Refuge Cross “The Exiles”

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Chapter 4

Guardian’s advice

(The tale of Trex)

Captain Felx watched calmly as the two wolf sister’s rode off. His head turned automatically when his Lieutenant appeared beside him, longbow still in hand.

‘Lieutenant Millan,’ said the Captain in greeting, his tone was smooth and disarming.

‘Captain Felx,’ greeted Lieutenant Millan in return. Her voice was gruff and lacking in any cheer.

‘What is going on here?’ she asked.

‘I am afraid the fugitive slipped past,’ replied the Commander calmly, ‘I mistook them for one of those two wolf girls… they must have gotten away while I was talking to them.’

‘Really,’ said Millan in a dangerously flat voice, ‘I could have sworn the fugitive I was chasing looked exactly like one of those two female wolves.’

Captain Felx glanced sideways at the Lieutenant. In addition to her unusually black hair, which she wore in a high ponytail, his immediate subordinate had another striking feature, noticeable scars. This scar started on her left eyebrow and continued onto her cheek, slightly marring an otherwise pretty face. Luckily, the sword slash had missed her eye, though other scars to her right ear and right upper arm were proof of her having taken part in some fierce battles in her time.

‘Yes, it can easily happen,’ admitted Captain Felx, referring to a common habit of lions to mistake one wolf for another. ‘Nevertheless, she is not the thief we are searching for.’

Millan gave the Captain a cold side glare, sizing up his last comment. Lost in her own thoughts, she automatically began to turn her longbow back into a staff so that she could take it apart. Though she respected her superior Captain Flex, both knew that they had very different views when it came to wolves.

‘Technically, trespassing is still a serious crime,’ she said eventually, putting her opinion on the unsaid part of the discussion between the two.

Captain Felx nodded seriously in silent response.

Turning around, the two started to walk back towards the other guards who were caring for the now conscious Trex.

‘We have more important issues at the moment,’ said Captain Felx seriously, ‘I don’t want anything to get in the way of us clearing up this robbery.’

‘And the assault on the boy?’ asked Millan, not letting the subject of the two wolf sisters go.

‘I will discuss the matter the next time I make a trip to Torstberg,’ said Felx, referring to the wolf city in the nearby mountains.

Other then the wolf city of Torstberg, the next nearest city or town was a good week or two’s travel from RefugeCross.

The wolf controlled town of Torstberg was perched within the narrow forested valleys, just below the towering northern mountains. This was something that continued to unnerve the more easily intimidated lions in the occupied city of RefugeCross, particularly considering that the two towns were only a day’s ride apart, if you pushed the animal to its limits.

Torstberg and RefugeCross were both effectively isolated in their little speck of civilisation, far away from the main Wolf Kingdome and Lion Empire. The pair of isolated cities only had each other, as they were otherwise surrounded by an often unforgiving natural environment.

As Captain Felx approached Trex and the two Sergeants he was able to look past them into the small compound. It only took a second for him to read the markings on the ground and realize that Trex had held his own in what looked to have been a very tight contest.

‘He’s coming around Captain,’ stated the shorter male Sergeant casually.

His considerably taller blond female companion was still sitting next to the recovering lion youth.

Trex groaned noticeably.

‘Urrrgh…”

‘It’s a good thing I had smelling salts on me,’ stated the male Sergeant with a hint of pride in his voice.

‘Is that what you call your cologne?’ said the tall blond lioness cheekily, her voice barely audible.

This generated a sly smirk from her comrade. The two Sergeants had a long history of teasing each other.

‘We wouldn’t want to do that to him,’ said Captain Felx, adding to the mix, ‘not after what he’s been through already.’

This generated a chuckle from the blond Sergeant.

‘Unfortunately he’s not much help at the moment,’ continued the shorter lion, seemingly ignoring the mocking comments.

‘How is it that the wolf got past you in the first place Sergeant Brex?’ interjected Lieutenant Millan in a serious tone. The Lieutenant never really liked the casual nature in which the Captain interacted with his officers.

Brex automatically stiffened at the Lieutenants words… though only slightly.

‘We had her cornered. But she was obviously willing to take great risks to get away,’ he stated honestly.

‘She was very strong and fast,’ added the blond lioness in her comrade’s defence, ‘even at her age.’

‘And a healthy dose of luck didn’t fail her either,’ added Brex, remembering back to slipping on the fruit during their fight.

Lieutenant Millan regarded both subordinates carefully, she had seen the wolf’s leap to the wall herself, and even she could not have predicted that.

‘Did either of you get a good look at her?’

‘No ma’am, not a good one. It was definitely a young female though.’

‘She kept her features well covered,’ said Brex.

Lieutenant Millan frowned, but the wolf had taken a lot of effort to keep herself covered.

Trex, in the meantime, had recovered enough to sit up by himself, and was currently looking from one officer to the next, still a little bewildered.

‘Sergeant Kirra,’ Millan said suddenly.

‘Yes Ma’am,’ said the blond Sergeant Kirra, standing up to attention.

‘Recover the wolf’s cloak from the inner wall and take it to HQ, it may hold some clues,’ Millan ordered.

Sergeant Kirra nodded in acknowledgment, also extending a brief nod to the Captain and Brex before making her way off.

‘Sergeant,’ continued Millan, turning to Brex, ‘find your soldiers and do a sweep of the north and west outer city limits. Look for anything that may give us a hint on who did this.’

‘Yes Ma’am,’ replied Brex.

He saluted casually before heading off.

Captain Felx allowed the Lieutenant to take charge, moving forward, he took a closer look at the items still lying around Trex. Leaning down, he picked up Trex’s staff, turning it in his large paw like hands to look for any damage, not finding any.

‘Are you alright to get up?’ asked Millan, offering her hand to Trex.

‘Yeah,’ replied Trex, taking her hand.

Hauling him up, the Lieutenant had to steady him a little as his weakened legs buckled slightly.

‘Urrgg,’ he mumbled.

Still holding him steady, Millan then asked, ‘Did you recognize the wolf that attacked you?’ Her voice seemed to soften slightly from the official tone she usually used.

‘Ummm,’ started Trex. ‘Well… I’m not really sure.’

Steadying himself, Trex closed his eyes, odd memories and stinging pain mixed to ensure that he was not really sure of anything at the moment.

Grateful at the young lion’s response, Captain Felx also picked up the large frying pan and two makeshift clubs.

‘Looks like he took a real nasty knock to the head,’ said Captain Felx.

‘I know where he lives. I’ll take him home and drop by later to get a statement,’ he added.

Millan gave the Captain another look, she was sure that the statement that would come back to HQ would not be as informative to her as it could be.

Of course he knows who the boy is, Millan thought to herself, and where he livesthe City Commander knows everyone, and everyone knows him. Millan’s thoughts remained her own, but the annoyed glance she sent towards the Captain gave some indication of what she was thinking about her superior officer.

‘And what is your name?’ Millan asked kindly, turning back to address Trex.

Trex opened his eyes to look at her. Even through the painful haze that covered his eyes like a dirty pair of glasses, he still recognized the Lieutenant. She had arrived in RefugeCross only a few months ago.

‘Trex Ma’am,’ he replied, ‘Trex Tristfull. I live on the far side of the river, just on the border zone.’

The young lion struggled to get his words out, the effort of talking not helping his pounding headache any.

‘Well Trex, you tried to do something noble, you held your own against a mature female wolf. At your young age, you should be proud,’ Lieutenant Millan stated reassuringly, patting him lightly on the shoulder.

Trex registered the compliment despite his condition, smiling in response, and then wincing at the effort.

‘It’s ok Lieutenant, I will escort him home,’ said Captain Felx, his voice hinting at impatience with the Lieutenant, ‘You had better go check on the search parties. Make sure they do a thorough sweep of the docks and the sea cliffs.’

Lieutenant Millan saluted smartly. Turning to Trex she said, ‘Perhaps we can talk later Trex.’

Her eyes briefly made contact with Captain Felx’s before she turned to head off, neither of the two officer’s expression giving anything away.

Putting the frying pan and broken tools on a nearby table, Captain Felx waited until the Lieutenant had left before whistling for his horse, the steed grunted in the distance in recognition.

Unusual for most Anthro lions, Captain Felx was a good horse rider. His trusted animal was only ever loosely tethered and would come when called.

‘So how did you get into town?’ asked Felx, his voice now more casual that the Lieutenant had left.

‘Suzzi is back at the main stable,’ replied Trex, his headache subsiding rapidly to a dull throb.

‘Suzzi,’ exclaimed Felx happily ‘How is the old girl?’

‘She’s still steady as a rock, still spitting at strangers,’ replied Trex casually.

Trex’s animal Suzzi was not, in-fact, a horse, but an animal more normally ridden by Anthro lions. Suzzi was a desert animal that was very similar to our camels here on Earth. She was about the same size as a camel is here, but did not have such a large hump, and a bit of a curlier coat.

Orientating himself in the glaring morning sun, Trex moved to take a seat at a nearby long wooden table. The table was located under a large low heavy cloth strung from the wall of one of the buildings. In the shade, Trex tried to stretch his stiff, sore neck, rolling his head around a bit.

Captain Felx stood looking at the youth, behind him his faithful brown horse had came trotting up, nudging him in the shoulder affectionately.

‘You can jump on Hearm if you like, we’ll take you to the inner city,’ offered Felx.

‘That’s ok,’ replied Trex, a little dismissively ‘I still have to pick up some stuff before I go, you don’t have to wait for me.’

Ignoring Trex’s casual reply, Felx turned to his horse.

‘You go graze boy, I’ll only be a minute,’ he said, putting the loose reins behind the large animals head and giving him a quick pat.

The Captain ducked under the shade cloth’s edge, taking a seat near to the young lion. Silence returned. The desert breeze played with the canvas roof above the two sitting figures.

Though Captain Felx prided himself on remembering every face and name he came across, he knew little more about most Anthros then was necessary. His familiarity with the young male lion came from a more direct connection. He was technically Trex’s guardian.

‘Sorry I haven’t been able to talk to you more often lately,’ said Captain Felx solemnly, breaking the silence.

‘I know you’ve been busy,’ replied Trex, almost sounding convincing.

Captain Felx frowned. He had not had a chance to have a proper talk to the lion youth for about three months. This was despite Trex only living a few hours ride away from town, and Trex himself coming to RefugeCross about once a week for classes. It was because of this that Captain Felx was not surprised by the uncharacteristic stand-offish behaviour of the young lion.

‘So how’s the family?’ asked Felx, referring to Trex’s uncle, aunt and younger cousin who Trex lived with on their farm.

‘They’re good. Zea’s grown again,’ Trex answered, speaking specifically about his young cousin. His tone had turned slightly up-beat of its own accord, as Trex honestly couldn’t complain about his family life.

‘It’s been another great harvest,’ he continued, despite himself.

Trex had wanted to remain angry at his guardian, but any stubbornness quickly deteriorated as it looked like he would finally get the chance to talk to the older lion again.

‘Karthen even lets me have more time off to train and stuff.’

Trex normally referred to his uncle by his first name, Karthen.

‘So School is going well then?’ asked Captain Felx, who actually knew exactly how Trex’s training was going. Trex also knew that he knew.

‘Should be finished this year,’ Trex said anyway, not without a hint of pride.

Felx smiled, genuinely happy for the young lion.

‘Two years before the average. Impressive,’ praised Captain Felx.

Unlike the school system of the wolves, which had mandatory schooling up to a certain age, the lion education system was built on standard courses and exams mostly independent of timeframes, allowing for students to finish their schooling earlier or later, depending on abilities. For most lion students this meant graduation at about the same time as their wolf counterparts. However, about a third of the students would have a different schooling timeframe. Later graduating students receiving extra assistance to allow them to reach what the lion education board deemed an acceptable level for social entry, or citizenship, as the lions called it. While the ones that finished earlier were able to start careers or continue onto further studies.

‘It seems you have been using your time well,’ Felx said with a smile. He placed Trex’s staff carefully on the large table, rolling it towards him.

Trex caught hold of the weapon, checking the staff’s surface for damage. The pain in his head had now mostly subsided.

‘Have you thought more about a military career?’ Felx asked casually.

Trex looked up from his staff, wondering if he should continue to humour his guardian.

Though all lion citizens were automatically reservists, you could only become an officer if you joined the military.

‘I saw from the markings in the dirt that you must have put up quite a good fight,’ said Felx, leaning to one side. He turned to look out towards the northern mountains.

‘It normally takes a lion four years of training before he can match a young female wolf after maturity.’

‘I lost in the end though,’ said Trex solemnly.

‘Due to a second fighter,’ offered Felx as conciliation.

‘I was losing anyway,’ replied Trex honestly. He was quite happy to remain honest and open, anything else was normally too complicated for the youth’s personality.

‘I’m probably lucky the second wolf knocked me out actually, I think she was about to tear me apart.’

Trex expression flashed disappointment, not with the fight itself but with how he had reacted at its end. He knew that wolves could tangibly intimidate, but the fear he had suddenly felt at the fight’s end had totally destroyed his concentration. It was disappointing for his training to have failed so markedly the first time it was tested.

Felx looked sternly at the quiet youth in front of him.

‘I wouldn’t worry about it,’ said Captain Felx, somehow knowing exactly what Trex was thinking, ‘the first time I faced a wolf in combat, I almost ran away. If it wasn’t for my comrades I would have been quite sore, or even worse.’

Trex looked up slowly with renewed interest. Captain Felx did not often talk about his military career.

‘And don’t forget I was a lot older then you are now, and I was fighting a male,’ said Felx. He chuckled slightly, recalling his first real fight.

‘You get used to it,’ he continued, ‘some things you don’t learn until just after you need them.’

Trex smiled at that, the old military saying together with his guardian’s kind words being enough to bring him back from self-doubt.

‘You do know it was Sara you were fighting?’ Felx stated out of the blue.

Trex stopped turning his staff absent-mindedly in his hands. This was still something he was too confused about himself to want to discuss, but he realized that Captain Felx knew it in any case.

‘I recognized her family’s markings, yes,’ Trex said carefully, referring to the family tattoo on her right upper arm.

‘I haven’t seen her in years,’ he admitted.

‘Well that was one heck of a reunion,’ said Felx. This attempt at light humour only received a wall of silence for its efforts.

‘Fera was the one that knocked you out,’ Captain Felx added, getting back to the facts.

‘Fera?!’ exclaimed Trex. Now that was unexpected, even if only because she appeared to be helping her sister for once.

‘Has Sharlee had any contact with Sara’s parents at all lately?’ asked Captain Felx, referring to Trex’s aunt Sharlee, and her former close relationship with Sara’s family.

‘Not as far as I know,’ said Trex, feeling sorry for his Aunt.

‘Not since just after Zea was born… she hasn’t talked about them much.’

Captain Felx frowned solemnly; genuinely sorry to hear the family problems had persisted.

Trex’s mind came to a sudden connection, and he couldn’t help but to suddenly blurt out, ‘Sara’s not the thief is she?’

‘The thief?’ countered Captain Felx, raising an eyebrow, ‘now I know news gets around fast in this town…’

Trex recoiled slightly, knowing he had just made a mistake.

‘What exactly are you doing out here anyway?’ asked Felx, turning to face the youngster. The Captains voice had quickly developed an edge

‘Um, I was just buying personal stuff, you know… just for me,’ offered Trex lamely, rubbing the back of his neck.

He was trying to think of the most basic lie in the hope it wouldn’t get him caught out.

‘And how is it you ended up out here?’ pressed Captain Felx, his voice becoming flat.

‘Well…’ started Trex.

His mind was in overdrive.

‘I was just in the outer city, waiting for the markets to open and was sort of travelling via the rooftops. I saw a figure jump down from the inner city walls,’ he said, gaining in confidence now that he had returned to the truth… well mostly.

‘And I thought I would just see what was going on,’ he finished, smiling at having come up with a convincing story on the fly.

The smile quickly disappeared under the stern gaze of the Captain. Trex had once before been caught trespassing in the inner city, and let off with a stern warning.

‘Indeed,’ said the Captain, obviously not too happy with the young lion’s story. Slowly, Captain Felx returned his gaze to the horizon.

‘Sara is not the thief,’ he said more steadily.

‘She just chose a very bad time to take an unofficial tour of the inner city.’

Trex thought about Sara for a second, remembering back to when they were just cubs, playing on her family’s farm when his family came to visit, hide and seek, mock battles with sticks or ganging up to play a trick on her older sister. It seemed like such a long time ago.

‘She could be in a lot of trouble,’ said Felx, interrupting Trex’s train of thought.

‘You know yourself that there are elements in the council that would love to make an example of a wolf. Particularly at the moment,’ said Felx solemnly, the issue was obviously a sore point for the veteran soldier.

RefugeCross had a complex history. Originally founded almost four hundred years ago by the lions, it had been captured by the wolves in the first lion-wolf war just over a century ago. Only to be retaken by the lions in the second lion-wolf war seventy five years later. Due to these different occupations there was a complex mix of wolves and lions that now lived there. Two long wars had resulted in simmering resentment and hostility between the two races. This was not an easy place to keep the peace.

Captain Felx looked back towards his young companion.

‘Do you want to take this any further?’

‘No, no way,’ said Trex instantly.

‘And Fera?’ asked Captain Felx.

Trex thought back to some of the pranks Sara and he had played on the older girl. He probably deserved that smack on the back of the head from things he had done in the past.

‘No, I don’t want either of them to get into trouble,’ Trex said solemnly.

‘Good,’ said Felx getting up, ‘then we are agreed that you couldn’t identify the wolves that assaulted you.’

‘Yes,’ confirmed Trex, leaning back.

‘Wonderful,’ said Felx, whistling to indicate to Hearm to come back to his master.

‘That means I only need to do a quick informal visit to the Kelgorn household. And this will all be taken care of,’ said Felx, referring to Sara’s family name Kelgorn.

Trex cringed at the thought, remembering Sara’s mother. He couldn’t help but think that Sara may have been better off in lion custody.

Jumping up on his horse, Captain Felx turned the impatient steed in a tight circle to again face Trex.

‘Be careful Trex, this is not a good time to annoy the council,’ Felx advised.

‘Pass my greeting onto the family,’ he added finally, before ridding off towards the main gate.

Trex watched the city commander go.

Silence returned, only interrupted by the occasional rush of wind playing with some nearby wind chimes in the increasingly hot day. Trex suddenly wondered where everyone was; surely someone else would have noticed the noise and have come to investigate.

Looking left, he saw two lions loading up a cart a little way off, neither seemed to be taking any notice of him. They had probably just arrived back from the nearby fields not too long ago. Looking out towards the river, Trex could make out a lot of activity in the fields.

Harvest, he thought to himself.

Most Anthros would have left before the crack of dawn to start work in the fields, no wonder there wasn’t anyone around.

Remembering that he actually had classes to attend to in RefugeCross, Trex got up and collected his staff. Looking back into the compound for a second, he saw the mess Sara had made when she had fallen onto the crates. Someone would be back from the city watch to talk to the owners most likely, there was little he could do now, and he was late for class.


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