To Mum,
with heartfelt love,


There was a kingdom long long long long long ago, and China was at its greatest. The Queen Joyce was on the throne. The personal philosopher was called Rob Tsu, and the Executioner was an axe-wielding maniac called Ewan, who would behead anything or anyone, if he had the chance. He was also not kept in the throne room, lest he go mad at some insolent visitor. And the population was thriving.

But one day, a message came that the Mongolian Empire was jealous, and everybody from newborn babies to the Crown Prince had to go to war, including the Philosopher. And of course the crazy Executioner.

The Executioner's troop and the Philosopher's troop worked out a clever manoeuvre. They would rush out and meet the oncoming wall of horse-riding Huns. Then once he had got his men into combat, the Executioner would hack his way through the Hun army, and then he would come out at the side of it (not the back), and would rush around to the back of it and attack from there.

The plan went well - or it would have done. For the Executioner's men were not as brave as the Executioner himself, and they were not holding wacking great axes. So his men ran away. Fortunately they were saved by the arrival of the Crown Prince at the back of the Mongol army, raining a hail of arrows, shooting their horses from under them, and then riding them down.

Meanwhile the Executioner was staying where he was, and woe to any Mongol or Hun who rode into his path. For he was swirling his axe round so that anything would get disembowelled in some way.

The Philosopher, meanwhile, had discovered an excellent strategy. Rather than perishing the Huns by the blade which he had borrowed, he found it rather more use to bore them to tears with philosophy. Eventually, Genghis Khan (for it was he) got fed up of these strategies, and his men being hacked to pieces. So he rode on home.

Everything was happy. Except in one small family. For the contents of the family would not have been widowed or orphaned, had not the returning Executioner mistaken the man of the family for a Mongol.

Peace was supreme. Except in the execution chamberů.


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