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He met them at the gates, defiant.

“I know your question before you ask it, and here’s your answer,” he cried. “I shall never swear fealty to your emperor!”

The approaching soldiers stopped and looked to their leader. He laughed.

“Then you shall burn,” he shouted.

His soldiers raised their bows, and sent flaming arrows over the walls. The trees in the orchard caught fire within seconds, quickly spreading to the house.

“You think that’ll change my mind? Houses fall. They can be rebuilt. Trees die. They can be replanted. I’ll never honour your pig of an emperor!”

He was left with ruins.

They came back, a week later.

“You have nothing now,” they shouted. “Swear fealty and you might get to keep your land!”

He stood proudly amidst the ruins of his home. “Never!”

They took him away in irons. Daily, they returned to his cell and gave him the same choice. “Swear fealty,” they said, “And you can return to your land. You can replant your trees. Rebuild your house.”

Daily he looked up at them with the barest hint of a smile behind the pain. “And what of my honour? The answer is still no.”

He is long gone, now, but his lands still remain, and from the ashes a seed may one day grow, fed by the memory of the man who chose honour over apples.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Today’s story is inspired by something from the game Dragon Age: Origins – a note that you find in a dungeon which sounds as if it should lead to a quest but sadly doesn’t. I decided to tell the same story, from a slightly different angle.)

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