They arrived, three of them mounted on fine horses with silver and turquoise decorating their tack. Their fur lined capes were thrown back to reveal green imperial uniforms that dripped with silver braid. Their swords, pistols and high crowned shakos flashed. Ruben sent his mother inside their little cabin.
“Hola senior!” called the first merrily. He looked to be perhaps eighteen, a good two years older than Ruben. He wore the red sash of a captain. The others were older, though not by much.
“Hola,” Ruben answered cautiously. He’d known men like these years ago. As a boy he had been discovered to be Elegido, the Chosen One. He’d fought with them, toppled governments and conquered nations with men like these. When the Great Danger had been defeated, men like these had devoured the world he’d fought to save. “You are not welcome here, seniors. If you do not know, you are on private property, granted to me by the Emperor himself. If you know this then you also know I value my privacy. Either way, it would be best if you went back the way you came.”
The men laughed and kicked their bright spurs back, edging their horses up the slope.
“Peace, Elegido!” the captain called. “We are here for the Emperor.”
“He knows I don’t want visitors.”
“Si! He does, but I fear that this is unavoidable. He requires your services again.”
Ruben scowled up at the captain.
“I don’t do that anymore.”
“Not even for your, Emperor?”
“No,” he turned away, retrieving his hoe from where he’d propped it against the split rail fence. The vegetable patch was in bad need of weeding. The thunk of something hitting the dusty ground brought Ruben’s head around. A fat sack lay between him and the soldiers, the bright gold within splayed out in the dust in a fan of wealth most men could scarce imagine.
“Not even for that?”
“I didn’t take his gold before. Only the land he offered. Land he said I would never be troubled on again, I might add,” Ruben snapped.
“What then can move you, senior? I am authorized to grant it, whatever it might be.”
“I told you, I don’t do that anymore.”
The young captain, still smiling, waved to the other men who dismounted quickly. Ruben shifted his grip on the hoe, tensed for action but the two toy soldiers only began to gather up the gold. “Yet you hold that hoe as if you remember how.”
The captain’s hand twitched in signal and with the speed of snakes the two soldiers transformed from popinjays to deadly assassins. Their swords lept from their scabbards and they lunged forward. The first flung a handful of dust and gold at Ruben’s eyes, but it was already too late. The Power surged through Ruben. A shield of protection deflected the grit and gold. The hoe swung. Two brutal Power imbued strokes shattered swords and skulls alike. The two soldiers were flung though the air a dozen feet before flopping still and lifeless in the dust.
Ruben stood trembling, his teeth bared. The hoe gleamed red.
Laughing, the young captain clapped is gloved hands.
“Excellent, Elegido! Now will you be coming or shall I return with more men for you to kill first?”
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