The Stones of Arcory 20 Truth and Fire.
To my good fortune, Goldenstar owned far better steeds than the one I had been given by Council. It only took us three days to ride the Vale Road up the Shatterstone Pass. I was little prepared, however, for what I would witness when we reached what remained of the enclave, even after we joined the King’s own adjudicators and heard what their mission was to be.
The scent of smoke hung heavy in the air of the Vale of Elasch. I will admit to have trepidation traveling with the King’s adjudicators who were traveling under the protection of treaty (this was of course prior to the journey of the first refugee train from the Vale). But given their mission, l was not surprised the giants did not interfere with their own particular tasks.
Having left the former outpost for the last time, I suspect, I fell to ruminating over the King’s taste for heavy handed royal justice. For a thousand years the Vale men had lived in the enclave of humanity amongst the range of the mountain giants. And while the treaties of alliance had stood well many in the North, they had fallen victim to how the new lands of man had changed family since the last conjunction.
A rebellion against such treaty had been foreseen. But the cost seemed agreeable to the king’s of old. Not the new. Wealth had moved west. Defense of such places was seen as foolish adherence to tradition at best, embarrassingly wasteful at worst.
I did not shirk my own duty. I offered my assistance to determine the veracity of the recalcitrant, and removed, and ultimately executed for treason against the crown, the last Master of the Vale. And I deserved the burning hatred I saw in Elector Barnasman’s eyes as much as any other. He’d only wished to preserve the land he had sworn to protect.
In my long life, I have known many men, arcane or otherwise, I admired for their honesty, honor, and intractable belief in their defense of their land. To see such a man broken and made an example of is the kind of thing which haunts me. There are times when it can be difficult to tell the villains from the heroes. This was one of them.
“Do you admit you have acted against the rule of the King of all the Bellestrae?” the inquisitor had demanded of the Elector, now the King’s high prisoner. “Do you admit you have led savage assaults against treaty bearers of King Gregor and King Ulth?”
Representatives of the King of the mountain giants had been invited to witness this, the first of many judgments before the final exodus began. And the warrior giants, as tall as trees, and whose bellows carried clear across the valley, did nothing to hide their enjoyment of the proceedings.
“I have acted against this unjust treaty!” Barnasman shouted with as much vehemence as any man who had ever endured the degree of veracity spell I cast on him. “A monstrous treaty intended only to bring ruin on the Vale and all her honorable history. A treaty which belittles the bravery and memory of my forefathers and all who fought for this precious land. And I will stand to my last breath to guard my lands and its peoples against this act which will destroy their heritage.”
And stand he did, as the adjudicator, armed with the truth I had unhappily confirmed, had him and his unrepentant followers put to the axe for the high treason they had admitted. In the way of all men, some were stoic in the end, some pleaded for mercy and their lives, and some screamed in their rage against the King. But on the faces of the ones who ringed the ceremony and towered over the human gathering, I could only see satisfaction. They had finally regained what their forefathers had lost nearly a thousand years before. For the giants, it was a time of celebration.
So yes, all around us, under their great torches, The Vale of the Elaschi burned.