Chapter 16: Assassin
The great city of Tronjheim, hidden inside the mountain of Farthen Dur was quiet as it was the late hours of the night. Lights from the magic lamps came from the windows of the small houses and from the roads of the city. Even after dark, the city was busy. Tronjheim was one of the most ancient cities of the dwarves and their capital at the moment. The city had been used many times in the past as a refuge for the whole dwarven population and had strong defensive measures to prevent any attack from enemies. The city had been tested in the battle of Farthen Dur, when the Urgals under the command of Galbatorix and the shade Durza, had attacked the city. The dwarves and the Varden had won with the help of Eragon and his dragon Saphira. The lights of the city were impressive but most impressive of all was the giant sapphire rose that Saphira had rebuilt in the center of the city. The colors from the magic lamps fell on the masterfully carved petals of the flower, making it change color at parts but also, giving it an impressive look as it shined and could be seen and marveled upon from miles away. It was the heart of the mountain, the pride of the dwarven race and the most precious treasure of the city.
The throne room of Farthen Dur was richly decorated. Statues of dwarves in shining armor, decorated the room, and jeweled cups and decorations marked almost every object in the room. A large wall painting showed the dwarves of old as they fought dragons and elves as another showed the arrival of the dwarves in Alagaesia. The ceiling reached to the top of the mountain, giving it an impressive look and the magic lamps of Farthen Dur decorated and lit the place with their magical colorful light. King Orik was sitting on his golden throne. He was wearing a richly decorated white shirt and a red cape rested on his shoulders. His beard was trimmed to perfection and he had his hammer Volund on his belt. His expression was one of deep thought as lines of worry marked his young noble face. His shoulders were tense and his hand was curling his beard on an unconscious constant move. He was still looking at the mirror, however his mind was elsewhere. He had just stopped talking with Roran. News from Dras Leona was good, the city held the first few attacks by Orrin's army. But how long could the city last? Every attack weakened the walls and their defenders, even though it meant massive losses for Orrin's army. It had already been three days since the first attack on the city and the dwarves were still not ready to leave.
He had spent countless hours trying to convince the rulers of the other clans that it was necessary to help the humans in their struggle. This would help the dwarves not only economically, through trade, as the humans had grown to be a valuable trade partner, making the dwarven economy better but also militarily as they were a powerful ally that could help them in return in a time of need. The dwarves had gained much in the war against Galbatorix as they had been included in the rider pact and they already had a dwarven rider of their own, increasing their nations military power and showing that the prejudices of old had to be abandoned and a new approach should be made towards the other races. Long hours had been spent on meetings upon meetings and finally, the majority of the dwarven clans had listened to reason and had accepted to send their men to join the dwarven army.
Still, the army had not been ready for departure until now and King Orik had already ordered the army to prepare for a march.
Sergath the dwarven magician coughed as he tried to get the attention of King Orik. He had blonde hair and a long blonde beard. His hair was mixed, like he did not care for his appearance and his brown eyes had a look of wisdom as if he knew all the secrets of the world. He was shy and even now he was dancing on his feet, unsure of how to talk to his king. He was an old friend of Orik, since before he was king. Uncertainly he said:
"Your highness, is there something else you need?"
King Orik didn't respond immediately and as Sergath was thinking about asking again, Orik said
"That will be all Sergath." he said with a tired voice. "Is everything ready for the army to leave tomorrow at dawn?" King Orik asked.
"Yes your highness." Sergath answered quickly.
"Good. Give the order for the army to assemble and be ready to leave." Orik said.
Sergath bowed and turned, but before he could go too far Orik asked
"How is your family holding Sergath? It's been a long time since we talked as friends. Is your son all right?" he asked with concern.
Sergath turned around again to look at his king. His family was one of the poor ones in the city. However, with his knowledge of magic, he had managed to keep his family safe from the gangs of thieves and cutthroats that threatened the poorer sections of the city. Being a strong dwarven magician had its benefits after all he thought. Still, when his son was born he was sick for a long time and it had taken all of Sergath's control to not ask for help from the king. He had tried to save him for a long time using healing spells and other herbs. His son had survived after all, as the king had learned from his other subjects of his son's illness and demanded that he give him medicine to counter the illness.
"My king, my son is fine thanks to you. I thank you for the concern and I hope that one day I will be able to return the favor." Sergath answered respectfully. His voice was shaky as he was moved by the concern of the king for his family.
Orik nodded and smiled at Sergath.
"If you need anything just ask. We should one day arrange to go to a tavern and drink like we did in the old days." Orik said.
"Of course your highness. That would be a pleasure." Sergath replied with a smile. He excused himself and turned to leave the room.
Sergath left the throne room and closed the door behind him. King Orik looked at the door for a few seconds thinking about Sergath and his family and remembering the past. He then returned his thoughts at the subject at hand.
His eyes once again fell upon the map and he tried to find the best possible way to travel to Dras Leona with the army, without suffering attrition or any unnecessary difficulties. He looked at the dots marking the cities they had to pass, and the blue lines that marked the rivers. He decided upon the route the army would take and made plans for the battle, according to what he had heard from Roran during their chat. The day had been long and he needed to rest so he lifted himself from the throne and walked towards his bedchamber. It was the last night he would sleep in a normal bed and not inside a tent and he intended to enjoy the luxury as much as possible. Soon, he reached his room and in a few minutes he was sleeping.
The next day Orik woke up early and quickly put on his armor after eating a quick breakfast that had been prepared by his servants for him. He exited the throne room and he walked towards the exit of the building as his guards followed him, protecting him from danger. Soon he was walking in the roads of the city as dwarves and humans stopped to watch him pass. The army was waiting just outside the city, having already divided into columns of dwarven ax-holders, archers, spearmen and the traditional shrrg riders and feldunost riders. Orik shivered as he saw the elite shrrg riders, men strong enough to defeat a dozen men and who rode their fierce giant wolves, the shrrg. He looked at one of the wolves, which was completely black, except for its white teeth. It's ears flicked with any sound and movement and his eyes were yellow. It looked at Orik intelligently as his rider pet its giant head with his hands. Orik hoped he would never face such a beast in battle.
He looked at the faces of the dwarves, as they stayed standing like statues of rock, without moving until they were told to move. A pride filled him as he saw the ranks of the army, a pride for his race, for his men and for his country. His heart beat faster and his hands started sweating as he prepared to make a speech to the men, before he commanded them to leave towards the enemy and the unknown.
A lonely figure looked at the giant army amassed outside the city of Tronjheim, as it prepared to leave. He looked at the army, impressed by its size and its organization and order. He wore a dark robe and on his head was a hood covering his face. He did not want to show the enemy his face for he was a spy. The dwarf shivered as he remembered the commands he had taken.
"Kill the dwarf king. It is the only way to stop the dwarves long enough for my plan to work. It will be months before they have a new king and there is no guarantee that he will be supporting the idea of helping Nasuada." King Orrin had said looking at him with his sharp gaze. He remembered those eyes. They seemed to stab him and be able to look through him, knowing his inner thoughts.
"You will be richly rewarded if you succeed. Do not fail me, for I will make every remaining hour of your life a living hell. And if you die I will make sure your family has the same fate" King Orrin had warned and the dwarf believed him. Besides, there was nothing he liked more than the weight of gold and rubies in his pockets and nothing he would not do to achieve that.
The dwarf assassin looked as the dwarf king stood at the podium and started speaking to the men in the army. He took a look at his enhanced bow. He had paid lots of good money on it and he certainly did not want to fail. He took one of the enhanced poisoned arrows out and carefully aimed. Each arrow had enough poison to kill a whole squadron of men. Just a tiny scratch could kill a man instantly. He looked at the king, still talking to his men with the occasional cheer from the soldiers. He closed his eye to get a better aim and remembered the lessons he had taken."Aim small, miss small" As he released his breath he released the arrow. He looked closely as the arrow flew from his bow and travelled in the air. The distance was long as the arrow had to pass over the dwarves army in order to reach King Orik. The assassin used magic to guide the arrow to its target. It did not matter where the arrow hit him, as the arrows were poisoned, as long as it hit the target. With a loud sound, it hit the dwarf king on the shoulder. The impact made the dwarf king fall on the ground.
The dwarf ran as fast as he could as in only seconds, hundreds of men ran after him with a command from one of the generals. He ran as fast as he could abandoning the enhanced bow and arrows on the floor. He had done it. The dwarf king was dead and king Orrin would reward him. A loud horn rang from the army and soldiers rushed from the city. His only hope of escape was to outrun the men and leave from the giant tunnel that led to Tronjheim.
However the Feldunost riders were faster than him and were already close behind him. He stopped and threw a dagger at one of them as the dwarf riding the Feldunost fell on the ground. He threw another dagger but did not had time to see if it had reached its mark as he ran away. The riders were getting closer and closer until finally a shout could be heard.
"Stop right there! Surrender!" the magician said with his enhanced voice as with his mind he bonded the feet of the dwarf to prevent him from running.
The dwarf was a magician too so he immediately said a counter spell to unbind his legs. He had reached very close to his destination but at the last moment the magician had interfered. A sudden anger filled him but there was nothing he could do. As the two dwarves dueled with magic, the other soldiers surrounded him. The game was over. He was dead no matter what. Still, he fought the magician, stopping him from entering his mind until he realized that he was much stronger than him. At last as he was ready to stop fighting the voice of king Orrin filled his mind again.
"Do not fail me for I will make every remaining hour of your life a living hell. If you die I will make sure your family has the same fate.". He imagined what would happen to his wife and parents and with a last desperate attempt he focused all his energy into one spell. If he was going to die he would die fighting. He released the spell and then everything went black.
Sergath looked at the dwarf with horror as he released the spell. He instantly said one of the death words and the dwarf fell dead on the ground. The spell hit the giant tunnel. With a loud crack the tunnel was smashed as giant boulders of rock fell on the ground from the ceiling. Soon, the gate was covered with debris and the way was blocked. Dust filled the air as Sergath coughed to clear his lungs. As the dust settled he looked at the destroyed gate, the way that the army would take to get to Dras Leona. King Orik was dead by the traitorous dwarf lying in the dirt. A great anger filled his being for the dead dwarf. He kicked the body with all his might and spat on it. Tears filled his eyes as he knelt on the ground not daring to look on the other side, where he knew the body of his friend and king lied.
"Barzul! Blasted traitors!" a familiar voice said from behind. Could it be? Sergath looked behind as he quickly turned around to face whoever was behind him.
There, he was, his armor shining in the sunlight as he carried his war hammer Volund on his hands. His long brown beard was perfectly trimmed and his eyes and face showed an anger that he had never seen before on his calm face. He was touching his shoulder with his hand, obviously in pain but overall he looked fine.
"Orik! You are alive! But how?" Sergath asked surprised as he ran towards him. In his surprise and hurry he had forgotten to use the official title of Orik. His skin turned crimson as he was embarrassed but King Orik laughed.
"Ah it is you who killed him Sergath! Well done! Traitorous bastards like him deserve to die. You asked me how I'm alive." he stayed silent for a few seconds and then he said.
"It was mostly luck, he missed my neck by a hairsbreadth. I was wearing the armor Eragon gave me for my coronation. No steel or arrow can pierce it. Our assassin was smart, he used enhanced poisoned arrows but he did not know I would have an enhanced armor." King Orik explained.
Still, he looked tired. The armor must have been enchanted to take part of the energy of the user to work. Sergath was glad the dwarf missed. He looked at the destruction around him.
"It's a pity he managed to destroy the gate. This will make us late by a few days at least." Sergath mentioned.
"Indeed. We better move now!" King Orik said, his face taking again the angry expression he had seen before. He took one last look at the dead dwarf and then turned his back and walked away to give commands to the army.
The army moved hurriedly in a forced march, trying to gain the time they had lost from the assassin's attack and the destruction of the gate. King Orik was still shaking at the thought that the assassin could have achieved and he would be dead. He looked at the world around him, thankful to the Gods that they had protected him. He walked in the front of the giant army, leading the way, to save his friends, fighting for their lives in Dras Leona.