City of Lodent, Cassia.
There just wasn’t enough food. The winter had been hard, and even though the cold weather was showing signs of relenting, the conditions forced upon the nation by the Naborn did not. Now more than a year into the occupation, virtually every aspect of the Cassian economy fell within the grasp of Naborn rule. Nothing could be bought or sold without proper identification, inspections were a constant hindrance, and the military would take what it wanted and needed first, leaving little for the citizenry.
The people were hungry and angry, and the emptiness of their stomachs was beginning to win out over their fears of reprisal if they were to complain. In some areas of the nation, especially the bigger cities where Naborn troop levels were highest, the rumblings were still relatively quiet. But in other areas – like Lodent, a small city little more than 200 miles north of Naji – emotions were boiling.
For five straight days, citizens gathered in the main square to protest the conditions in their city. Naborn troops would quickly scatter them with a show of force, taking some of the more vocal speakers into custody, even killing a few for effect. But still, the next day, more would come. They would leave their homes and walk the streets shouting and carrying signs, their number building as they neared the square.
This morning looked to be one of the biggest turnouts yet, with nearly a thousand people marching toward what used to be a pleasant city park. The troops were already there, guns pointed, but the people kept coming and coming.
When they got closer to their normal gathering point near an old outdoor stage they noticed something different standing in front of the hundred or so Naborn troops: three individuals cloaked in shrouds.
The crowd stopped, but their chants grew louder. “We need food! We need it now!” they shouted over and over.
Normally, the Naborn would give them but a few minutes to make their case before chasing them away. This time, however, they waited longer. The energy in the crowd intensified with each minute, but the soldiers just stood and watched.
“We need food! We need it now! We need food! We need it now!”
Then, the three in shrouds stepped closer.
“We need food! We need…” The chanting stopped as the shrouds fell to the ground, and what looked like three dead men glared at the crowd.
The demonstrators were horrified and confused, looking at one another and mumbling questions of “how?” and “what?” and “who?”
One of the dead men – a Circle Knight with three silver bars and two gold – spoke slowly and eerily. “By order of Lord Sha’ad, this demonstration is unlawful.”
An older man in the front of the crowd yelled back, “Crawl back into your grave, freak. We’re not afraid.” The crowd laughed and cheered.
Unfazed, the Knight smiled, and in a flash he and the other two Knights thrust their palms toward the demonstrators and the first several rows were knocked to the ground as if by a blast of wind, the old man in front hitting his head on the ground and dying.
As the others struggled back to their feet the rest of the crowd backed away in a panic, then broke into a sprint as the Knights began tossing swirling balls of white energy from their hands that vaporized with a shriek anyone they touched. Five, ten, fifty, a hundred perished in less than a minute, and except for the dozen or so that managed to get away, the rest would soon fall just as easily.
It was a massacre.
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