A man stood on a cliff overlooking a small village. His silver hair clashed with his swarthy skin in a seemingly unnatural manner. On his right hand was a silver gauntlet, and on his right hip was a black scabbard that housed a curved sword. Two things were obvious about this man: one, he was someone significant; and two, he was not someone to be trifled with.
Behind him, a cluster of soldiers in red armor stood on the sparsely vegetated mountainside. One of them detached herself from the group and walked up to him, carrying her helmet under her arm. The soldier glanced behind her, and then said, "Commander Sirinus, the weapon is ready."
"Good. Give the command to fire," the man replied. His voice had a wispy quality.
The soldier turned and began to walk back, but then hesitated. She gritted her teeth and then turned back to face her superior. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Commander," she said, her voice trembling slightly.
Sirinus turned around to face her. "What?" he said icily.
"You would have us slaughter an entire village
. To what end? Is this just another meaningless display of force?"
"The executive decisions of the empress are none of your concern, Captain," he replied in a measured voice. "I will tell you one more time: Give the command to fire the weapon."
"I'm afraid, Commander
that you can't give that kind of order to a civilian," the captain said unsteadily. "I'm resigning."
Sirinus grinned wickedly. "Is that so? In that case, here's a different kind of order." He raised his gauntleted hand and pointed at the captain. A terrible power seemed to radiate from the hand; the air around it shimmered. The captain began to tremble and dropped her helmet to the ground.
"Go to the village," Sirinus said firmly. "Stay there."
A look of abject terror on her face, the captain began to walk in jerky, tortured motions, taking a path that led down the cliff.
Sirinus watched for several minutes as she made her way toward the settlement. The other soldiers murmured amongst themselves, but none dared to confront him.
Lamenting that his subordinate was unable to perform her simple task, Sirinus recognized that the burden now fell on him. He had always hated raising his voice.