Refuge Cross “The Exiles”

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Chapter 6


Family matters

(The tale of Trex)

It was mid afternoon as a lone rider made his way along the rolling countryside of the lower foothills. Having crossed through BridgeHead and the lower plains, the lion youth felt better now that he would soon be home.

Trex sat cross-legged atop of his animal, a large padded seat allowing him a smooth ride on the camel’s uneven back. Suzzi meandered along at her own pace, gazing with knowing dark eyes at the world as she chewed some cud thoughtfully.

There were many reasons that a lot of lions would not feel comfortable returning to Trex’s home. Located immediately next to the border with the Wolf Kingdom, it was surrounded by wild forest. Few lions lived this far into the higher hills.

Isolation was undesirable for most lions, as they were a social race in comparison to their wolf cousins, out of habit as well as necessity.

Travelling downhill from the main road, Trex could make out his uncle’s farm up ahead through the trees. The house and barn were situated a quarter of the way up the side of a ridge that marked the end of the Lion Empires territory. The main homestead was picturesquely surrounded by orchards, crop fields and a few livestock. The surrounding old mixed forest was just starting to change colour for the approaching autumn.

Trex’s uncle and aunt had done a lot of hard work to make the farm as prosperous as it was. They had even cleared a small field all the way down to the mighty river Thitchel itself. This lower field flooded seasonally with the rising of the river in spring and allowed his uncle and aunt to plant difficult but valuable crops.

Looking towards the river he could make out his uncle and aunt nearer to its banks. He waved at them as they turned to look at the new arrival in the distance. His aunt waved back before returning to her work. Trex scanned the fields and buildings for his younger cousin, looking for any sign of the hyperactive little female cub.

Arriving at the stable, the young lion jumped off the camel. Suzzi let out a low sustained grunt, communicating effectively that she thought that it was about time. Trex smiled at the old animal, she had belonged to his father, and despite her constant complaints and stubbornness, she now gave Trex her faithful service as well.

‘Let me get that off of you,’ said the young lion, patting the old camel as he undid the numerous bindings.

Soon, Trex had stowed the saddle and was walking back out of the stable to open the gate for the old camel.

Amongst the animals on the paddock were a few horses, one of which galloped towards Trex as he closed the gate. Trex refixed the latch as the young stallion came up to him, nudging him to get his full attention.

‘Hello Flint,’ said Trex, patting the young horse with a small amount of hesitation.

Though Flint had been given to Trex by his aunt soon after the young horse’s birth, Trex had yet to master the little spitfire. He much preferred Suzzi’s calm ways to the wild energetic horse. Trex now understood why lions were not particularly fond of horses. Lions were, for the most part, calm and thoughtful, not used to having to fight to dominate another living being. It simply was not in their nature.

Flint bit playfully at Trex’s cloak.

‘Hey you little monster,’ said Trex, fending off the cheeky animal.

‘Go and annoy Suzzi if you’re feeling lucky,’ Trex suggested.

Suzzi looked around towards the two, hearing her name. The old camel then gave a very icy glance towards the young horse. Flint knew better then to bother the old camel. Neighing in defiance, the young animal raced off to find another animal to play with.

Trex made his way towards the family house nearby. Entering though the thick wooden front door, he walked towards the kitchen at the back. He had not had lunch yet today, and it was already well past midday.

Trex’s home was a mixture of wolf and lion architecture. From the outside it was a two-story structure with a steep pitched roof which contained the top floor. It would have resembled an alpine house or ski lodge here on Earth. This style was typical for Anthro wolf buildings on their world.

Internally, the ground floor was almost completely open plan, as was typical for lion houses. The ground floor was split evenly into a living and kitchen area by a large central fireplace which doubled for heating and occasionally for cooking. The floor of the house was covered in slate and a few throw rugs, as was typical amongst all Anthros that could afford it. To the one side at the back of the house, underneath the patio that extended out on that side, was the bathhouse (similar to Asian bath houses on our world). This specialised room was a typical lion home feature, Anthro lions having almost ritual bathing habits and cleanliness.

The top floor of the small house consisted of two large rooms. One of these large rooms was for Trex’s aunt and uncle, the other Trex had shared for the last few years with his younger cousin.

Having retrieved some cheese and bread, Trex made his way out the back door, taking the external stairs to the patio that attached to his room. Sitting in one of the cane chairs available, he leaned back into it gratefully, looking out towards the river and his uncle and aunt in the distance. He would have to eat quickly, there was surely something that needed doing around the farm before dark, and he had been away all day.

Finishing his food, Trex nevertheless continued to sit quietly. His thoughts drifted again to the question of his future, as it had been doing a lot lately.

Trex was coming up to his final exams. If he passed, it would make him a full citizen. After that he was pretty much free to do what he wanted; travel, work, further study, pretty much anything. The only problem was that he had no idea what he wanted to do.

He began to absent-mindedly play with his cloak. Looking down, he realised that he had forgotten that he had it on. Trex had only received the cloak a few months ago, along with his staff and various weapons and equipment that were standard for all lion citizens. These items were an important part of his final exam. Un-clipping the pendant from his belt, he slipped off the cloak, holding it in his hands. He had not quite gotten used to wearing the strange cloth yet, there being little need to do so around the farm, though he had to admit it was very useful on occasion.

From behind, he suddenly heard a creak from a timber decking board, followed immediately by a heavy pause… of someone hoping that he had not heard them. Trex was just able to stop his large furry ears from flicking around automatically. This would have indicated that he had heard the unknown Anthro.

Leaning forward, he began to work the cloak in an exaggerated manner, as if to prove he was completely absorbed in his task. At the same time, however, Trex did actually manipulate the special fabric, causing it to thin out and increase dramatically in size, becoming more of a large sheet. Behind him, Trex could just hear some childish sniggering.

As if on queue, he was tackled from behind, four large paws clamping around his mid section.

‘Got’ya!’ cried out an enthusiastic younger voice, instantly exploding into a fit of giggles.

Trex threw the cloak above his head with his partialy pinned arms, covering himself and his attacker in a large blanket of cloth as he rolled onto the floor. Amidst laughter and giggles, Trex wrestled playfully with his attacker. Emerging first from the cloth, Trex wrapped his younger adversary up in the material.

Wriggling around, the would-be attacker’s head popped out of the cloth, revealing Trex’s younger cousin Zea. Still giggling, the young cub was barely able to speak.

‘Unfair unfair!’ she cried in between laughing.

Pinning her lightly to the ground, Trex leaned over his younger cousin.

‘Do you give up?’ he asked with a smile. Two large eyes looked back up at him as she attempted to put on an innocent face.

‘Well…’ she started.

Trex didn’t wait for her to continue, tickling the enveloped girl viscously.

‘Stop it! Stop it!’ she yelled out between laughing.

‘I give up, I give up!’

Trex took his weight off of the youngster, the girl crawling her way out of the fabric quickly, still giggling. Getting back up, she straightened out her loose, baggy clothing.

Trex picked up his cloak. The youngster looked on with large eyes as Trex returned the cloth to its normal size, the fabric seemingly buzzing and glowing slightly as its properties were changed by the young lion.

‘Wow!’ said Zea, completely engrossed. She had not seen Trex do much training with his staff or cloak at home.

‘How did you do that?’ she asked. Moving closer, her hand reaching out to touch the soft fabric.

Trex smiled at the younger cub as he took a seat on the timber railing, allowing his cousin to play with the fabric.

Zea was six years old, and like her mother, she had brown hair which ran just below her shoulders. In addition to a short fringe at the front, Zea also had a few strands of hair that rose awkwardly above her head.

This was where Zea’s similarity to other cubs, of any race, ended. With her mother a wolf and her father a lion, the rest of Zea’s features were her own. The small girl’s nose was obviously triangular, unlike any wolf, but considerably smaller then any lions. Her ears were also different, despite being almost pointy like a wolf’s they were thickly furred at its edges, like a lions. Her long tail, despite having longer hair instead of shorter fur for its full length, was still considerably thinner then the bushy tail of her mother. Her fur colour was an unusual pale yellow, almost grey, something not found in either race.

To Trex, however, his little cousin was gorgeous. Having grown up with her since she was born, he cherished her dearly. It was because of this that he worried occasionally about the future, and what would happen to her and his uncle and aunt if he went away. There had only been a handful of half-breeds throughout history, and Trex couldn’t remember that any of the stories ended happily for them, or their families. Momentarily saddened by the thought, his eyes refocussed on his cousin, shaking off his doubt, he brought himself back.

‘Is it magic?’ asked Zea. Her attention was fixed on the orange cloak still in Trex’s hands.

‘No, not really,’ replied Trex.

As almost all lions could do the transformation of specific material’s properties, he felt that it couldn’t really be considered magic.

‘Maybe just a little magic,’ he added with a knowing smile. This answer seemed to please the young girl more.

‘How does it work?’ she asked, taking the cloak off of her larger cousin, stretching it experimentally.

‘It is made of a very special fabric,’ explained Trex, ‘all I have to do is concentrate on what I want the material to do, and then it changes.’

‘Wow, really? Is that all?’ asked the fascinated cub. Quickly clutching the cloak to her chest, she screwed up her small face in concentration, obviously trying it out for herself. Opening her eyes, she looked down at the cloak, disappointed that it had not changed.

‘It’s broken,’ she said apologetically.

Trex laughed for a second.

‘It’s not broken,’ he said kindly, ‘it takes years of practice. You have to go through many lessons before you can even change it a little,’ he reassured her.

‘But you did it so quickly,’ she said, not believing her older cousin.

‘Yes, and I have taken classes for many years. You know all the meditation and exercises I do?’

‘Yes,’ she replied.

Trex usually did his morning exercises with his uncle every day, as was typical amongst lions. He also spent about three hours a week meditating.

‘Well I have to do all that to help me concentrate enough to change the fabric,’ Trex said.

Zea looked from him to the cloth, then back again.

‘All that, just to change some cloth?’ she asked, her young impatient mind staggered by the amount of patience seemingly involved.

‘Yes,’ laughed Trex, ‘when you get used to it, you can use it to keep yourself warm and dry in the rain, it can also protect you from the sun, or help to keep you cool. You can even make shelter out of it.’

Zea did not appear to be particularly impressed, considering the amount of effort seemingly involved.

‘And when you get really good,’ continued Trex, undaunted. ‘You can turn it into a long rope, or you can make it turn elastic like a springy rope, or become hard as rock so no one can hurt you.’

This seemed to impress the girl more. She suddenly imagined herself jumping off the roof attached to an elastic rope that stopped you getting hurt.

‘And what is this?’ she asked, pointing to the large, dark violet, circular pendant set into a gold metal disk.

‘That is to help me concentrate, it also stores the energy needed to make changes more quickly.’

Zea looked at the pendant, the almost black surface looking darker than should be allowed, considering the level of light in the midday sun.

‘Do you want to see something great?’ asked Trex.

Zea nodded eagerly, impressed by the pretty purple stone.

‘The stone can tell you if you are happy or sad,’ he said, taking the stone from the younger girl. ‘All you have to do is put your finger on it, and when you take it away whatever colour you see is what you are feeling,’ he said.

Holding the underside of the pendant, he offered it to his cousin.

She was holding her long tail in both hands, a little nervous. She was not sure she liked the idea of a stone knowing if she was happy or sad.

‘Go ahead,’ he said encouragingly.

Stepping forward, she placed a finger on the stone for an instant, pulling it back hurriedly and hiding her hands behind her back. Looking at the stone, Zea could make out a yellow spot, there also appeared to be a few blue rings that made it look a bit green, quickly the colour faded until the stone was almost black again.

‘What is it saying?’ she wanted to know, her tail wagging slightly behind her.

‘It says that you are happy, but also a little scared.’

Zea’s eyes went wide; she was impressed with the stone. She liked it much more than the cloak.

‘Are there many of these stones?’

‘Every lion that becomes a citizen is given one,’ replied Trex automatically.

Zea thought for a second, her hands playing with her short skirt.

‘Where is daddy’s?’ she asked.

Trex faltered for a second, Zea’s father Karthen had been striped of his citizenship soon after Zea was born. Just after he made his intentions clear to marry Zea’s, wolf mother, Sharlee.

‘Ummm…’ stammered Trex. ‘He… he lost his.’

‘Oh’ said Zea, slightly disappointed. The young girl then suddenly had another thought.

‘But I will get one when I go to school, right?’

Trex had thought about this often enough to have a response ready made. Exactly what would happen to his younger cousin yet was unsure, and she was due to start school this year. He was unsure if she would ever be able to do any material transformation, as few wolfs in history had ever managed it. But even if she could, it was unlikely she would be allowed to try.

‘You never know,’ he replied honestly, ‘maybe, if you’re really lucky.’

She smiled at this, the answer seemed acceptable.

‘I’ll train every day,’ she proclaimed proudly. ‘I know mummy and daddy will help…’

Suddenly the young girl stopped, remembering something, her pointy ears drooped to either side. The cub turned without a further word to run towards the outside stairs to the balcony.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Trex, as she made her way down the stairs.

‘I forgot that I had to get mummy some string,’ called back the young girl.

Trex leaned over the patio railing, looking towards the back kitchen door.

‘You should also go, daddy was wondering were you were for so long,’ she called back from inside the house.

Trex could hear her rustling through the many draws in her search for the elusive string. Throwing his cloak over a nearby cane chair Trex made his way down to the kitchen, it was time to get back to normal life.

*

It wasn’t long until the late evening sun had disappeared behind the low hills to the west of Trex’s home. The mild evening was giving over to night as the first stars appeared in the heavens.

Having completed the last of his chores, Trex walked up the path to his home. He listened to the sound of the many insects chirping and calling out in the warm late-summers night. Light spilled out from the lower windows of the house.

Approaching the back door, Trex could make out his uncle and aunt preparing the evening meal.

The lion youth used a series of hand brushes hooked onto the outside wall to remove mud and dirt from his bare feet. Finishing up, Trex opened the door to find his uncle already seated while Zea helped her mother with the last of the items needed to set the table.

‘Just made it in time,’ said Trex’s aunt Sharlee, sitting down. Trex nodded, making his way over to his seat.

‘Finish everything ok?’ asked his uncle. The older lion made a grab for the freshly prepared spread, which had just been placed at the table.

‘They’ll be right till morning,’ replied Trex, referring to the few farm animals the family owned. He grabbed a slice of dark bread.

‘I wanted to try it,’ said an unhappy Zea, pouting at her father.

‘If you ask nicely I’ll make you a slice,’ replied Zea’s father.

‘Yeah,’ said Zea happily, her legs swinging back and forth under the large chair.

‘Zea?’ questioned her mother in a kind voice, not looking up while preparing her own bread.

‘Can you please make me a bread papa?’ asked Zea automatically.

‘Sure sweetheart,’ replied Karthen, making a rather impressive looking sandwich for his little girl.

Trex’s uncle Karthen was a large, strongly built lion male well into middle age. As with all lions, he had pale orange fur, and in Karthen’s case the longer hair on his head was black, cut short, but still remained scruffy. On his face he had an elegant trim goatee and short moustache, also black, helping to emphasise his sharp, alert features. Currently, his expression was its normal friendly self. Being striped of his citizenship, Karthen did not wear the sash and pendant.

Sitting opposite the lion adult was his wolf wife Sharlee, she was only a little shorter then Karthen and looked as fit and strong as her husband. Her brown fur was almost the same colour as her brown longer hair, which come past her shoulders and was worn loose most of the time. Sharlee had a calm look about her, her sometimes sad expression reflecting what she had been through to get to her current peaceful start of middle age.

Dinner proceeded as it normally did, the unusual small family unit talking casually while they ate. About halfway through dinner the discussion moved to Trex’s regular weekly stay at RefugeCross the previous night.

‘You said something interesting happened this morning,’ stated Sharlee towards Trex.

Swallowing the food that he was chewing, Trex prepared himself for what was to come, knowing that it would all come out eventually anyway.

‘Yes, there was a robbery this morning apparently,’ he said eventually.

‘A robbery?’ asked his uncle with interest.

‘Someone broke into the Head Councillors’ private chambers and stole some personal things.’

‘How did they get in?’ asked his aunt with interest.

‘They used ropes to scale the outer wall and to access their balcony.’

This generated a whistle from his uncle.

‘Gutsy,’ his uncle said, impressed, ‘used the mist this morning ha?’

The same mist that had surrounded RefugeCross had not lifted from around the farm until later in the day, the farm being in a slight valley.

Trex nodded.

‘Do they know what was taken?’ continued his aunt, who was cutting up some cheese for Zea while she spoke.

‘Not really, only some letters and a personal seal. It only happened this morning.’

‘Didn’t catch them then,’ Karthen said, taking a drink.

‘No, not before I left in any case,’ replied Trex.

‘No wonder you couldn’t talk with Captain Farell this morning,’ said his aunt. She was referring to Captains Felx’s second name Farell.

This was a noticeable difference in wolf and lion social behaviour. Lions had always been brought up to believe that direct family was of lesser importance, as you were a member of a larger family, the lion community. This had lead to officials and officers normally being referred to by their first name instead of their family name on a day to day basis. To lions, the family name had little importance other then for recordkeeping and the like.

This, however, was the total opposite to the wolf culture and tradition. Wolves held family name and standing above all else. Indeed, the family name was often worth more then the individual, it being the reason why the family names or symbols was always carried as a tattoo by all wolves.

‘He would have been busy with the robbery,’ Sharlee suggested, as Trex didn’t answer

‘Yeah,’ said Trex, sinking a little into his seat, ‘that’s not strictly true.’

‘I thought you said you didn’t have good chance to talk to him about your future?’ asked his uncle, his eyebrow raised.

‘Well, we didn’t,’ replied Trex, ‘but we did sort of talk about other things. I sort of got involved this morning.’

‘Involved?’ questioned his uncle. ‘In what? The robbery?’

‘Sort of… not really,’ Trex said.

Around him his family was suddenly all ears, even his little cousin was listening in with interest.

‘I saw someone scaling down the outside of the inner city walls,’ Trex said quickly. His talked faster and faster as if he wanted to get all the information out before he could be interrupted.

‘The guards were not able to make it in time before the Anthro they were chasing got away.’

Suddenly pausing, Trex looked across at his uncle. He could see that he was becoming agitated.

The older lion was already guessing where this was headed.

Swallowing, Trex continued.

‘The fugitive was heading east over the rooftops, and well… I sort of knew a short cut.’

‘You fought him,’ interrupted his uncle, becoming angry.

‘You had nothing to do with it, and you fought him. Are you out of your mind?’ he asked rhetorically, his voice getting louder.

Though his change in voice and attitude was only slight, this was something very rarely seen from the normally calm older lion. Zea picked up on it immediately, becoming fearful.

‘Karthen,’ warned Sharlee, still managing to speak in a neutral voice. She received a sharp glare from her husband, annoyed that he had been interrupted. They stared each other down for a second until Sharlee’s eyes flicked across to their daughter. Calming slightly, Karthen addressed the little girl.

‘Zea, could you please go and play up stairs?’ he asked.

‘But I’m not finished with dinner,’ replied the cub. She was actually not hungry any more but still didn’t want to miss out on anything.

‘You can take a sandwich with you if you like,’ said her father.

Food was not normally allowed upstairs for the young girl.

‘But…’ Zea began.

‘I know you would like to stay,’ interrupted her mother smoothly, ‘but we need to have a talk with Trex alone.’

Zea began to falter slightly, but was still hesitant.

‘Later on I will read you any book you like,’ offered Sharlee as a sweetener.

‘Any book?’ asked Zea, her mood lifting. The little girl was already thinking about getting her favourite book read out to her again for the hundredth time.

‘Any book,’ confirmed her mother, if somewhat reluctantly.

Sharlee used to like that story when she was younger, but after the hundredth time, it was wearing thin.

Convinced, Zea hopped off her seat. Standing upright, the young girl’s head come just above the table as she looked over at her cousin. He was currently looking at her father. The adolescent male didn’t look worried anymore, he was looking angry.

‘Can I take a glass of water with me?’ asked the little girl.

‘Yes dear, you can,’ said Karthen, not turning to look at his daughter.

Taking a glass with her big paws the young girl walked over to the stairs. Looking back, she could see both Trex’s and her father’s smooth orange tails flicking a little behind them.

Arguments between the two were very rare, and she was sort of glad to be going.

‘You were saying,’ prompted Sharlee, by far the calmest individual in the room.

Trex had switched from being worried to being angry. He couldn’t understand his uncle’s sudden hostility, even before he had had the chance to explain himself.

‘Well anyway,’ continued Trex in an annoyed tone. He was deliberately addressing his aunt to avoid facing his uncle directly.

‘I managed to get outside the old eastern wall before the Anthro the guards were chasing did. The fugitive must have just avoided the chasing guards because it literally fell over the wall into a courtyard.’

Beside Trex, his uncle taped the table with one of his large fingers. He was trying hard to hear out the last of the story.

‘All I wanted to do was hold the suspect up till the guards came,’ said Felx honestly, ‘but then she came at me.’

‘She?’ said his uncle, ‘you had better be talking about a lioness.’

Karthen’s voice had suddenly taken on an unexpectedly defeated tone. At this stage the older male had already resigned himself to the worst scenario possible, his anger seeping over into outright astonishment, Karthen’s ears and posture sagged slightly.

Trex picked up on the fact that his uncle was no longer overly angry with him, but more likely disappointed. Trex automatically became slightly ashamed, despite his previous anger.

‘Well…’ he said, cringing in admission.

‘So you chose to go into a fight with a mature female wolf, on your own, even though the whole thing was none of your business?’ asked his Uncle, now calm.

‘What was I supposed to do?’ Trex said in his defence, ‘just stand aside?’

‘Was she armed?’ asked his aunt, who was trying to develop a bigger picture.

‘No, not with proper weapons anyway, just with what she could pick up.’

‘Then what happened?’ asked Karthen, interested despite himself to hear the results of the fight, considering it was obvious that Trex had not been badly injured.

‘Well we fought,’ continued Trex, ‘and then after a while I was hit in the back of the head by a second wolf.’

‘Hit with what?’ asked his aunt with concern.

‘A frying pan, I think.’

Trex rubbed the back of his head, the lump still feeling a little raw. Opposite him, his aunt suppressed a laugh at the thought of being hit by a frying pan.

‘You can be thankful that all you got was a lump on the head,’ scolded Karthen.

‘I had to try,’ said Trex, shrugging his shoulders.

‘It’s the guardsman’s job, not yours.’

‘It’s every citizens job to uphold the law, it could have been a reservist that came around the corner,’ said Trex defensively.

He was pointing out that every citizen of the Lion Empire was automatically a reservist.

‘You are not a full citizen yet,’ countered his uncle.

‘I don’t see a difference. You said I already fight better then most reservists.’

‘Yes you do. And they are also advised never to take on an armed wolf alone, particularly not a female one,’ said Karthen.

Trex had no answer to this and simply stared at his uncle. He had never fully understood why his uncle was so against fighting. It went far beyond his wife being a wolf. Trex wondered how someone with such a long and seemingly glorious military career could have ended up like this.

‘So she got away?’ asked his aunt.

Trex looked at the older female wolf, swallowing noticeably again as he realised that he had now came the second part of the discussion, one that he dreaded even more then the first.

‘Well not exactly,’ Trex said, cautiously.

This time it was his aunt’s turn to raise an eyebrow, more for the tone Trex had used in his answer, then the answer itself.

‘They ran into Captain Felx on the way out of town.’

‘Oh, and who were they?’ Sharlee asked, trying to appear impartial.

‘They weren’t the robbers. And he did let them go’ replied Felx, setting up his answer.

Sharlee digested the information.

‘You didn’t say who they were,’ she asked, non committal.

‘The one that I fought was Sara.’

‘What!?’ said is Uncle as a reflex.

Sharlee’s expression didn’t appear to change at all, which worried Trex.

‘And the one that knocked me out was Fera,’ he added quickly.

‘You have got to be kidding me!’ exclaimed his uncle in shock.

Again, Trex’s aunt did not move a muscle. Normally wolves were considerably more emotional and expressive then lions, and it unnerved Trex to see the exact opposite happening in front of him.

‘He did let them go,’ Trex repeated towards his aunt.

Sharlee was staring fixedly at a point behind Trex. Her eye’s refocussing after a few seconds to look at the young lion.

‘Was there anything else?’ Sharlee asked quietly.

‘They got away ok…’ he replied. ‘Captain Felx will make sure they won’t get a record or anything, but he will probably tell what happened to the wolf commander next time he is in Torstberg.’

Beside him, his uncle had gone quiet, attempting to work through the new information.

The silence was so heavy it could have provided ballast for a ship. It pained Trex to see his aunt like this. He had grown very close to his surrogate wolf mother and considered her as his own. Trex would have given anything for it not to have been her nieces that had attacked him. Though Sharlee had not heard a word from her only sister, or had any contact with her family at all for over three years now, she always regretted the split. Something like this just brought back into painful focus all the old emotions, something it had taken years for her to work through and burry.

‘Sara looked well,’ Trex offered lamely, not really sure of what else to say.

Sharlee looked at Trex. Blinking a few times, she got up.

The two lion’s eyes followed the female wolf expectantly.

Looking around for a second it appeared as if Sharlee only now realised where she was again.

‘I’m going to go and read to Zea,’ she stated mechanically. ‘Do you boys mind cleaning up on your own?’

Karthen had to clear his own head before he could answer.

‘Sure honey,’ he said, in as reassuring a tone as he could manage.

‘You go and see to Zea, we’ll take care of everything down here.’ A weak smile was all the encouragement Karthen could muster.

Sharlee looked blankly towards her husband, only able to reply with a small nod of her head. Taking a few steps, she stopped. Seemingly as an afterthought she turned to walk towards Trex. Sharlee placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

‘I’m glad you’re ok,’ she said, the warmth returning to her voice.

‘Good night aunt…’ replied Trex, using her family title deliberately. He was still a little hesitant, unsure of what to say.

Without another word his aunt left to go upstairs. Watching her go, the two males sat in silence for a minute.

‘We had better clean up,’ his uncle said eventually.

After working without another word spoken for a time, Karthen finally broke the silence.

‘You know that I’m only worried about you,’ Trex’s uncle said, while he was washing up.

Silence returned as Trex thought about his answer.

‘I don’t understand why you have me train so much if you never want me to fight,’ replied Trex. The young lion was drying the dishes as his uncle placed them next to the small tub.

‘You will have to fight often enough in your life,’ his uncle replied, his tone carrying ominous weight. ‘There is no reason to go looking for it.’

Both of the lions knew why Karthen was so protective of Trex. After the death of Trex’s father eight years ago, Karthen had sworn to do his best to look after his lost brother’s only child. Since then, Karthen had done his utmost, taking personal interest to train the boy in survival and combat, far beyond what was necessary for a lion of his age. Inadvertently, in addition to the skills that Trex had developed he had also developed the need to test himself, a need to push himself further. Trex had become hungry for adventure. This was something that Karthen knew could well put the young lion into more potential danger if he over-extended himself too quickly.

‘Have you thought much more about what you are going to do after you pass your final exam?’ asked Karthen.

‘No, not really,’ replied Trex honestly.

‘But you definitely won’t be joining the military,’ Karthen asked carefully, a large fury ear twisting slightly for the hoped response.

‘No, I won’t be joining the military,’ Trex replied with mild exasperation. Trex shook his head, smiling to himself. He could see his uncle visible relax. Karthen worried unnecessarily, Trex had come to this decision on his own a while ago. With his surrogate mother a wolf, he simply couldn’t put himself in a situation were he was likely to have to fight them. Though there had been peace now for over ten years, there was still no official treaty, the original pause in fighting having been extended after twenty years of long, protracted, bloody war.

‘I probably will be leaving RefugeCross though,’ said Trex after a while, putting away the last of the plates.

‘At least for a while.’

‘I know you have to go eventually,’ said his uncle, drying off his hands while leaning onto the kitchen bench. ‘You’re just like your father in that way… I just want you to consider further study before you go, just for a few years.’

Trex went and sat by the clean table.

Karthen moved over to Trex while he dried his hands.

‘Look,’ he said kindly, ‘in a few months you won’t have to listen to me at all any more. But even then I hope you know me well enough to realise that my advice has always been for your benefit.’

‘I know,’ replied Trex with a weak smile. As much as he respected his uncle, he was still no help to Trex in sorting out what he wanted to do.

Trex’s uncle was happy with his life, and was continually advertising the benefits of living a simple life to the young lion. But deep down Trex thought that this was unfair advice. Trex knew his uncle had turned to this life after a youth spent in risk-taking and adventure. Why should he be denied the experience, because it was considered too dangerous? Well here he was, living on the border of a kingdome currently in a tense standoff with his own, with a family that was turned away by its own kind, with a little girl many considered a freak of nature.

‘I best go and check on Sharlee,’ said his uncle. He was himself somewhat bewildered with the current circumstances. Life had been, and still was, technically idyllic, but change just kept happening, there was simply no way to avoid it.

‘I’ll stay down here until everything is quite upstairs,’ offered Trex, knowing that it would take some time to put Zea to bed.

‘Thanks,’ said his uncle. Throwing the small towel over the chair to dry, he made his way to the stairs.

‘We’ll talk more tomorrow. Goodnight.’

‘Goodnight.’

There was still much more to think about in any case, Trex would not be going to sleep for some time. Staring across at the large candle that was lighting the room, Trex watched the fire flick back and forth. The flames were dancing about sporadically, as if being irritated by some unseen force.

‘Stop complaining,’ said Trex to the candle, ‘you have it easy.’

Moving over to a large sofa in the living room, Trex threw himself down. Lying on his back, Trex watched the shadows from the candle light play across the ceiling. Soon the young lion was lost in his own thoughts.


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