The Magistrate is the mild-mannered administrator of a remote outpost in territory controlled by The Empire. His efforts to maintain civil relations with the local barbarians are challenged by the arrival of Colonel Joll, who disagrees with The Magistrate's governing. Colonel Joll's ruthless tactics uncover that the barbarians are plotting an uprising. Joll's brutality leads The Magistrate to intervene to save a woman who has been tortured by Joll and his cronies. The Magistrate's failure to control his outpost, combined with Colonel Joll's heavy-handed intervention, lead The Magistrate to question his loyalty to The Empire.