The Lost Vale

Chapter 14:

The Trial

Lord Traust pointed at Darion accusingly, an action that he had done repeatedly in the last hour, "You are a blasphemer! How dare you make such lies."

"On my honour as a warrior," said Darion, "I come from the people called the Pagans."

"Lies!" yelled Traust, banging a gauntleted hand against his throne, "The Pagans died out years ago. Very few left here remember them and they are a forbidden subject. By order of both myself and the High Cleric. Now desist from talking about them, warrior, and the matter shall rest here!"

"I cannot, High Warrior," said Darion, "for I speak the truth. The man who was with me, the one that priest took, he was a sorcerer of the flame. He could prove I speak the truth."

"If he speaks the same way as you do," said Lord Traust, "he is dead."

Darion shuddered, "What do you mean dead?" Darion calmed himself, reminding himself that he had lost comrades before, but the sorcerer had always instilled law and order upon Tenebrae, and like it or not Darion had depended on him, in the same way he had depended on Beren when he had brought them here.

"If he was a blasphemer the priests will have executed him outright…"

There was a loud whoosh, as Snik-Poh once again appeared before Darion and Traust.

"Forgive the intrusion, milord," said Snik-Poh, "but the one named Beren is dead."

Darion mumbled a curse, and Traust said, "Indeed. For what reason?"

Snik-Poh said, without emotion, "He was a blasphemer, and kept threatening me with the power of his flame. Quite pathetic really when you consider how minuscule his magical abilities were. The Three protected me from his most powerful spells, and with one gesture I reduced him to ash. No body remains."

Traust looked at Darion and said, "If High Cleric Snik-Poh says so - it has been done already. I have seen the spell used on law-breakers before."

"Perhaps," said Snik-Poh, "I should demonstrate on him…"

"Nay, Snik-Poh," said the High Warrior solemnly, "I think your entry alone demonstrates your powers effectively."

"Talk is already spreading of these strangers in Traustumbrae," said Snik-Poh, "Let us curb the rumours by letting the oracles decide."

"Aye," said the High Warrior, "the oracles!"

"We shall hold the prisoner in the temple," said Snik-Poh.

"Nay," said Traust, "the temple is for commoners. Darion appears to be a warrior of prowess. War and death has addled this fighter's brain and now he believes he is a member of the outcast religion. He shall stay here, in the castle, in the Honoured Prisoner's room until his trial tomorrow."

Snik-Poh clenched his teeth, and was about to object when a look from Traust silenced him.

"As High Warrior it is my authority," said Traust. "Now, we have reached our decision."

Snik-Poh nodded reluctantly. "Very well. This is a matter of the warriors. Tomorrow at Day Tide the oracles shall be consulted as to what is to be done. Farewell High Warrior."

With that, the High Cleric was gone.

Upon emerging from the pentacle, Snik-Poh chuckled to himself. A shadowy figure emerged in the light of the cave.

"How goes the plan?" asked the figure.

"As was expected, the Zealan Warrior code overrules the Priesthood in matters of justice to one deemed a 'warrior'. Darion shall be put on trial before the statue of Odion, and its verdict shall determine what happens to the Pagan."

The figure snorted, and Snik continued his chuckling.

"I see the warrior," said Mystell, "he is in some sort of cell. He needs your help. You must save him."

"What of the other?" said Devon, "Where is Beren?"

"I cannot see him… another shields him from my farsight. It may be too late for him, but not for Darion. If you leave for Traustumbrae tonight

Darion in prison The Honoured Prisoner's room consisted of a comfortable bed, a full hot meal, and curtains to go over the cell bars. Darion soon resigned himself to his fate, and sleep came very easy. By the time he woke up, Darion found the clock beside him read First Ebb. There was only one more ebb until Day Tide!

Breakfast was served to the warrior, a fine breakfast of meat - which Darion could not identify, and made certain he could not recall what it looked like in case he inadvertently identified it - and something the servant had called potatoes.

Darion had considered attempting to escape, but he noticed that the servant and the guards that patrolled by his cell all had the enchanted hammers he had fallen victim to yesterday.

Finally, as the clock neared Day Tide, Lord Traust came to his cell.

"Greetings, Darion," said the High Warrior, "it is time for you to be led to the Hall of Justice. I shall be your personal escort."

"Just you?" said Darion, "That is a considerable risk is it not?"

"If anything were to happen to me, it would prove you were a dishonourable man, as well as one who is insane," said Traust. "Now, to the Hall."

Darion is led to the statue of Odion Not wishing to dishonour himself, or his people, Darion complied with Traust, and soon he was being led down a main street in the town. Peasants from all over gathered to watch as the stranger, though few commented. In Tenebrae, Darion had witnessed the treatment of several of Mordea's prisoners. The peasantry had usually jeered, insulted and pelted with dirt the unfortunate soul while on his route to the jail, or the block.

The two warriors, and a procession of peasants entered a large stone building. Atop the door to the building was the emblem of a shield with a reddish scimitar on the top right side, a palm which seemed to hold a heart on the top left, and a set of scales on the bottom. Darion knew the emblem was more than a little familiar.

Traust uttered an incomprehensible mantra and the double doors of the building opened up to admit both he and Darion. They stepped into a great hallway. All along the hallway were Zealan guards, similar to the ones Darion had seen so far except these bared the emblems that had been on the doorway. At the end were several brown hooded robed fellows - and one who was not hooded. Their leader was Snik-Poh. Behind them was one of the statues Darion had seen in the Zealan shrine - the warrior god, Odion.

Traust scowled, "I thought this was a matter for the Warriors."

"Indeed," said Snik-Poh, "I have brought my warriors."

"The temple guard?" said Traust, motioning to the guards present. He paused thoughtfully for a minute and said, "Very well. Let us begin."

Snik-Poh pulled one of the Zealan shields out of his robes. "The sacrifices have been made. The oracle shall speak now."

"Wait a minute…" said Darion, "this is the trial?"

"Indeed!" said Snik-Poh. "Odion himself shall judge you."

Traust muttered to Darion, "Snik-Poh himself, after saving our village from trolls, found three of our gods' statues. You really are not from around here are you? The tales of that quest are legendary."

Darion remained silent, as the High Cleric waved a Zealan shield high in the air.

The Trial begins! "Oh great Odion, Master of the Emotion of Hatred. We ask you to judge the warrior, Darion, whom claims he is a follower of the Pagan ways… Does he speak truth?"

The statue, in a deep, masculine voice said, "He speaks the truth."

Darion's face displayed no emotion. There was something wrong here, the warrior thought.

"What should we do, Lord?" asked Snik-Poh, "Should we punish him, or welcome him into our town?"

Odion paused dramatically for a moment, "Darion must die! The rest of his kind must die! Darion's blood must cleanse the way to the removal of the Pagans. Let him be the first, but not the last!"

Darion said, "He lies!"

"High Cleric Snik-Poh, I give you an omen. In one night the forces of the Pagans shall summon untold horrors which will destroy your town. Already Darion, in your midst, has placed the seed of destruction upon Traustumbrae. Only the destruction of the Pagans shall prevent the extinction of the Zealan way."

"Infidel!!" said Traust, drawing his sword and pointing it at Darion's throat.

"Leave him be," said Snik-Poh, placing his hand on Traust's shoulder. "He shall be the sacrifice at Bloodtide. At Bloodtide later, Darion's blood shall cleanse the land!"

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