Like so many times before, Trey followed his nose. Clinging to the shadows he was guided forwards by the smell of cooking food. It was the only pleasant smell in the thick air that stank and seemed to clog the airways. The putrid scent of the Forukks clung to everything like tar.
Other than a few Forukks guarding various entrances to the uniform dark stone buildings that surrounded the inner castle and a few hurrying humans, Trey saw nothing of note. The city almost looked to be a warped parody of Pastrino but with fewer buildings. Each was an imposing, dark grey stone that could withstand catapults as easily as the black walled fortress at their heart.
As he had expected, the smell led straight to a kitchen. As far as he could tell there was only one door into the building and that was being watched by a grumpy looking Forukk armed with a barbed whip. Through the open doorway Trey could see Mrs Masli, the owner of a grocery shop near to Trey’s house, peeling potatoes. She wore dirty rags that hung from her in every possible place.
The Forukk on guard began sniffing intently at the air, its body tensing up ready to attack. Then its muscles relaxed again as it seemed to recognise whatever it was that it had smelled. “It’s you again is it?” the Forukk growled. “You smell different. Have you been stealing the Master’s smell in a bottle again?” it said in a gruff voice.
Trey stared at the Forukk in confusion. He had been told by Htaed that Forukks could identify people via smell but he had never met this one to his knowledge. Whatever the reason, Trey did not have time to ponder it. The Forukk knew he was there and a mistake in scent would not keep him safe for long.
Trey stepped forwards out of the shadows, testing his luck. The Forukk’s gaze settled on him and for a second it seemed complacent with Trey’s identity. Then realisation struck it. That second was
enough for Trey to dash in and lunge his blade into the Forukk’s chest. It gurgled and growled as Trey removed his sword, then it fell to the ground without another sound.
Mrs Masli had dropped her knife and the half peeled potato in amazement. “T-Trey? Is that you?”
“Mrs Masli.” Trey nodded his head respectfully. “Sorry I took so long. Do you know anywhere I can hide this guy?” he asked as he pointed towards the Forukk.
She seemed stunned as she studied Trey. The lazy appearance and carefree attitude had disappeared. He had killed a Forukk in one strike when the Pastrino guards had struggled to even defend themselves. Now he looked like he had aged many years. He was no longer a boy but a man. She snapped out of her musing then signalled to a nearby pantry door. Trey dragged the body inside.
“Do you know where all the other slaves are?”
“No,” replied the woman. “We were all separated. The leaders of this place chose certain slaves for certain jobs. Me and some of the others were thrown into this kitchen.”
“You mean there are more in here?”
“Yes. The slaves prepare all the food for everyone inside the city other than the masters so there are lots of us here. There’s also lots of guards,” she said with a shiver.
“No worries. Point me in the right direction and I’ll do the rest,” Trey announced with a smile. “Do you know where the northern warehouse is?” The woman nodded. “Go in there, second floor and wait for me, Billy or Zak. Or two people you won’t recognise, a stunningly beautiful girl and a guy dressed fully in black. Anyway, I’ve got to go.”
Without another word they both ran off in opposite directions. Trey noticed several faces he knew from Pastrino, slaving away in the kitchens. He also saw several guards, both Forukk and human. He could not just run in and fight them all; he needed a distraction.
Finding an empty closet he took from his bag Garvel’s Nimula book. Flicking hurriedly through the pages a certain spell caught his attention. He prepared himself for the mental strain then chanted the words inscribed on the page. There was a small puff sound and lots of smoke. When the smoke cleared Trey smiled at his own genius. Stood before the boy, scratching it’s backside, was a monkey.
“Hey little guy. Go cause some chaos for me,” Trey said as if addressing a small child.
“Don’t patronise me, jerk,” replied the monkey in a gravelly voice as it opened the door and headed down the hallway.
“S-sorry…” called Trey weakly.
A series of bangs and shouts alerted Trey that the decoy was working. He leapt through the door and headed straight for the main kitchen area, directing any slaves he found where to go and dispatching the few guards not distracted by the monkey. He got there in no time and after a brief encounter with a particularly ugly Forukk he sent every slave on their way as quickly as possible. Not one had seen his mother since their arrival.
“I’ll catch you up in a minute,” he called after them. A smile crept onto his face as he eyed the various barrels filled with nocuous ooze that Trey guessed was supposed to be food for the slaves.
As Trey set to work on his plan he could hear some of the distraction still within the building. “That monkey just slapped me!” came a distant human voice.
“It wasn’t a slap. You couldn’t tell a good right hook even when it hits you in the face, idiot.”
“Agh! It bit my finger.”