Paul felt ignoble as he stood there.  Like the others that had been captured in the fighting the day before, he had been brought out to the square in shackles and stood waiting to be inspected by the troop commander.  Their only attire afforded them was a loincloth; their hair had been shorn the night before.

There were eleven of them in all.  One day ago there had been over a hundred who had marched out to meet the invaders.  He stole a glance of the ranks of well trained imperial soldiers lined up on either side of the square and realized once again what a hopeless fight it had been.  These soldiers were well trained and well disciplined and the ragtag group he had been part of hadn't stood a chance.

The battle (if you could call it that) had lasted minutes.  Paul's axe had seemed so formidable to him before the fight, but he only swung it once, embedding it into a shield before he took a blow to the head and fell in a daze.  When he had come to it was all over.  Paul was certain that he had a nice purple swollen lump a few inches behind his left ear.  He still had a blinding headache and the sun seemed overly bright.

All of the folk of the village were directly in front of him at the far side of the square.  The soldiers lined both sides four ranks deep so no one had any illusions about rescue.  The villagers were there to watch, and anyone who proceeded into the gap between the prisoners and the villagers would be cut down by soldiers on either side.

The commander stepped smartly into the gap and proceeded until he was in the exact centre of the square, then he turned smartly towards the people.  He stood for a moment and as Paul studied his rigid back he began to speak in a booming voice.

"These are all that remain of the group of people you sent out yesterday to defy us!  Everyone not able to walk away is now dead."

He paused to let that news sink in.  Paul could hear some sobbing coming from across the square, but it was remarkably quiet.

"We are part of a much larger army based out of the port of Henda, which was the last stronghold of your king and his pathetic army.  The country that you thought to protect is a memory."

He stood there for many fat minutes, letting his last shouted words hang in the air.  Silence greeted him.

"The people on this continent face a grave threat and we must stand united under the Banner of the Empire if we are to exist.  The Sun-Abbi are coming from the east."

several hanging heads jerked up at this last.  The Sun-Abbi hadn't been seen in three hundred years, but the tales of horror from the dark times before they were driven off the land were still told late at night after the young ones went to bed.  

The Commander turned on his heel and faced Paul and the others.  The commander's icy blue eyes seemed to bore right into Paul as he said: "These men are the newest conscripts in the Army of the Empire.  Their bravery will be needed if we are to keep this continent safe."  


The End

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