Lorasai had been practicing his art at some distance from the village as he usually did. Though he loved an audience he didn't want to frighten them with some of his more exoticmoves. He stood now, balanced on one foot, atop the Ironwood Rod of Au-Kuang and silently pushing his awareness out away from him. His body was pleasantly warm and exhausted as he had pushed hard in his workout. As his awareness pushes out beyond the edges of his practice area, one of the more distant docks, it is caught by the slightest sound and movement. When Lorasai cracks open his eyelid he sees her, concealing herself behind some barrels. She is watching him intently, as her hands absently play with the black curls of her hair. He is about to call to her when his attention is grabbed by a much louder noise. Looking up he sees an airship descending over the trees.
The seal of a royal official is painted on the ships sides and his keen eyes catch a flashing glint of sunlight on armor. Armed men? Lorasai gracefully backflips off the Rod, pulling it from the soil where it was lodged as he runs towards the village. The girl will have to wait.
By the time he makes it to the villaige square Hetman Minar and most of the villagers are already there in conversation with their visitors. Lorasai, in a few skips, hops on top of a nearby house and crouches so he can get a clear view of what is going on and remain relatively concealed. It's unlikely that he would be recognized but there is no need to take chances.
The man they are talking too is tall, older but not elderly, with a long face and disapproving beady eyes framed by a delicate pair of gold rimmed spectacles that flash in the sun. His clothing is extravagant with lace and intricate patterns. There are six imperial soldiers standing behind him in full gear, hands resting on the pommels of their swords. Lorasai can just hear the conversation?
"I don't understand, your Eminence, our contribution to the Empire has already been made this year. What little stock we have left we need to feed ourselves!" Minar says, his old voice edgy with distress.
"Miscalculations are unfortunate," the man says, his tone dismissive. "Nevertheless the tax must be met."
"There must be some mistake," Minar says, "Will you give us time to send to Lord Bulan? I'm sure we can straighten this out"
"Oh ho! I don't know that you should count on that," the stranger says, "but there isn't time, I'm due back in the capital shortly."
"But we simply can't pay this! We don't have it! We'll starve"
The man seems to consider this, and looks around at the crowd, who are watching him and the soldeirs nervously. "The Emperor does not want to starve his people. Perhaps an alternative?" He consults a scroll. "I see you have had two live births this year?"
"We were fortunate."
"Indeed. The Emperor will be pleased to accept those children instead."
The villaigers gasp in unison. Minar stammers, " The...the children? But... that's insane!"
"I assure you, I'm quite rational." The nobleman says as he motions to his soldiers. They all draw their swords in unison. "Now don't make us look for them. We don't want to have this become... unpleasent."