“Look, there goes another one!” Marcus shouted and pointing his gleaming sword. In the distance, the white garb made the man easy to see while he ran away in the torchlight. The man was running frantically knowing death was coming.An arrow whizzed by Marcus’ head, but he didn’t flinch. His eyes were trained on the deserter. Only when he saw the arrow pierce his back and the man fall to the ground did Marcus take his eyes off him.“Good aim, Alexandros,” he said, walking past the archer.Alexandros stood back at attention holding his bow in his hand. He kept quiet as this was not the night to irritate the general. All the soldiers knew that their commander was not taking this lightly.Marcus barely made it ten strides before another soldier ran up to him.“Sir, three more tried to escape from the west end. They were killed but the men fear more may try soon,” he reported in between heavy breaths.“Remind them there’s a thousand men waiting just over the next hill just in case the whole theater tries to break out,” Marcus replied, hoping that exact scenario wouldn’t come true.“Also, sir, there are reports from the south that a woman is about to give birth inside. Should we give her leave?”“She knows the rules same as us. Nobody leaves, or they will be killed. If any of our men try to help her out, they will be killed as well. Emperor’s orders.”“Yes sir,” the soldier saluted and ran back the way he came. Once the darkness swallowed his figure Marcus relaxed.The men he led were tough, he knew, but they hadn’t done anything like this before. On the battlegrounds they were fearless in the eyes of our enemies. They wouldn’t hesitate to unsheathe their swords or string their bows in the name of the empire.This was not normal for anyone. The deserters were everyday citizens. The people they had been ordered to fire upon were the same people they fought wars to protect.“Another runner,” a soldier called out just before giving an order to fire.Marcus watched with regret as the archer pulled his string back and let an arrow fly. The two men watched the arrow hit its mark killing the civilian. They put their heads down but continued to stand guard like the soldiers they were.“Sir,” Marcus heard someone say and winced when he realized why he had come to him.“Yes, more runners again?”“Well, yes, of course,” the soldier stumbled not knowing what else to say now.“Pray to the gods this madness ends soon,” Marcus blurted out, “I mean it’s just the emperor singing songs.” Then he wondered to himself, “How bad must he be that dozens of people choose death over sitting through his performance.”