Lilia stared at the old man sitting across from her. His wizened face bent over the soup that was their supper. She smiled with affection at his bowed head, Lodar had been her foster father since she was a child when her parents were killed. He had raised her with the knowledge of the mountains and forests that surrounded them in all their majesty. He had always said that she had a gift with nature, that the energy from the earth flowed through her. All she knew was that she felt complete in the mountains and forests, she felt it's ebb and flow of life. Which was far better than the existence they led inside the walls of the village. The village was small and had little by the way of technology. They worked the land by hand and everything was done through back breaking labor. Led by a corrupt government, her village and all those around her led a hard life, full of fear and poverty. The leaders were the only ones who benefited, living in their luxurious houses and sending out their collectors to take what meagre savings or goods the villagers had. There were whispers that there were wondrous machines in their houses that made their lives easy but it was all rumor. All Lilia knew was that they had nothing and each meal was put on the table by the grace of Mother nature. But that would soon change, Lilia had been building her own little haven in the mountains and soon it would be ready for her and Lodar.
"Is the soup good, father?" she asked the silent man across from her. "It is not too hot for you, I hope. I had saved all the best vegetable under the floor so those pig collectors couldn't take them."
"You take too many chances, my dear." Lodar shook his head glumly, "I fear one day it will get you into trouble and I will not be able to help you."
"Don't you fear, father. Soon we will be gone from this place and be free in the mountains. I almost have it ready." She smiled happily, "You will see it will be wonderful and we will never have to bow to these cretins again!"
"Lilia I….." Suddenly the ground shook and a loud crash was heard outside. Lilia grabbed the table as the entire house seemed to shift.
"What was that?" She asked fearfully. There was another loud explosion followed by the sounds of smaller ones all around them.
"Get down!" Lodar yelled, "Come here child, quickly. We must go to the cellar at once." More explosions could be heard and then yelling as the towns soldiers could be heard in the streets. Sounds of weapons fire could be heard as the small rifles that were the towns only defence shot off round after round. Another crash was heard and the rifles went silent. Lilia ran across the room towards Lodar and together they ran into the cellar, closing the door over their head. For what seemed an eternity the battle waged outside their walls against an unknown foe and then there was silence.
They sat in the dark for a while and then Lilia asked, "Do you think it is safe to go out yet? I hear no more sounds, I think it is all over now."
"We do not know what is out there!" Lodar whispered, "It could still be dangerous."
"What would anyone want with us," Lilia reasoned as she felt around for the latch to the door. "We have nothing and are no threat to anyone. It won't hurt to look and at least see what has happened. Maybe another town's praetoriate decided to take over here. Ligar was always a spineless leader." She found the latch and pushed open the door to the cellar. The fire flickered and spread a glow over the room which did not seem to be damaged in any way. Lilia stood and listened, silenced reigned outside. She went to the window and peaked out. There, hovering above their village were several spheres with lights shining out their sides.
"What is it?" Lodar asked from the cellar door.
"I don't know. I've never seen anything like this. It most definitely is not another village, in fact I don't think they are from here at all."
"What do you mean, not from here? That doesn't even make sense. If they are not from here then where? Across the great sea? Over the spiked mountains to the west? Where?", Lodar harumphed with irritation, "come girl, spit it out."
"I don't think they are from this planet father." Lilia turned to stare at her foster father with wide frightened eyes, "they have ships that hover with strange markings down the side. They almost look like the runes you have shown me."
Lodar stared at Lilia intently. Could it be…. "Are you sure my child?"
"Positive father. They…" Suddenly there was pounding on the door.
"Open up." A voice outside shouted and at Lodar's curt nod Lilia slowly opened the door. A strange man stood outside in an odd uniform but he looked like them not the scary monster Lilia had dreamed up.
"All villagers must attend to the main hall immediately," the man said sharply, "There are no exceptions. We will escort you there." The man stood in the doorway making it apparent that he meant business so Lilia quickly found a sweater for herself and Lodar and followed him out. As they walked to the hall they could see other villagers being escorted also and buildings on fire. Although as Lilia looked closely she could see that none of the houses were burning, only where the weapons were kept and the barracks for the soldiers and other buildings of Ligar's so called defence force.
Lodar leaned towards Lilia and grasped her hand tightly. "Whatever you do child, hold your tongue. We do not need to antagonize anyone. Please for me." Lilia waved her hand dismissively and Lodar squeezed it tighter. "Please."
"I will try and hold my tongue father. But I will not be trampled on by these brutes either. Not while I'm so close to freeing us." Lodar shook his head and prayed to the Goddess of the mountain that his foster daughter would, for once, keep her fiery temper in check. They were waved into the crowded building where all the other villagers had amassed. Fearful whispers could be heard throughout the room.
"Who are they?"
"Did you see their ships, they say each one holds a thousand men."
Lilia was looking around trying to gauge where the guards were standing when she noticed that everyone had fallen silent. She looked up to see several men standing on the dais and coming to the front was a tall commanding figure. He easily topped Lodar, who was quite tall, by a head. His face was stern and handsome, framed by a black, neatly trimmed beard. But it was his eyes that Lilia noticed first, they were intense and dark as night. They scanned the room and seemed to miss nothing. All eyes were on him as he stood and surveyed all those crowded in the room.
"My name is General Vadim and I want to thank you all for coming here.." He began, his deep voice resonating in the hall.
"We didn't have much of a choice, " Lilia heard herself snipe and she cringed as Lodar's foot came down hard on hers. The tall man's eyes sought her out and stared at her intently. Lilia refused to give an inch and thrust her small chin up as she tried, and failed, to stare him down.
He smiled slightly, "No you didn't, but I appreciate that there was no reason to use force." He looked out at the crowd again. "Do not fear we are not here to harm you, but to help you. Although it may not seem like it, in time all will become clear to you. In the meantime I ask that you continue with your daily routine but no one is to leave the village confines. There will be guards posted at all exits and there are no exceptions!"
"So basically we are your prisoners then?" Lilia asked scathingly, "and we are to fall down and thank you for not hurting us."
"Lilia!" Lodar's horrified voice sounded in here ear, "For goodness sakes child, shut your mouth." Lilia felt a twinge of remorse when she heard the angst in her foster father's voice, but not leaving the village meant she could not go to the mountains. She would die if you could not be in her beloved nature.
General Vadim stared at her again, his face giving away nothing. "No you are not prisoners as you so eloquently put it. It is for your own safety and the safety of others that this has to be. As I said all will be come apparent in time." Lilia opened her mouth to speak again when at his wit's end Lodar clamped his hand over her mouth. Surprised at the strength of his grip, Lilia bit her tongue. She spun around and swept out of the room aware of the General's eyes drilling into her back. To her surprise no one tried to stop her as she left.