Refuge Cross “The Exiles”

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Chapter 16

Who feels like a hero?

(The tale of Trex & Sara)

It took an hour or so to get Sara and Sage Filfia down from the ledge on the cliff. To everyone’s great relief the condition of the wolf Sage was stable, but she was still unconscious. In the meantime Sara was recovering slowly and Katan had seen to Trex’s reopened wound on his leg. The young lion had almost forgotten about his injury in all the excitement.

Sara found herself suddenly worried again; this time it was about being surrounded by lions, particularly Captain Felx. The Captain had only ‘unofficially’ pardoned her from her trespass a few days ago.

Sara was put at ease, as well as slightly confused, when both adult lions thanked her personally for her efforts in saving Sage Filfia.

Trex, for his part, happily recounted what had happened to them over the last few days. The exited lion youth only left out the parts that Sara had told him in confidence, thus keeping his promise to her, much to the relief of the tired wolf youth.

The captured exiles had all been tied together and were sitting back to back. Misha and Flint had also returned, the two horses having regained a bit of energy after a much needed rest.

Though Trex had been happy to tell his side of the story, Katan and Felx had not spoken much about why they had suddenly appeared.

Sara sat next to a small fire, eating some soup Katan had prepared for everyone. Trex was helping Felx and Katan prepare a stretcher on Katan’s camel, it would allow them to transport the unconscious Sage Filfia more comfortably.

‘Aren’t you afraid that the exiles will attack again,’ asked Sara, interrupting the end of Trex’s story.

Trex looked over at the seated female wolf, his mind still racing. Trex wasn’t annoyed at having been interrupted, he was just elaborating on some of the more exiting bits anyway.

‘The ones that were poisoned should be out for a whole day,’ said Trex, ‘and other then the leader, only two of the others would be conscious again.’

‘Yes, amongst them the two most dangerous ones,’ pressed Sara.

‘We sent a message as soon as we saw your distress arrow,’ replied Captain Felx. He pulled at a rope, securing the stretcher firmly to one side of the camel. ‘Your arrow was so high that perhaps even the wolves at the northern outpost noticed it.’

‘Really,’ said Trex, amazed. The outpost was many kilometres away.

‘It will take a few days for lions to get through the wilderness to here,’ said Sara, looking worryingly at the surrounding forest. Sara was now able to walk and ride again, but it would be some time before she could fight once more. Though she had seen how the two adult lions could handle themselves in combat, she didn’t feel comfortable relying on them when all the remaining exiles were conscious again.

‘What makes you think we sent the message to the lion outposts?’ asked Captain Felx with a smile.

Sara blinked, looking over she could see a few small cages hanging on one side of the Shaman’s camel. A small humming bird like creature was fluttering around in one. These colourful fast little birds filled the same role as homing pigeons do on our world.

‘I just assumed…’ she started.

‘Wolf soldiers should be here in a few hours. Once they’re here we’ll take Filfia back to Torstberg and head home from there,’ Felx interrupted, turning to help Katan. ‘And if that exile leader is as well informed as he appears to be, he’ll be trying his hardest to stay out of everyone’s way until the situation cools down a bit.’

Sara looked back down at her mug, taking another sip of the thick gooey soup.

‘So why are you here actually? You never said,’ asked Trex suddenly.

Katan and Felx exchanged a knowing glance.

Katan stroked his long grey beard for a few moments before eventually replying.

‘Brekiz helped us there actually… He proved that someone had been tampering with the messenger birds and intercepting messages.’

‘You’re kidding me,’ replied Trex. He was rather impressed that one of Brekiz’s conspiracy theories had actually led to something.

‘Unfortunately not, but luckily we got a second message which made us suspicious, so we decided to come and visit the Sage to make sure.’

‘A message, what did it say?’ asked Trex.

Katan avoided the question, working instead to modify the saddle of his camel.

‘Let’s just say we suspected something was up,’ Katan said.

‘Why didn’t you just inform Mayor Petrice?’ asked Sara in a low voice.

Captain Felx looked down at the wolf, he knew what had happened to her grandfather and could guess the connection; even if Trex had not said a word regarding Sara’s reason for trying to save Sage Filfia.

‘Lions are not the only ones who have untrustworthy elements from within, it seems,’ Felx said dryly, keeping a close eye on the wolf.

Sara cringed, instantly regretting the question.

‘The message we got warned of… undesirables, within the wolf government at Torstberg. Unfortunately it wasn’t specific,’ Felx continued.

Sara instantly thought of her grandfather, since when had she been a part of undesirable elements. Taking a hurried sip of her soup, Sara managed to burn her tongue.

‘Ouch.’

Ignoring this, Felx turned back to Trex.

‘So we thought we would go ourselves to make sure,’ said the Captain.

‘So the lion official in RefugeCross who tampered with the birds is connected with the exiles trying to kill the Sage?’ asked Trex, confused.

‘No, the only thing they had in common was that they wanted the same thing.’

‘Sorry, I don’t understand,’ said Trex.

‘It appears that the exiles are working for someone in the wolf government who wants a new war between lions and wolves.’

‘That’s why they were trying to kill Filfia,’ said Sara out aloud without even realising it, ‘she helps to lead the wolf councillors who don’t want another war,’

The whole thing made more sense to her all of a sudden.

‘That’s right,’ said Katan, who was impressed with the young wolfs knowledge.

‘Whoever was tampering with the messages on our side had nothing to do with that plan, but when they read the warning they were well enough informed about Filfia to know what it could mean if they let it happen.’

Trex stopped what he was doing and straightened up, he was trying to piece the whole thing together in his mind.

‘War.’

‘Exactly, so why stop the enemy from doing something that you want. They destroyed the message hoping that it would be too late by the time we got another warning.’

‘Why would lions want a new war?’ asked Sara, still suspicious.

‘Why would wolves want a new war?’ replied Captain Felx.

Sara didn’t reply. The whole thing was ridiculous to her, the last war had been fought to a bloody stalemate, everyone knew that, why any Anthro would think that a new one would be any different was beyond her.

‘Who sent the message then? And why didn’t they just send it to Filfia in the first place,’ Sara persisted, finding the whole thing confusing.

‘I can answer that,’ said a quiet voice nearby.

‘Petil!’ exclaimed Katan, using Filfia’s first name. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Fine, fine,’ said the Sage quietly, ‘quite surprised to be alive actually.’

Katan was kneeling beside his old friend.

‘Thank the Great Spirit that you are,’ said the older lion with a smile. ‘Otherwise I would have been in serious trouble with my wife.’

The exhausted Sage smiled slightly, and then turned her head back towards Sara.

‘What is your name?’

‘Sara Kelgorn Ma’am.’

Filfia’s eye’s moved over to Trex.

‘Trex Tristfull Ma’am,’ said Trex, in response to the question in her eyes.

‘Interesting,’ said Filfia, recognising the family names. They were quite well known, thanks to Zea being a mixed race cub.

‘Well Sara,’ said Filfia slowly, turning to face the young wolf. ‘I did receive the warning, but I didn’t realise its importance… I am just lucky that I have friends who are more cautious then me.’ Filfia briefly made kind eye contact with Felx and Katan. ‘That is also the answer to your other question. Just as there are some Anthros at work on both sides trying to start a war, there are also Anthros on either side that are trying to prevent one. I am just glad that our group, unlike the others, have good communication between our two races.’

Sara digested this. All of a sudden the whole thing seemed infinitely more complicated. She had just wanted to work for her race, help her kind. In doing something that she had thought was right, she had almost helped to start a war? Sara still wasn’t sure of the details, but she did know that war was wrong; it could never be a good idea.

Sara really wanted to talk to her grandfather, had he known this? Obviously not at the start, or he would not have tried to stop it later. She really needed time to herself, time to think.

‘Politics is just nuts,’ said Trex eventually, who had also tried to figure out what was going on.

‘That’s a very accurate way of putting it,’ said Filfia with a weak smile.

‘You had better get some rest,’ suggested Katan. He was still worried that Filfia was too weak for all this talking.

‘Ok,’ replied Filfia tiredly. Turning her head one more time towards the two youngsters she simply said, ‘Thank you.’ Settling back down, she closed her eyes, returning to rest.

It was barely an hour later when a distant horn announced the approach of a wolf patrol. By this stage everything was ready for the departure of the small mixed group. They were only waiting for the wolf escort before moving out.

‘I think I’ll head off before they get here,’ announced Sara suddenly, getting up. The young wolf felt much better after her rest, and didn’t like the idea of having to explain herself to all the wolves who were about to turn up.

‘What? Why?’ asked Trex, astonished.

‘I just want to go home.’

‘But you’re a hero, there’s no reason not to go to Torstberg.’

Sara stopped to face the group. Captain Felx was sitting next to Shaman Katan and looked on with interest at the wolf’s reaction.

‘It’s more complicated then that,’ Sara replied, thinking of her grandfather.

Though she had now achieved what she had set out to do, it just seemed to be getting more difficult to understand and she didn’t feel up to the complexity, not just yet.

‘You’re not well enough to travel alone,’ said Felx sternly, ‘even with the exiles on the run; you are still in the wild,’

Though Captain Felx had no power over Sara out here, the female wolf knew that she would have to come up with some type of argument or good reason before he allowed her to go. Sara couldn’t help but become frustrated with the bothersome adult lion, what did it matter to him what she did?

Trex was standing between the two and felt Sara’s frustration; the young wolf was too tired to try and mask her feelings.

‘I’ll go with her, we live near each other after all,’ Trex suddenly suggested.

Felx observed the young lion, noticing his normally carefree expression had taken a determined edge. There was a pause, Sara was about to argue when Felx interrupted.

‘I suppose you two have proven that you can take care of yourselves.’

Sara again hesitated, she wasn’t really happy with the arrangement, but there didn’t seem to be any other way for her to leave.

‘Ok,’ she agreed eventually.

A few minutes later, the two were mounted up and ready to go.

‘Be careful out there, the exiles should have headed north, but then you never know,’ warned Captain Felx.

‘We’ll be fine,’ said Trex confidently with a smile.

‘Sara,’ said Captain Felx suddenly.

The young wolf turned to face him.

‘You really did something noble today. It’ll be fine.’

Sara simply nodded blankly. Acknowledging Katan, she took one more quick look around before turning Misha in the direction of the woods.

‘We’ll drop by on the way down to RefugeCross,’ Captain Felx said to Trex with a smile.

‘See you then,’ Trex said, returning the grin. ‘Thanks again Professor Katan,’ Trex called to the older lion. ‘And thank Brekiz for me as well.’

‘Take care my boy,’ Katan called after him.


It was midday as the two youths started their journey back home. Travelling at a reasonable pace the lion and wolf didn’t talk much, just enough to be able to set up camp that night, and undertake what was necessary. Sara was lost in her own thoughts; Trex could sense this and was happy to let the wolf have her time while the two of them mulled over what they had just been through.

The two independent youths were both a little surprised that they were so comfortable travelling together the whole time. The last few days had ingrained in them the value of not working alone, and both of them actually enjoyed the other’s company instead of being irritated by each other’s mannerisms. There was something to be said for being part of a team; it was worth putting up with the occasional annoyances.

The next day started pretty much the same way, the milder weather and stunning coastal forests of the lower mountains and hills provided the perfect opportunity for the two to recover physically and mentally.

It was soon approaching late evening again and they were now only a few hours from home.

The two riders had dismounted, allowing their horses to rest and have a drink from a cool spring

‘Should we set up camp?’ asked Trex. ‘It’s getting sort of dark.’

Even after a whole day to thinking things through, Sara was still not eager to get back to her home, and after all, it really was getting dark; even Trex with his good night vision was starting to have trouble following the trail.

‘Yeah, I suppose so,’ said Sara eventually.

Trex looked at the young wolf with concern; she had remained surprisingly depressed over the last day and a bit, despite having just achieved so much.

Later, when the two were sitting around a fire eating their evening meal, Trex finally spoke again.

‘Is everything ok?’ he asked.

The fire crackled. Sara finished the mouthful she was chewing on.

‘I’m fine.’

‘I can feel that something’s wrong,’ Trex persisted carefully. He looked down at his own food with a frown. ‘Do you want to talk about it?’

Sara didn’t respond, simply eating on.

‘I’m sure your grandfather is fine,’ continued Trex, putting his travel bowl away.

Sara blinked a few times while she stared at the fire absentmindedly. She hadn’t actually thought of her grandfather’s condition at all, she had just assumed he was still recovering.

‘When he and your parent’s hear about what you did, there’s no way you’ll be in the bad books; I mean you really are a hero, we saved the day,’ Trex said cheerfully. ‘And remember.’ Trex grinned more deviously. ‘We saved the life of a Sage. Filfia owes us one and no one is going to mess with her, not even your mother.’

Sara couldn’t help but grin at this. Perhaps it wasn’t going to be too bad.

‘Let’s get some sleep,’ said Sara eventually, her mood slightly improved.

Trex nodded, happy that he had at least somewhat made her feel better.


The next morning, Sara opened her eyes to see the sun rising into a cloudless sky. The two had camped on the ridge that separated the wilderness from the border zone. From where they were they could see clearly all the way down the foothills to RefugeCross far below. They could also see east towards the river valley, their homes and the desert beyond. It really was breathtakingly stunning.

Sara could not find Trex anywhere, his bed role was empty; nearby, the fire was re-lit, he had obviously gone to get water.

Trex returned a few minutes later with a pot of water to find Sara preparing Misha to leave.

‘You don’t want breakfast?’ the young lion asked.

‘No thanks,’ replied Sara kindly. ‘I think I’ll just head home. No need to hold off the inevitable.’

‘Do you really think your mother’s going to be that angry?’ Trex asked. Somehow he could not believe that Sara was in quite as much trouble as she made out. ‘I mean, I’m sure Captain Felx and Katan will probably drop by your place on the way down as well, if they haven’t been there already.’

While Trex and Sara had travelled the last days through the wilderness, the others had returned via Torstberg; on the better roads, it was quite possible that Katan and Captain Felx could well have overtaken the two youngsters.

‘That’s a lot of important Anthros who are all going to be saying how wonderful you are.’

‘You’re not worried at all, are you?’ Sara asked suddenly.

‘What? About Karthen and Sharlee? Well, a little I suppose,’ Trex said, referring to his uncle and aunt. He hadn’t really thought about it. Trex was bound to get into a bit of trouble, but the excitement of the last few days had been keeping his thoughts away from these negative aspects.

‘But how angry can they stay, I mean really,’ he continued thoughtfully.

Sara thought about this before replying. She had remained negative throughout the last few days despite her successes; she had focused on the trouble she would be in when she finally got back home. Sara hadn’t really allowed herself to see that there was possibly a positive way forward for her as well.

‘I suppose after I left to warn Sage Filfia I just didn’t think about any afterwards… It was all such a mess, I sort of tried to forget it,’ said Sara dejectedly while she continued to tie the last of her things onto Misha.

‘So when it was finally over, it all sort of came back to me. I never really thought of what I was doing as heroic,’ Sara stated. ‘It was just something I had to do, somehow, to try and make things right, but it’s still all such a mess.’

‘Well, at least you now know what the mess is, I suppose.’ offered Trex. He put down the tall metal pot full of water next to the fire. ‘I mean, we know a lot more then we did a few days ago. It helps when planning out what to do in the future.’

Looking out towards RefugeCross, Trex had a faraway look in his eyes. The smile on his face was somehow infectious.

‘You are an eternal optimist aren’t you,’ stated Sara, unable not to smile herself.

Jumping up onto Misha, the wolf patted her horse. Rider and horse moved over towards Trex and the fire.

Trex was now gazing out towards the rising sun. It was quite beautiful against the desert horizon.

‘It’s a new day, there’s always a way forward,’ Trex said, repeating a line his uncle Karthen loved to use.

‘I suppose you’re right,’ said Sara.

Misha was nibbling at some grass. Sara leaned forward to stretch a little, also admiring the sunrise; she actually saw how beautiful it was for the first time in quite a while. Sara sighed, the optimism was doing her good, but it was her persistence and duty which now called her home.

‘Thanks Trex,’ Sara said suddenly.

‘For what? You’re skipping breakfast’

Sara rolled her eyes.

‘For everything you nut, for sticking by me.’

‘You’re the one that saved me, remember,’ Trex said. Standing up, he stretched a bit.

‘I’m sure we saved each other a few times the last few days,’ said Sara.

Trex grinned; it had been quite an adventure.

‘No problem than, and thanks yourself,’ he replied.

Sara nodded in acknowledgement. Looking out towards her home she urged her horse Misha to start the last stretch of her trip.

‘Let me know how you get on… I’m sure you’ll be fine,’ called Trex.

‘I will,’ called back Sara. ‘Take Care Trex… I’ll see you around.’

Sara rode off without another word.

‘Yeah… see you around,’ said Trex, but not really loud enough for Sara to hear.

Trex returned to cooking his breakfast, stirring the pot absentmindedly. Subconsciously his free hand went to one of his pouches on his belt, removing the small wispdew blossoms he had picked a few days ago on the cliff. The blossoms were still in remarkably good condition. Twirling the pretty flowers between his fingers, Trex looked up at RefugeCross, still far in the distance. He had no idea what would happen in the future, but suddenly it was a future that looked a lot brighter, and if nothing else, definitely more exciting.

END OF BOOK ONE


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