Billy cursed for the third time as he slowly waded through the marsh he had gotten himself into. He had been told by a messenger slave he had met that over two dozen slaves were working in the drowned fields to the far west of the fortress that were walled off separately. A gate just big enough to fit a cart through connected the fields with the main city.
Expecting a field like the rice fields back home, Billy had stupidly gone to be the hero without thinking. Now he was up to his waist in thick, slimy water with not a single slave in sight. To make matters worse the bugs around him seemed to have taken a liking to him, biting at his exposed flesh whenever they got the chance.
He was about to give up and turn around when he heard the sound of sloshing that was not being made by himself. Someone else was wading through the water, just ahead of Billy by the sound of it. He stopped moving and listened.
Billy was an excellent hunter. He could tell that whatever was moving through the water was large and wore armour just from the sound of the water. It was a Forukk. He would bet his life on it. Removing his bow from his bag he attached a white feathered arrow and aimed in the direction the sloshing was coming from. Slowly he pulled back the string until it would go no further then released.
There was a satisfying twang then a deep gurgle, closely followed by a splash. Billy investigated his handy work and found that a second Forukk had beaten him to it. He quickly put his bow away and pulled out his crossbow. The bolt fired. It shot into the creature’s eye.
After recovering his ammunition it was not long before he found where the slaves were working. The area of the field was not very large but the plant that was being harvested was twice the size of a normal human. They shot up perfectly straight and narrow like bamboo but their outsides were a dull gore colour.
Because of their large size, the Forukks that guarded the slaves stayed around the edge of the field rather than struggling through the narrow gaps. This gave Billy the opportunity to pick them off at a distance. Granted they were tough up close but an arrow to the head dropped them well enough. By the time all of the guards were alerted to Billy’s presence only four remained.
He was thinking it was easy pickings until one came from behind him and bludgeoned him across his ribs. Rolling back to his feet he narrowly dodged another attack. In one swift motion he drew a small dagger from his sleeve and threw it towards the monster. It glided through the air gracefully like a swan then dug deeply into the leathery skin of its neck.
Billy had just enough time to turn and draw his sword before the still living Forukks reached him. He parried one blow but was caught by a second one across his shoulder. There was a flurry of attacks and a Forukk fell. In exchange Billy received a deep gash along his arm. The larger of the two remaining Forukks lunged, sending Billy under the water.
Looking up weakly, Billy coughed and tried to get to his feet but failed. By now the slaves had formed a ring around the fighters. The two Forukks towered over him, readying the finishing blow, cold anger in their eyes.
As the jagged blade came down it went astray as one of the slaves tackled the Forukk. Billy’s blurry vision honed in on the slave. Horror hit him. It was his Uncle Charley. Desperately Billy tried again to get to his feet and help but his body would not move. His Uncle gave him a look that said ‘Don’t worry’ as the Forukk swung at him. In seemingly slow motion his body fell into the water a pace away from Billy.
Like a ripple, the slaves around them began to shout in outrage at the creatures. Then as one they surged forwards in crazed rage. Three fell immediately to the Forukks’ blades but the sheer mass of humans pulled the creatures down. The slaves grabbed anything that they could from their small harvest knives to stones. One even took Billy’s discarded sword. Five more splashed into the water without rising again before both Forukks went down.
Billy’s mind was blank. It took him a few seconds to realise he was being pulled to his feet. Around him stood the slaves and despite the death that had happened mere moments before, a new hope shone in their eyes.
“We’re guessing you have a plan, young Billy,” grunted the slave that had helped him up. It was farmer McGill.
“Y-yeah,” stammered Billy, still slightly shook up from his uncle’s sacrifice. He forced himself to calm down then continued. “Head to the outer storehouse, second level. You’ll be safe in there for now-”
A roar that shook his very soul thundered from behind him. Billy turned to see one of the giant Forukks that Lily had told him were called Nis’Forukk, standing within arms reach of the boy. Again their stealth surprised him. For something so gigantic to get this close through water without him hearing was unbelievable.
“Run!” Billy bellowed to the slaves who were frozen in fear. This, accompanied by another hellish roar from the Nis’Forukk was enough to get them moving.
“What about you lad?” shouted the farmer.
“I’ll take care of this guy. Go on without me and I’ll catch you up later.” They both knew this was a lie but there was no time to argue.
Unluckily for Billy, one of the slaves still had his sword and he was running low on arrows. He bent down and grabbed one of the Forukk’s blades. It was far bigger and heavier than Billy’s own sword but it would have to do.
“Bring it on!”
Billy cursed repeatedly as he rolled out of the way of the Nis’Forukk’s spiked gauntlet. Fighting a beast such as this was near impossible to start with but with an unfamiliar and heavy weapon and no backup the situation was unwinnable.
The Nis’Forukk struck again and Billy rolled to the side a second too late. The monster’s huge fist clipped the boy’s foot, sending him flying into the water. Before he even had a chance to move, the Nis’Forukk wrapped its hand around Billy’s body and lifted the boy up to its eye level. Its hellfire eyes burned into Billy’s mind. Foul air hit Billy’s face as the Nis’Forukk opened its maw and its stale breath oozed out. Its teeth were large and flat like hammerheads, designed for breaking bones rather than ripping flesh.
The heavy blade fell from Billy’s hand as the Nis’Forukk tightened its grip. He would have cried out but he could not draw breath into his lungs. As his vision began to fade into darkness he saw those yellow teeth moving towards him. He was glad he would be unconscious when his bones were ground to dust.
A distant sounding shout of “Chew on this!” was the last thing his brain registered before he passed out.
A metal barrel shot past Billy’s head and smashed into the Nis’Forukk’s mouth, cracking several of its teeth. Upon impact the barrel exploded, spraying grey gloop onto the beast’s face. It roared out in pain, dropping Billy as it flailed its arms.
Billy hit the ground with a splash of water and an “Oof” as the sudden pain woke him. It would have knocked the breath from his lungs if there had been any to knock out. He looked around as his vision began to clear and saw Trey stood a few feet away.
The Nis’Forukk struck out at Billy again but the grey slop had run into its eyes, temporarily blinding it. The fist landed short. Trey dashed in and pulled Billy out of the creature’s range.
“What the hell did you do to it?” asked Billy as he staggered to his feet and examined the semi-liquid that drenched the Nis’Forukk.
“I had a little visit to the kitchens. That stuff was what the slaves were forced to eat. I figured that he might like to try some,” replied Trey.
“Yeah, but you couldn’t carry that barrel, let alone launch it at that thing’s face.”
“Magnetism. I used some spells to make my hand magnetic, made sure that it and the barrel were both positive. When I got it here I propped it up on a rock, aimed up then punched the barrel. The two positive forces repelled against each other and fired the barrel at the Nis’Forukk.” Trey informed, taking up a teacher-like tone.
Billy stared blankly at him. Trey sighed. “Nimula, Billy. I used Nimula.” Billy’s face lit up as he understood. Usually he would have understood the first explanation but his brain had been deprived of too much oxygen.
The last of the gruel was cleared from the Nis’Forukk’s eyes and it charged. It leapt into the air, planning to crush the boys beneath its massive bulk. Trey swivelled his arm to face left and Billy’s discarded Forukk sword flew towards him. The second it touched his hand he shot it off in the Nis’Forukks direction. The combined force of gravity pulling the Nis’Forukk down and the velocity sending the blade up was enough to make the blade pierce the Nis’Forukk’s black hide. The attack caused the Nis’Forukk to go off target, crashing to the ground a few feet in front of the boys.
Trey and Billy made eye contact and nodded at the unsaid decision. Trey passed his sword to Billy who then ran off into the surrounding mists. Unsheathing a combat knife from its place on his leg, Trey rushed forward while the Nis’Forukk was still recovering. It whipped out its arm and Trey leapt to the side, not faltering as he charged. He ducked low under a second attack then drove his knife into the beast’s thigh.
The Nis’Forukk laughed as a small flow of black blood bubbled from the wound, burning Trey’s hand like acid. The creature stopped laughing when Trey began to chuckle to himself.
From behind the monster came Billy from the mists. Trey had been an excellent distraction and now it was his turn. He bounded onto the gigantic Forukk’s back, using its spine as steps, then plunged Trey’s sword through the top of the beast’s head.
Trey watched the blade enter the Nis’Forukk’s skull. The creature made a strange sound like distressed metal then collapsed with a thunderous thud to the ground.
“Piece of cake,” stated Billy boldly.
“Don’t talk about cake,” moaned Trey as they both headed to the storehouse to meet up with the others.