The king lowered his hand. It was decided; they would do as the “gods” say and murder all children under ten years of age.
In this case, the gods are being unjust, the king said to his subjects. However, disobeying their commands means death for us all.
His son and daughter would also need to be slaughtered. The gods proclaimed that if even one child escaped their fate, everyone would be destroyed.
It is a foul day for the kingdom, the king said after a moment. Yet we will go on to be better people for it.
He of course did not believe this, but his people needed hope.
The king’s master swordsman raised his sword and put it near the king’s son’s neck.
The gathered people gasped.
He kept it there even after the king glared at him.
Finally he took the sword away, but then held it up above his head.
Or we fight, the king’s master swordsman said.
The king turned fully to his swordsman, ready to have the man arrested, or killed, if need be.
This was a time for united obedience, not doubt.
This man who had served his father before him. Taught he, and his sister, how to fight. Was a friend. He should know better. Now he would become one of the first of many who would die protecting the children.
As a king, he had already sentenced his only two children to death. Wasn’t that enough?
It took a moment, but the surrounding fighters also raised their swords. The nobles, and gathered men and women, raised their hands as well. His queen raised her dagger.
His two children turned to him as if looking for a sign. They then raised their swords as well.
The king lowered his head and shook it.
After a long moment he looked up. His voice came croaky at first, but soon smoothed.
They are unbeatable. We will all die. I give you the opportunity to live. You’ll have more children. The kingdom will survive this atrocity.
The silence afterward was deathly, and could actually result in such deaths. He turned to his wife. She watched him, he could see, but from the corner of her eye as she looked out over their subjects.
The king lowered his head again, although then turned it into a nod.
Alright, he said, we fight the gods.