Episode 4: The Chase by Jimmy NgIn the safety of the canopy, Noshee wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. His sight blurred in and out. Must have been from the loss of blood. Far below Graywolf sniffed around the bloody patches around the forest floor. His pack of wolves scurried around the area, searching. It was obvious. The brown tufts of fur scattered on the ground came from a cub. But why would Graywolf leave a cub alone? Wolf packs were protective of their family, especially their cubs.
Behind branches crashed and broke. Noshee gathered his strength, ignored his blood-soaked silk vest, turned around, and flapped his wings. It seemed fellow Hartons were retreating away, and Noshee suspected they were responsible for the abduction of the cub. He had to find out who they were.
Noshee weaved over and around through the thickening branches of the canopy. His wings kept getting caught in the mesh of foliage. With his strength waning, Noshee ripped through, doing his best to see who was up ahead. There seemed to be around four other Hartons flying west toward Sajen's Cliffs.
Wait. No. There were three.
Noshee rubbed his eyes. Now he counted two.
The sound of beating wings seemed to come from behind.
Noshee glanced backward but saw no one.
A roar of a Harton soldier blasted Noshee's pointy ears.
Noshee turned his head forward and...
. . .
A voice called out as if under water. "Noshee. It's Elden Dena."
Noshee took a deep breath. Herb-filled air stung his nostrils. Bitter. He felt like gagging. He was lying on a wicker bed. Thousands of needles seemed to blaze down his crimped wings.
"Noshee," Dena said. "How're you feeling?"
"Like I fell from the canopy." Noshee scrunched his eyes. Saliva welled in his mouth.
"You did," Dena said. "What happened to the others?" She held her wings high as she sat on the edge of the bed. They appeared transparent, a yellowish glow, from the setting sun.
"Others?" He sat up and relieved the pain in his wings. He swallowed, forcing the hot vomit back down his throat. A cool breeze blew in from the window.
"The researchers that accompanied you down."
"Attacked and killed." His torso, wrapped in linen bandages, itched.
Noshee nodded and gritted his teeth against another wave of nausea. "I was attacked by Genaian warriors."
Dena shook her head. "Warlord Rorkai sent warriors to look for you and the other researchers. They found you unconscious on the forest floor. You're fortunate Graywolf didn't come back to finish you off."
"You've been asleep for five days. Should have been healed within three. The venom in wolf claws is preventing it. So we had to use something stronger. That's why you're feeling nauseous."
"I saw warriors in purple silks—Genai's color—carrying away a small bundle. Possibly a cub."
"Wolf packs respect our territory in the canopy and we respect theirs. There's no reason to—"
"I know what I saw," Noshee interrupted. "I was following four Genaian warriors. They flew toward Sajen's Cliffs. Two of them flanked me and attacked. Then I woke up here."
"Impossible. There's no reason for that." Dena stood. "Rorkai would like to talk to you about what happened."
"I told you."
"You're being charged with neglect. I'm sorry."
Noshee's wings slumped. His memory of their descent to the forest floor was misty. Did he abandon his fellow researchers? Wolves' breath had ale like effects, which blurred his memory.
"However, if you choose to admit neglect, we'll drop the charge. You'll be stripped of your research privileges here. We'll pursue the same in your home province of Destiny. And, eventually, the other five provinces."
"What if I choose to find out what really happened?"
Dena tightened her wings against her back. "If you fail, death is the penalty."
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