The old man scraping the wall heard my question, for he beckons me closer, eyes darting. Casually I saunter closer.
“The slave pens, master?” His brow wrinkles.
“My family,” I say.
His brow clears. “Ah. It isn’t easy to break someone out …” He squints at me. “But you will try anyway, I see. That way. Look behind the red building.” He points in a direction at an angle to the one the boy vanished into.
I gaze at him. “”Do you know of the fort to the south?”
Blinking, he nods.
“Hard as this will be, gather your friends and go there. Walk out of Porlese tonight even if they try and stop you, and keep going until you reach it. If the gathered already there have started the march to safety, follow the tracks.”
The old man points upward questioningly.
I sigh. “Yes, it comes.” I clasp his shoulder and turn away.
“Thank you,” he calls after me.
He will not thank me when the authorities attempt to stop them. Many will be beaten; some will lose their lives. I wave over my shoulder, for there is nothing to add to what I already said.
The red building is obvious. It is six levels of intimidation, with Porlese Trading emblazoned across the upper storey. Trading in slaves, no doubt. Leading Forest, I walk slowly nearer. There are guards, I notice, at the imposing doors. Going down a side street, I see more big men in obtrusive positions. The slavers take no chances here.
“Hey! Move along! What you want here?” one bellows.
“Looking for an inn,” I call back. “Just into the city.”
“Not this way, mister. Turn around.”
“Is there water for my horse?” I ask.
Rolling his eyes, the man points at a nearby trough. “Drink, then go.”