Refuge Cross “The Exiles”

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Chapter 3


Not such a happy reunion

(The tale of Sara)

Trex jumped and hurdled his way across the different rooftops of the city of RefugeCross in an attempt to intercept the mysterious individual. Around them, the rising sun continued to clear the remaining mist.

A few stories below Trex and the mysterious wolf fugitive, the lower city was coming alive with activity.

Lions and wolves were opening businesses, goods were being set out, and all types of Anthros were already meeting in the many cafes that dotted the city area. This was the time to contemplate the new day, a time to shake lose the lingering veil of sleep.

As was typical amongst the Anthro lion race, many lions were undertaking morning exercises. The Anthro lions would meet in one of the many small lush parks that were doted throughout the otherwise cramped, but clean, inner city. The slow choreographed movements of the groups of lions of every age mixed with the low murmur of morning discussion and general sounds of a waking city. The choreographed moves of the many lions were almost identical to the ones Trex had been practicing the previous night.

It was through one of these small peaceful gatherings that someone raced at top speed, though their thoughts were anything but peaceful.

‘Stop!’ called a lion guard, sprinting into the clearing after the fugitive.

The lion participants could only watch as the cloaked figure raced past them, too shocked to react.

At top speed, the cloaked wolf knew that it could outrun any lion. This held little comfort, however, as fear began to grip its mind.

How did I get into this mess, thought the unknown fugitive desperately, they shot at me!

Turning another corner, the fugitive found itself in a narrow dead end. Not even slowing down, the wolf leapt onto a windowsill; pushing off towards the opposite wall before bouncing back and scampering up a drainpipe to get to the roof. Once up and running again, the wolf continued to sidestep objects and leap from rooftop to rooftop. The light orange cloak was fluttering violently, and the wolf struggled to keep the hood up and out if its face.

North, thought the fugitive wolf in an increasingly panicked state, head north!

This was a similar thought to that of Trex. He was now running parallel to the fellow trespasser on a nearby rooftop.

I know where you are headed, thought Trex calmly.

This was a good thing, because even running at full speed he could simply not keep up with the unknown figure. Trex concluded that it had to be a wolf, knowing that the incredible continued speed was beyond any Anthro lion.

Coming to a more open area of the city, the unknown wolf had to stop at the roof’s edge for a second to find a new way forward.

‘Lost are we?’ said Trex to himself with a smirk, he knew the rooftops well enough, and knew the wolf had just lost itself some time.

Reaching his turn-off, Trex looked back for a second at the momentarily stationary figure. Steady desert winds played with the wolf’s thin cloak, fluttering the cloth out behind it and causing it to cling to the unknown fugitive’s body… an obviously female body.

‘Damn it!’ said Trex out aloud. This was going to be a problem. Pushing away the doubt that was entering his mind, Trex turned and raced on away from the wolf.

He jumped from the roof into an alleyway at a flat run. The light orange cloak Trex was wearing was made of the same cloth as the small sash he had on the night before. The black round pendant on his chest revealed that the large cloak was, in fact, the same sash; now many times larger. As the young lion ran, his expression became more focused and the pendant began to hum soothingly.

Anyone seeing the young lion run past could have watched as the long orange cloak he wore shortened and tightened as he ran. The fabric seemed to shrink until it barely came down to the length of Trex’s short pants. The longer arms of the cloak retracted to allow his arms to swing freely leaving the former cloak looking much like a small orange poncho.

Trex was now able to reach behind his back; there he found two sections of flattened staff slung there snugly. Detaching them from their leather restraints, he pulled out the two sections of wood, each tipped with metal plates. Again the pendant hummed as the wood and metal seemingly transformed of its own will, becoming longer and thinner until each section was half the height of Trex. Clicking the two parts of the staffs together, Trex ran around another corner. He was ready.

Looking out from inside her hood, the female wolf searched frantically for a way forward. Turning towards the rising sun the figure’s features became more visible. A wild fringe of light brown hair played across intense golden eyes, surrounded by darker brown fur.

‘How did it come to this?’ Sara mumbled, feeling sorry for herself.

Her thoughts drifted back to last night, it had seemed so simple, sneak in, have a look around and get out. She should have been home by now. But then Sara had found herself trapped in a garden listening to some lovesick lion couple having a midnight rendezvous. To top it all off, someone else had caused the guards to raise the alarm. Her only good fortune had been hiding in the council chambers. At least she now knew what it was that had ruined her morning.

Sara doubted that her luck could get any worse. Taking a step, she tripped and stumbled over a discarded toy. Landing on one knee, she was shocked as an arrow slammed into the wall next to where she had just walked. The point of the arrow had broken on impact, revealing it to be a sleeping-potion tipped head.

Well at least they aren’t trying to kill me, Sara thought quickly. Overall though, this held little comfort. If she was caught, there would be real trouble, and she knew it.

Sara spotted a lioness soldier some way off on a higher rooftop to the north of the courtyard that she now bordered, the soldier was already lining up a second shot with her powerful bow.

Moving quickly, the young wolf zigzagged away from the archer across the roof. Suddenly turning, Sara jumped onto a tall palm-tree-like plant growing up from the courtyard below. The young flexible tree bent under the weight. Moving with the bending palm, Sara let go, her cloak flew up for a second before she landed smoothly on the grass. Sara sprang up immediately as another arrow impacted on the ground just near her.

The young Anthro female wolf ran to the southern entrance to the courtyard. She turned away as two guards came into the same street from the other end. Cringing, Sara ran towards her last option. From the view up on the roof she knew it was probably a lost cause. A part of the old unused outer-city walls ran through this section of town restricting access to the east.

Turning into the last exit, Sara was confronted with a dead-end, massive timber doors blocking the only other exit. Either side of her, high smooth walls where piled up with containers. Sara searched frantically for any way out. Turning, she spotted the two guards arriving to block her previous entrance, and now only exit.

‘I’m too young for this’, Sara mumbled to herself.

Terrified, Sara began to shake uncontrollably. Just able to recognize the symptoms before they took over her mind, Sara forced herself to take large slow breaths, trying to control her rampaging emotions before they crippled her.

‘Damn my luck,’ Sara said under her breath, trying to convert her fear to anger. Sara remembered one of her first lessons when she had gone to school: Fear helps you run, anger helps you fight. Concentrating on her emotions, she channelled her anger.

‘Anger makes you strong,’ she repeated under her breath, her shaking subsiding.

At any other time the pair of guards that had Sara trapped may have amused her. One was an incredibly tall lion female, her long blond hair framing a very pretty but determined expression. The second was a rather short male, dressed similarly to Trex. His scruffy brown hair and carefree goatee would not have looked menacing in the slightest under normal circumstances. In the current context, however, both looked terrifying to the young wolf.

‘I got her,’ said the male. He moved forward, staff in hand.

Both he and his companion’s staff had no blades attached to the ends, they were aiming to capture Sara, not kill her.

Backing away, Sara again adjusted her cloak, trying to keep her features concealed. Wide eyes focused on a windowsill back at the start of the dead-end alley. From the windowsill she could jump up to the roof. Sara spotted a number of sealed terracotta pots placed on timber boxes nearby. Desperately, she grabbed one, throwing it at the approaching guard.

Though being surprisingly heavy, Sara had no problem throwing the full ceramic pot with force.

With little room to move, the short male guard expertly swung his staff to smash the pot, deflecting the shards and releasing the light yellow powder contained inside. Rushing forward, he had to smash a further two pots before finally taking a swing at the girl.

Springing back to avoid the sweeping blow from the staff, Sara grabbed a large wooden crate nearby, swinging the solid object at the smaller guard.

Smoothly, the lion male deflected the crate away as it arced towards him; spinning the other end of the staff, he smashed the crate upwards, releasing its contents of fruit flying in every direction. The air was now chokingly thick with the fine yellow powder.

Sara’s back was now to the wall and she had no choice but to launch herself back up against it as the guard swung his staff low in an attempt to trip her up. Desperately, Sara pushed off the door with her feet to try and jump over him.

Twisting from his low stance, the lion male prepared to knock her down out of the air. Unfortunately for him, his back foot slipped on some of the recently spilt fruit, causing him to fall to the ground with a thud.

Peering into the thick cloud of powder the tall blond guard was astonished to suddenly find the cloaked wolf running towards her at full pace.

Swinging another heavy crate as she ran, Sara let the crate fly at the lioness.

The focused blond soldier went onto her back foot, swinging her staff to destroy the heavy object. Through the shards of the large crate came the lunging wolf, grabbing hold of the lioness’s staff and tumbling into her. The two rolled backwards in a full circle before returning to their feet, both still clutching the staff. Though considerably bigger then Sara, the adult lioness struggled to hold her grip against the superior strength of the emotion-driven wolf girl. The lioness was only able to see the gnashing teeth of the shorter wolf under the hood of the cloak.

Twisting her body, the guard pushed forward, digging one end of her staff into the ground. Manipulating the staff’s properties, the lioness caused the staff to bend suddenly like a spring.

Simultaneously releasing one hand and the built up energy in the staff, the lioness then grabbed the wolf’s wrist. She twisted her body to pull the now off-balanced Sara around her, throwing the surprised female wolf against the nearby building wall.

Impacting hard against the wall with her back, Sara shook her head, recovering quickly. Scrambling onto some nearby crates, Sara sprang high to reach the windowsill a few meters above the ground. She climbed up and then jumped to catch the roofs edge, pulling herself up quickly.

Down below, the shorter guard had emerged from the cloud of powder, his formerly pale orange fur now more yellow then anything else.

‘Need a lift up?’ his taller female companion asked in a sweet voice, seemingly not annoyed at the wolf’s escape.

Grinning, the shorter male soldier ran at her before jumping up onto the centre of her staff, which she held ready in both hands.

‘Geronimo!’ he yelled enthusiastically, as she used her strength and staff to throw him high up into the air. A trail of yellow powder floated down in his wake.

Landing elegantly on the centre of the roof, the shorter lion guard prepared himself for Sara, who was just getting back up after her climb.

‘Come on sweetie, give it up, it will be a lot easier for you,’ he said, taking a defensive stance.

There was nowhere left for her to go. Looking east, Sara judged the distance to the old city wall. Though her mind was flooded with anger and adrenalin she still had a small measure of control. Calculating the odds, she realized that she was no match for the guard.

‘You’ll never make it,’ the guard said honestly, following her gaze to the wall almost four meters away.

The outer city wall had long since lost its wooden walkway and was now just effectively a large thin wall, not a defensive city wall at all.

Sara turned, running two steps before throwing herself off the roof. Sailing through the air, she barely caught hold of the top of the two foot thick wall, the impact momentarily knocking the wind out of her.

‘Well I’ll be damned,’ said the shorter guard. He whistled his approval as he leaned on the staff to watch her struggle.

Recovering, Sara scampered a bit before pulling herself onto the remnants of the thin city wall. Looking down the other side, she saw that it was a fair drop to some stacked material below.

Thunk!

Sara suddenly heard the noise from behind. Turning, she realized that her trailing cloak had been pinned by an arrow against the wall that she was on. Sara spotted the same lion archer from before, her unusual jet black hair quite noticeable against her pale orange fur. Quickly undoing her cloak’s bindings, Sara simply let herself drop down the other side, bracing for impact.

Crash!

Though the city of RefugeCross had long since expanded beyond the limits of its old outer walls, the thin, tall barrier was still not easy to cross. On the outer side of the old wall there were larger compounds and scattered buildings belonging to the many wolf and lion farmers that lived and worked in the river valley. The residents of the outer areas used the old walls as a backing for smaller housing groups. It was in one of these dusty farming compounds that Sara landed.

Luckily for her, the residents were already out in the field.

Unluckily for her, the compound had only one exit, in which at this time stood a very determined and armed young lion male.

Moving forward, Trex watched the wolf slowly rolle clear of the rubble.

Standing up, Sara shook herself off, pushing back the hair that had fallen in front of her face. Trex didn’t recognize her, as she was covered in dust and her hair was a mess.

One of Sara’s large pointed ears turned automatically to register the approaching lion youth.

‘Now… Now just stay put,’ Trex said hesitantly, ‘the guards will be here in a few minutes.’

Trex was having difficulty suppressing his unease, and for some reason, he suddenly couldn’t shake the idea that the wolf seemed familiar to him. Trex knew it would take the guards a few minutes to navigate their way from the other side of the wall to the nearest way across.

Looking around quickly, Sara knew she was only meters from getting away. Her mind was now completely focused on escaping, and any recognition she might have had of Trex was pushed to the back of her mind.

Sara knew that lions were quicker then wolfs at very short distances. There was nothing for it, she would have to fight her way past. She spotted a few broken iron farming implements lying in the dirt, picking them up, she brandished her two makeshift clubs threateningly.

‘Step aside, I don’t have time for this, boy,’ Sara mocked.

Sera had quickly regained her fighting composure. She hadn’t made it all this way to be stopped by some farmer’s kid.

Trex could feel the anger building up within the wolf, it hit him like a hot wind coming from the direction of the scary young female, she looked even more terrifying then just seconds before. Though Trex had studied this in classes, it was the first time he faced it for real. His heart rate increased and his eyes went wide as fear started to creep over him.

Taking a step back, Trex took a deep breath just like he had learnt. Clearing his mind and focusing on his training, he threw off his uncertainty regarding the wolf, she obviously didn’t recognize him. Trex’s eyes focused in calm determination.

With clenched teeth, the wolf sprung forward, swinging her larger club in a wide arc.

Stepping back further, Trex deflected the blow away from his body, turning with the swing to bring his own staff back low at her ankle.

Kneeling down, she drove her smaller club into the ground, stopping the blow. Almost instantly, Sara kicked out, forcing the lion to roll away. Spinning his staff to deflect another blow, he was pushed further back. Rushing forward, she attempted to close-in on the lion.

Despite not being physically any larger or older then Trex, Sara, like all mature wolves, used her emotions to increase her speed and strength, easily pushing the young lion back. Even at her young age Sara was already stronger then many adult lions when using her emotions properly.

Trex was only too well aware of what he was up against. His only advantage was his skill and concentration, which was currently working overtime as he ducked, weaved and deflected in an attempt to remain out of her reach.

Though lions could not harness their emotions like wolves, they had developed their own tricks. Through long years of practice and concentration lions had learnt to manipulate the properties of some materials just through contact with them; able to change them almost instantly. Currently, Trex was using this to great effect, instinctually manipulating his light wooden staff to absorb the heavy blows of the iron bars. The staff flexed and stiffened instantly, small metal plates on the staff flowing like water across its surface to stop the light wood from snapping on impact from Sara’s weapons.

Sara had pushed him back to the gate and was becoming increasingly frustrated with the fight. Showing her inexperience, Sara lunged forward, promptly being redirected into the wall as Trex skilfully sidestepped.

Sara glared daggers at the young lion male. Her ears flattening against the top of her head as she sneered at him, hostility literally flowed from her.

Trex himself was now becoming tired and increasingly fearful, causing his concentration to slip. Though he had already delivered a few good hits, wolves felt little pain when enraged, and unlike him, she only had to land one single blow to finish the fight.

Only a few more minutes, he thought to himself desperately, his mind begging for the soldiers to come.

Trex was certain he was about to lose, he had run out of room to back into.

Now closer to the Anthro wolf, and currently not fighting for his life, Trex was able to get a better look at her.

Sara began to circle him slowly, preparing for another attack.

Trex’s eyes focused on the wolf’s family tattoo which was now visible. It circled her upper arm like a delicate chain, the thin intricate swirls and patterns clearly identifying her family clan. This was something common for all female wolves having reached adolescence, it being an ancient Anthro wolf tradition.

Realisation suddenly hit Trex .

‘Sara?’ he said in complete shock, letting his guard drop. Was this really her? He hadn’t seen her in years, since they were both cubs.

The wolf took a second to emerge from her emotionally fuelled fighting frame of mind. She also dropped her guard.

‘Trex? Is that really you?’

He was about to respond, but then his eyes suddenly unfocused, Trex crumpled into an unconscious heap onto the dirt.

‘And to think the two of you always used to play so nicely together,’ said a female figure who suddenly emerging behind the unconscious lion from the shadows. She held a large cast iron frying pan in one hand.

Looking up from the crumpled Trex, Sara recognised her sister.

‘Fera!?’ Sara exclaimed, ‘what are you doing here?’

‘You were gone all night… and where else would a little delinquent go but to the big city,’ the older sister calmly.

‘Once I got here all I did was follow the alarms and shouting,’ she added.

Fera dropped the frying pan beside the fallen Trex.

‘Come on, we had better get out of here, the guards were just behind me.’ The older sister turned and headed off quickly.

Sara walked past the fallen form of Trex, looking back for a second in concern, but at the moment she had bigger problems.

‘Misha and Sertan are just behind that building,’ said Sara’s older sister Fera while running. She was referring to the animals the two sisters had used to ride to RefugeCross from their home out in the country. Fera had found her sisters riding animal on the outskirts of town.

‘This day just keeps getting stranger,’ Sara said to herself in bewilderment.

She and her sister turned the last corner to where Fera had left their animals.

Running into someone, the two wolf sisters suddenly found themselves ending up on their bushy tails in the dirt.

‘Arrgh!’ complained both sisters simultaneously. Through the disturbed dust, both squinted up at the individual they had just run into.

‘Commander Felx!?’ exclaimed Fera. This time it was the older sisters turn to be in shock, backing away on all fours across the ground.

Though Fera was now a young adult wolf, and as such was probably physically stronger then Captain Felx when using her emotions, she was simply no match for the veteran lion soldier.

Looking down at the two female wolves, the Captain did not even have his weapons out, the armament he carried remaining sheathed on his belt. Behind him, the wolf sister’s two animals were still tied up.

‘Sara... Fera’ said the Captain calmly, looking down at the two girls, hands resting casually on his hips.

Captain Felx’s wore standard lion male uniform. On his belt were a medium sword and a dagger. A small leather strap was worn over his left shoulder, holding the quiver and two sections of staff clipped comfortably to his back.

‘The two of you haven’t seen a cloaked trespasser run past here by any chance have you?’ the Captain asked casually, his voice was far too jovial for either of the girls taste.

Even more unnerving for the wolf girls was his immediate recognition of the two and the use of their names; a handy trick the Captain had picked up to keep order in the larger town.

Felx towered over the two wolves, both of which were too scared to get up.

‘I… we were just-’ Fera started, the quicker thinking of the two.

‘It is good to see neither of you are carrying weapons,’ continued the Captain, talking over the older sister.

As the girls lived in wolf territory, they normally carried weapons of their own, unlike their fellow wolves who lived in and around the lion occupied city and lower planes.

‘As you well know it is a serious offence to carry weapons anywhere on the lower planes,’ continued Felx.

He didn’t add that it was only an offence for wolves.

The adult lion scanned the area casually, noting that some of his guards were approaching.

‘Almost as serious an offence as entering the greater city unregistered, or worse, trespassing in the inner city,’ continued Captain Felx.

Sara cringed involuntarily as Captain Felx’s focused on the younger wolf.

‘Even for someone as young as yourself, the consequences would be… unfortunate,’ Felx said carefully.

‘Particularly given the current circumstances,’ he added.

Feeling that she should say something, Sara opened her mouth to speak in her defence, to lie, to say anything! But nothing coherent would come out, just grunts and gibbering.

‘The two of you had better leave, there are thieves afoot,’ the Captain suddenly continued. He looked back towards were Trex lay in the dirt before moving forward to offer one of his hands to each girl.

‘This is not a good time for you girls to visit the city.’

Taking his hand gratefully, both young wolf females where lifted up.

Sara could see that the two guards she had fought were now tending to Trex. The dark hared lioness archer from before was also there and was making her way over to them.

Still too stunned at the unfolding events, Sara could only nod at Captain Felx before running past him to her waiting animal nearby.

The two animals tied up to the railing looked quite similar to a smaller breed of horse here on Earth. The only real difference between their horses and ours was that theirs had shorter faces, and each one had a pair of small antlers on top of their head, like a deer. These antlers were filed down for domesticated animals and only extended a few centimetres above their scruffy mane.

Untying her horse quickly, Sara suddenly felt a massive relief; it had all turned out fine… Or at least fine enough.

‘You would be best off telling your parents, all, of what happened today,’ called Captain Felx after them.

‘I will be visiting Mayor Petrice soon in any case, so I will drop by your home on the way through.’

Captain Felx was referring to the leader of the wolf city that bordered the lion territory of the lower planes.

Sara’s heart sank. Her parents were going to find out now one way or the other.

‘It is best this gets around quickly,’ said the Captain as the girls mounted up, ‘so we can begin to unravel the truth as soon as possible.’

Turning their horses around, both girls were about to head off. Sara’s head was too full of thoughts of her upcoming discussion with her parents to do anything other then match her sister’s actions.

‘Thank you Commander,’ said Fera on her sister’s behalf, ‘I hope you find the thieves quickly.’

With those final words, Fera urged her horse forward.

The two sisters rode away from the outskirts of RefugeCross at speed.

Captain Felx watched the two young wolf females go; himself not one hundred percent convinced that he had just done the right thing.

Lions were logical creatures by nature; a side effect of their strong tradition of valuing training, discipline and concentration. Captain Felx had just reacted on a gut instinct; this was more like a Anthro wolf and not like a lion at all. Shrugging off his doubts, the lion Captain smiled to himself, wondering how wolves could possibly lead a sensible life, seemingly always led by their emotions.


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