Forest slurps water as if it is nectar. I allow him take his time, using it to look around. The guards watch, but do not interfere.
Further along is a recess between buildings, with gates. Following the rooftop line, the entrance leads to the area behind the red edifice.
“Enough!” a guards snarls. “Get moving!”
I coax Forest aside and clamber on. Flicking the reins, I move forward. “Turn, you stupid horse,” I mutter for the benefit of the guards, while nudging him onward.
“I’m going!” I call out. “Trying to turn him, is all!” At the gates I ‘manage’ to gain control of him, turning him there. “Sorry!” I wave as we canter back into the city. I do not look back.
In a broader street, I rein him to a walk. The gates are huge iron bars, and beyond is a guard house. Six hurtled out when they heard Forest, swords brandished. Beyond them lay another set of gates. The impression I received was of ceaseless movement there.
Gritting my teeth to still fury, I examine the impression for details. The twisting coils of red and black snakes begin to roil in my sight. Fear. There is much fear beyond those gates. The movement was a sea of humanity.
Bringing Forest to a halt, I gaze unseeing into the distance. Why have they raided for so many slaves? Even if they give the bare minimum, still the food required to keep them alive will cripple Porlese.
This is about more than needing hands to erect shelters against doom from above.
The old man is at my stirrup. “They search for talents,” he says. “All are tested. They keep anyone they find, but the rest is thrown from the cliffs.”
My guts hollows.
“Tonight is the next cull,” the old whispers.