword. Falling back into the dirt, the winded wolf had just enough energy to look at his chest in shock. The stunning poison flooded his system and the wolf fell into unconsciousness.

Felx was holding still in the final position of his last strike, after a short deep breath he then moved fluently back into an alert stance. Steadying his breathing, Felx turned just in time to see a flash. Katan had discharged a lightning blast at point blank range, one exile was hit and fell to the ground, his fur standing on end and smouldering slightly.

The second exile had jumped back and sunk his sword into the ground, earthing the powerful electrical discharge just in time. With his colleagues all down, the remaining exile knew he was alone. Taking a side-glance at Captain Felx, the remaining exile saw that the end was near, and it would not be happy ending for him. Backing away, the last wolf fighter turned and ran.

The two lions felt the building fear in the young male wolf as he sped away.

Turning back towards the remains of the catapult, Katan walked up to be at the side of Felx. Both pale orange Anthros looking towards the one remaining exile.

Philton examined the two lions carefully, summing up the situation. He had now recovered from his trance and the concentrated storm he had caused was breaking up above him. The dispersing dark clouds were releasing their last bit of rain onto the three Anthros and their tense standoff. The only sound now was the falling rain and the last of the wind. A rainbow flashed briefly across the sky.

Katan fumbled in his pouch, preparing another Shaman weapon, just in case.

Philton recognised both of the lions, having been well informed before entering RefugeCross. It was an uneven standoff and he knew it.

‘Captain Felx, Professor Katan,’ said Philton calmly in greeting.

‘And who do we have the pleasure of talking to?’ asked Katan sternly. He could sense that this was no ordinary wolf.

‘Just an exile,’ replied Philton with a sinister smile.

‘Then I would suggest you surrender,’ stated Captain Felx calmly.

Philton simply continued to smile; his eyes were quickly scanning the surroundings to ensure that he was able to retreat.

‘No,’ replied Philton calmly. ‘I would suggest that you don’t try and follow.’ Throwing his hands forward, Philton let loose a barrage of projected emotions. The earth in front of the wolf trembled, and like an ocean wave, the vegetation sprung up in front of Philton and surged towards the lions.

The older academic lion Katan had not been in direct combat often, and had never experienced such an emotional attack. Like a deer caught in headlights, the lion was frozen to the spot.

Captain Felx was unmoved though. The projected emotions flowed off of him like water off a rock. He ran forward to meet the first wave of vegetation, sweeping his sword low to cut the vines as they sprang from the ground to attack him.

‘Katan!’ screamed Felx as he was pushed back slowly. ‘Snap out of it!’

Katan shook his head so as to clear it.

Captain Felx jumped back as another wave came in, barely avoiding the ensnaring vegetation.

Throwing his hands up, Katan released some powder into the air. With a quick swish of two small blades a spark ignited a large ball of flames above the older lion’s head. Seemingly hovering in the air, the fireball stayed still until Katan threw his weight forward, causing the ball of fire to race off low just above the earth. Captain Felx jumped out of the way as the ball of fire hurtled towards Philton, vaporising each wave of vegetation it hit. There was a flash and another explosion. Both lions covered their eyes with a raised arm. Once the light had died down they could see that Philton had gone.

‘Tricky customer,’ said Captain Felx, putting his weapons away.

‘I say we don’t try and follow,’ Katan suggested, still a little shaken up. Felx smiled at his older friend.

‘Agreed.’

Moving forward, the two adults approached the remains of the catapult. Looking around, there was little left, Philton had grabbed the horses and fled, taking the one injured exile nearby with him.

‘Captain Felx!’ called a voice from the rocky outcrop nearby.

Turning, Felx was totally stunned to see Trex appearing from between the large boulders near to the cliff base.

‘Trex? But what in the world are you doing here?’ said Katan in complete surprise.

‘I could ask you the same thing,’ replied Trex. He had a huge smile on his face, all previous hardships forgotten. Running over to meet the two, Trex couldn’t help but give a quick hug to the bewildered Captain.

‘I’m glad you’re here though, you just saved us,’ Trex said, backing up.

‘But what… wait, us? Who else is here?’ asked Felx. He was just calm enough to think straight. Felx had never known Trex to do anything other then on his own.

‘Sara and Sage Filfia are up there,’ replied Trex, pointing up towards the cliffs.

Looking up, Felx could just make out Sara still on the ledge. She had regained enough strength to stand up. Filfia, however, was still lying down.

‘Sara?’ mouthed Captain Felx to himself. This was just getting weirder.

‘They chased us up there and were going to finish us off with the catapult thingy,’ said Trex happily.

‘Wait, how many exiles are there exactly?’ asked Felx seriously, coming back to his senses.

‘Don’t worry, that’s it, the last one is out cold up there,’ Trex said, pointing back up to the cliff. ‘I was about to try and attack when you showed up, perfect timing too, the poor wolf turned to look at what was going on and was out cold before he knew it.’ Trex grinned from ear to ear.

‘Is Filfia ok?’ asked Katan seriously.

‘I think so,’ replied Trex, calming down slightly. ‘She was still out when I left her.’

Katan looked over at Captain Felx, who himself was looking as bewildered as the older Shaman was. This was going to be some interesting story.


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