It was a familiar ritual.
The magistrate would chain up the accused, list his crimes, beat him a little, and whip up the crowd to a frenzy. When he was done, they would call for the execution without the bother of a trial.
Today was different. The crowd was quiet, restive. He used his usual tactics, beating the rebel while listing his sins against the empire. But the crowd was getting worse.
The prisoner smiled up at him through split lips. “It only works if they’re your crowd.”
The magistrate stared out at the sea of people and was afraid.

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