"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Turning Back

He looked up sharply as something in the surrounding brushes rustled. One of his soldiers approached and reported quietly, "Sir, the enemy's here. I believe we are surrounded." General Throshum cast a sharp eye at his surroundings. The children his troupe was accompanying to their homes across the border were chattering amongst themselves, oblivious to the building tension of their escort.

"As far as I know, there is no change in our situation," growled the general. "We are at peace now that the treaty is being negotiated. Spread the word to keep an eye out for hostile movement, but carry on—our priority is getting these kids home." He moved forward a few steps, checking his rifle to make sure it was ready, and then stopped abruptly. In front of him was a buff man leaning against a tree.

"Hello General," he said, sneering, "I am afraid you cannot pass through here." He lifted a hand carelessly and men stepped out from behind the bushes and trees around them, weapons drawn.

Throshum glared at the man evenly. "We are on a peaceful mission to return these children home. Please let us through"

"My men and I have orders to stop you all from passing the border," the man replied. "If you turn back quietly, there will be no need for fighting."

One of the Throshum's newer men sidled up to him nervously. "Sir, if any of these children get hurt, the peace might be broken," he whispered. "We need to turn back."

The general turned his massive body, bearing down on the rookie. "I give the orders around here, soldier. Remember that." He turned back to eye the enemy, reflecting out loud, "Besides, I knew that already. I am sure he's also privy to that information…on the other hand the negotiations would most probably be ruined if the kids are not returned on time. And we're so close to the border too." He weighed his choices for a moment and then made a decision. "We will not turn back," he announced. "Let us pass; we do not wish to fight."

The man in front of General Throsham's force snickered gleefully. "I am afraid I cannot do that." Looking around at his men, he stood and brushed himself off. Then he checked that the bayonet was secure on his rifle and looked straight into the general's eyes for a moment. "Alright, boys," he said loudly, "attack."

The general leapt back, roaring to his men, "Protect the children! Circle around and form a wall; we can't let them get hurt!" A bullet whizzed past, nicking him in the ear and catching another soldier in the arm. Throsham's troupes moved quickly into formation, keeping the children safe as possible. The enemy charged for the group, bayonets gleaming maliciously. A rifle swung viciously down towards the general's head, but he blocked it with his own, swinging his gun quickly around to knock the other man's weapon out of his hands and then stabbing him in the chest. Before he had time to register what he had done, another man was aiming a bayonet at his heart. He started to dodge, remembering too late that the children were behind him. He stopped his movement just in time to feel the blade plunge into his shoulder. He dropped his rifle, losing his breath for one dizzy second as the assailant wrenched his weapon from Throshum's flesh and stabbed once more at the his heart. The general's vision focused on his approaching death. His right hand flew up and knocked the gun aside and he punched the man with as much strength as he could muster. As he quickly picked up his gun again, a bruise formed where he had contacted with the other man's rifle.

He heard the distant voice of one of his soldiers in the background. "General Throsham! We are loosing this battle, we must turn back!" The General ignored his soldier as he killed his next attacker with ease. "General, Sir! We have made an opening on this side of the circle but it won't last much longer—call out the order and we will evacuate the children. There's still a chance!"

The general fought back an enemy with some difficulty, blocking an attempt to smash his ribcage and crushing the man's skull with his rifle. "No, we will not turn back!" the general bellowed furiously. "We must win this battle and carry on!"

"But Sir—" the soldier started.

"No buts! Keep fighting." Throsham turned grimly to face yet another adversary when an ear-splitting screech ripped through the air. The fighting froze for a moment and deathly silence fell over the battle ground. General Throsham turned swiftly towards the sound, dreading what that scream might mean. One of the children lay on the ground at an awkward angle, covered in blood. "No…" he started to say, horrified by the image before him, when something heavy smashed against his head. Darkness clouded his vision and he fell to the ground with a loud thump.

When he woke up, pain seared throughout General Throshum's body. His shoulder felt like it was on fire and an unpleasant rhythm beat ruthlessly in his brain. After a few moments, he noticed that the floor beneath him was cold and hard. He opened his eyes to see a small stone room with dim light coming in through a tiny barred window near the roof. He was a prisoner. And what of the children? He would never know what happened to them.