Lost in the swaying grass of the endless plains a banner unfurled in the cold breeze. I watched in fear, in awe of the assembly before me. The Great Emperor had given the word and horses had made a quick gallop to this spot deep in the vast wastes of this land. The fearless autocrat has raised the red flag of war, and I may be the only outsider to witness it- and be allowed to live.
To reinforce my sinking suspicion, some war prisoners of the enemy were quickly beheaded, sacrificed to the gods of war, sending the assembled warriors into a frenzy. My blood curtled at their calls and my mount pranced nervously. I tapped its strong side in an attempt to calm the beast, and calm myself.
The Great Emperor rose to speak on the grand stage and the assembly fell pin drop silent. I watched from a far as he powerfully strode forward. He stood strong in his sturdy build, glittering in his fine garb. He began to sing in a loud bass profundo voice, as was the way the emperor addressed the public. From my limited understanding of the court dialect, he was reciting a war poem his grandfather, the Supreme Conqueror wrote on the occasion of massacring, to the man, the capital of a former rival, now an enslaved province.
I watched the soldiers assembled, heads bowed, but not understanding a word the Emperor sang, his lyrics were far too archaic, though they knew it should be received with severe reverence. Horses kicked and snorted, and the banners flapped against the cold sky.
The Emperor finished singing the poem and fell silent. Again only the wind, vulgarly ignoring the solemnity of the occasion, could be heard. The Emperor placed his hands on his hips and tilted his head back. In a voice that seemed far too loud for a human to produce he screamed “Obliterate all” in the vernacular. The army assembled responded in a feverish exalt, with horses rearing from the deafening roar.
My handler leaned over to me. “See this, take leave of here and go tell your people: while today you aren’t our enemy, should that fate ever befall you, this is what awaits.” The guards grabbed the reigns of my horse and began to lead me away, back towards my homeland, bearing news and warnings.
As we crested the hill I looked back to see a cloud of churned earth rising from the zealot band, whipped into a furious dance. I pitied the enemy, and hoped my people would never fall afoul of them. I’m sure my witnessing this here was meant to scare us into tributary status, one I would wholly recommend. My people, despite our island ramparts and our fleet, could never outlast the pure bloodthirsty will of these men. Any one who witnessed such a gathering would understand just how devastating this army would be to anyone who dared oppose them, if not by imperial command, then out of pure spite.
One of the guards guiding me noticed me looking back, “Face forward,” he commanded, “Save your awe and fear, you will need an ample supply of both when we come for you.”