All around Gil’ead the battle continued
to rage. The bodies of dead men and elves littered the battlefield. In the
midst of all this chaos stands a handsome young man with jet-black hair and
pale skin, no older than nineteen, standing on the verge of plunging his blood
red sword, Zar’roc, into the heart of the old Elfin Dragon Rider who lay
helpless at his feet.
Murtagh Morzansson, the King’s unwilling Red Rider, starred down at the old elf Oromis who lay on the blood-stained grass, waiting for the seemingly inevitable end. Only it didn’t come. Murtagh knew he should just kill Oromis but the thought of killing this Rider, who was the only Rider of the Golden age left (except Galbatorix) seemed so wrong to him. As he hesitated Murtagh suddenly became strongly aware of his surroundings in a way that he wasn’t before. He could smell the grass and blood that stained it. He could hear the cries of the battling armies around him. He could feel the breeze cooling the sweat on his face. He could see the resignation in Oromis’s golden eyes and yet still he hesitated.
I can’t do it, he told Thorn desperately. Thorn did not immediately reply as he was busy battling Oromis’s large golden dragon Glaedr. Despite the magical growth Galbatorix had forced upon Thorn, Glaedr was still a great deal bigger and it took Thorn a moment to answer through their strong mental bond,
I know, young one. I do not wish to kill them either. But what other choice do we have?
We could let them go. Murtagh could not hold back the sudden rush of fear he felt as he said this and Thorn felt it. For a second Dragon and Rider contemplated what King Galbatorix would do to them when he discovered, not only that Oromis and Glaedr were still alive, but that they could have killed them and instead let them go.
Murtagh shook his head in an attempt to dislodge such terrifying thoughts.
If I do kill them I’ll be lost forever and no better than my Father, thought Murtagh. Such a thought terrified the young man beyond reason; he swore he would never be his father and he knew that if he went back on that, it would destroy him. Silently making up their minds together, Murtagh lowered his sword and stepped away from Oromis, while at the same time Thorn disentangled himself from Glaedr and flew low towards his rider at great speed. Turning his back on Oromis, Murtagh grabbed hold of Thorns outstretched paw and climbed gracefully into the saddle. Murtagh didn’t dare look back as Thorn flew them towards Uru’baen and whatever fate awaited them.
Back on the ground Oromis stood next to his dragon Glaedr as they starred curiously after the large red dragon and his troubled rider. For several moments they stood in silence until finally, when Murtagh and Thorn were out of sight, Glaedr asked,
Why? Why didn't they just kill us? What they did doesn't make sense. Oromis did not respond but Glaedr could feel his confusion and fear through their bond.
Finally he spoke, I don’t know why. But I pray that they will not suffer for their mercy. No doubt the King will will be furious with them for letting his enemies live. I want to help them, Glaedr, no one should have to suffer enslavement; but alas I don’t know how.
We will find a way; Glaedr said sending reassurance through their bond. But he could not hide the fear he felt on behalf of the Red Rider and his dragon. What would the King do to them for this one act of mercy?