I'm so sorry for the long wait!
Disclaimer: I do not own the Inheritance Cycle.
Murtagh stared at the twins with narrowed eyes. They stared back at him just as suspiciously.
"Who's that?" one of them asked Brom. Murtagh's eyes narrowed even more. So they were going to pretend that they didn't know who he was to keep their cover. He was going to have to tip Brom off the first chance he got, without them overhearing.
Brom had noticed Murtagh's expression, but acted like he hadn't. "None of your business. We have to see Ajihad immediately."
The twins arched their eyebrows in unison. "It is our duty to inspect his mind," the same twin said, "to make sure he is trustworthy."
"There will be no need for you to do that," Brom said smoothly. "I already have."
Murtagh looked as though that wasn't new to him.
"And he can be trusted?" the same twin said incredulously.
"I thought you didn't know him?" Brom said with a slight smirk.
"I don't," he said quickly.
"Then if you don't mind we need to speak with Ajihad."
"Of course," the second twin said and they both stood to the side and allowed Murtagh and Brom to walk past them.
Murtagh made sure the twins were out of earshot before saying, "Brom…"
"We'll talk about them later," Brom said. "Right now we have to focus on getting Ajihad to not kill you."
Murtagh nodded and followed Brom through the long tunnel. He hadn't expected the Varden to look like this. He was expecting it to look a lot grander. Then again, it is based inside a mountain.
They reached a set of doors, which opened slowly. And then, Murtagh got his first sight of Tronjheim. Needless to say, he was impressed. He saw a few people walking around. Suddenly, he was nervous. What if someone recognised him and shouted it out for all to hear? All hell will surely break loose.
It was for that reason that Murtagh determinedly kept his head down as he walked beside Brom and Thorn behind them, still carrying Arya.
They entered a smaller corridor and Murtagh sighed in relief. I'm glad no one recognised me, he said to Thorn.
Not yet, he replied, but you'd better hope that Ajihad believes you, otherwise he'll have you killed.
Thanks for the cheerful thought, Murtagh said sarcastically.
After four sharp turns, they came to a massive cedar door. "This is Ajihad's study," Brom said to Murtagh and Thorn. He untied Arya from Thorn, knocked on the door and waited. Murtagh heard a voice call "Come in." He took a deep breath as Brom opened the door and walked in first.
Murtagh's jaw dropped as he entered the elegant two-story study. But then his gaze fell upon Ajihad, who was standing at the other end of the room, looking at Murtagh narrowed eyes. He recognises me he said softly to Thorn. Ajihad's eyes narrowed even further when Thorn poked his head into the room.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, glaring at Brom. "I let you and Carly go look for your son and his friend, and you come back with Murtagh Morzansson?" He spat out Murtagh's name like it was poison.
"Carly is with Eragon, Jason and Selena," Brom replied. "We ran into them at the Surdan border. They had Arya with them. I thought it was best that we brought her here as quickly as possible because she has been poisoned. Flying on Murtagh's dragon was the fastest way to get here. Murtagh and his dragon want to convince you that they have switched sides, but I think that can wait until we get Arya seen to."
"She looks bad," Ajihad said. "What was she poisoned with?"
"The Skilna Bragh, so she needs to get the antidote in her as quickly as possible."
"Take her to Angela and tell her what Arya needs," Ajihad commanded Brom.
"But-" Brom started, unwilling to leave Murtagh alone with Ajihad.
"Now. I wish to speak with Morzansson in private."
Brom nodded in defeat and carried Arya back out again.
"Now," Ajihad said once he and Murtagh were alone. "I believe you have something to tell me?"
Murtagh swallowed nervously. "Galbatorix had been controlling me and Thorn using our true names from the very beginning. He made us into his puppets," Murtagh's eyes flashed and his voice filled with hatred when he said that. "Then I found out that true names can be changed. I decided that my family was more important than a stupid oath I swore to Galbatorix, an oath I am now free from. Thorn's true name changed too. Neither of us wanted to remain working for Galbatorix, so we escaped. We went back to Morzan's Castle to pick up Eragon and Mum because we knew that the Castle would be the first place Galbatorix would look for us, and I know he would have harmed them to punish me. We took the green egg with us. We didn't have anywhere else to go, so we came here. I know you don't trust us, and you have every right not to, but I swear, we don't mean the Varden any harm. We want to fight against Galbatorix." He took out the green egg and gave it to Ajihad, who gave him a calculating look.
"Even if you do mean well, Murtagh, it is hard for us to forgive the crimes you've committed against the Varden, and most people here will want to see you punished, even killed," Ajihad replied.
"I can be a very powerful ally," Murtagh said calmly. "No offense, but the Varden needs every Rider it can get its hands on. I also brought you the green egg and Arya," he pointed out.
"Those two tiny deeds do not cancel out the other things you did," Ajihad's eyes darkened. "Especially in Cantos."
"I would never have done that willingly," Murtagh said, sounding pained. "I'm still haunted by those memories. Believe me, I would never kill innocent people in cold blood. Galbatorix forced me to do it with my true name."
"I need to think about this. In the meantime, Murtagh and Thorn, you're going to have to be locked up, I'm afraid. I will let you know my decision tomorrow."
Two guards suddenly appeared on either side of Murtagh, grabbed his arms and led him back out of the study. Other guards had assembled around Thorn, looking quite worried.
Don't do anything! Murtagh said urgently to Thorn. We have to cooperate with them to earn their trust.
Only if they don't hurt you Thorn answered.
They won't. I think they fear you too much.
So they should.
"Tell the Twins I want a word with them," Ajihad said to a spare guard while Murtagh and Thorn were being led away.
Brom came in at the same time as the Twins did.
"As you are aware, the Red Rider, Murtagh, is here," Ajihad said to the twins. "He is being held prisoner in the dungeons. I want you two to give him the drug to suppress his power, in case he tries to break out," Ajihad said to them.
They nodded. "Is there anything else you want us to do?"
"No, that is all. You may leave."
"Yes sir." They bowed before leaving.
When the Twins were gone, Brom said to Ajihad, "Murtagh really has changed. You don't need to worry about him betraying us."
"It's not that," Ajihad said. "Most people will want him killed for killing so many innocents. Imagine the uproar it will cause if he's allowed to walk free."
"So even if he doesn't get killed, he's going to be locked up for the rest of his life?" Brom said sharply.
"It may be the only solution," Ajihad reasoned. "We can't afford to fight amongst ourselves, Brom."
"Murtagh was practically a prisoner there, Ajihad, and he took the first opportunity that appeared to escape from all of that. If you keep him as a prisoner here, it will make you no different than Galbatorix in Murtagh's eyes. He want's freedom and he came here to get it. He's as much a victim as half the Varden, don't forget that." He sighed. "Just think about what I've said, Ajihad." He walked out too.
He went to the dungeon where Murtagh and Thorn were locked up. He wanted to keep an eye on them, especially with the Twins around. He knew they would do anything to prevent Murtagh from telling anyone their secret, even if that meant killing him. He could barely look at Thorn, who was chained up. "Can we have some privacy?" he asked the guard.
The guard nodded and walked away.
"What are you doing here?" Murtagh asked him.
Brom decided not to beat around the bush. "The Twins were asked to drug you, but I wouldn't put it past them to try to poison you."
Murtagh snorted. "I used to have to check my food for poison on a daily basis when I was with Galbatorix and I'm not going to change that habit anytime soon. And, I can handle the Twins, don't worry about me. How long have you known about them?"
Brom knew what he meant. "I've been suspicious for a while, but I didn't have any proof otherwise I would have gone straight to Ajihad. It's been quite frustrating."
Murtagh chuckled darkly. "If Ajihad lets me live, I'll back you up, though I don't think he'll believe me."
"Don't worry about it," Brom replied with a glint in his eyes. "I've got a plan." He explained it to Murtagh before leaving. Murtagh let a smile slowly creep up his face.
Brom walked briskly through Tronjheim back to Ajihad's study. He knocked on the door and opened it when Ajihad said he could.
The twins walked excitedly to Murtagh's cell carrying a tray of food containing the drug. They would have liked to slip poison in the food, but doing so would have blown their cover.
They arrived at Murtagh's cell and told the guard there, "Ajihad wants us to take over for a while." The guard nodded and walked away.
"It's pathetic how they put all their trust in us," the same twin said with a sneer when the guard was out of earshot.
"And that will be their downfall," the second twin said. "If Morzansson keeps his mouth shut."
The first twin opened the gate and walked inside. "Hello, Morzansson," he said. "Long time no see."
Murtagh's eyes narrowed. "What are you two doing here?" he growled.
"Bringing you food," the second twin said innocently as he handed the tray to Murtagh.
Murtagh snorted. "Like I'm stupid enough to eat that. It's either drugged, or poisoned or both."
"We won't poison you."
"Why? Because it will blow your cover?" Murtagh taunted.
"Let me finish. We won't poison you, unless you tell Ajihad about us."
"Killing me won't make him forget what I could tell him," Murtagh said smirking.
"If you don't tell Ajihad about us then we won't tell Galbatorix you're here," the first twin said, trying to be as persuasive as possible.
Murtagh struggled to hold back a laugh. "Like you two haven't already told him."
"We haven't, yet," the second twin informed him. "If you don't do what we want then we will tell him as soon as we leave."
"He's going to know I'm here anyway," Murtagh said. "There was nowhere else for me to go."
"You have a fair point there, Murtagh. What if, instead, we persuade Ajihad that you have switched sides and are sorry for the things you've done against the Varden, so that he won't kill you."
"And how are you going to do that?" Despite himself, Murtagh was curious.
"We will tell him that you allowed us to examine your mind and we found nothing suspicious."
"I believe I have convinced him that I am on the Varden's side," Murtagh said coldly.
"Is that so? Then why are you locked up?"
Murtagh glared at them.
"If you won't agree to that then we will suggest to Ajihad about examining your mind," the second twin said smirking. "And it will look suspicious if you refuse. After all, an innocent man will have nothing to hide, and will not object to his mind being searched."
"Everyone has the right to privacy," Murtagh snapped. He stood up and instinctively reached for his sword before remembering that it had been taken from him.
"I believe Murtagh is right," chuckled another voice from behind the twins. They turned around and saw Brom and Ajihad standing by the gate.
"How much did you hear?" the first twin asked Ajihad.
"Enough," was his reply.
Furious, the twins spun around to face Murtagh again. "You set us up!"
Murtagh smirked. "Of course I did."
The twins raised their hands in unison, clearly about to try to kill him. Murtagh raised his own hand. "You have no hope against me. I'm more powerful than the two of you put together. Malthinae."
The twins found themselves unable to move. They glared at Murtagh viciously until Brom knocked them out from behind.
"I'll get the drug," Brom said before disappearing, leaving Murtagh and Ajihad in awkward silence.
"It was a good idea to set them up like that," Ajihad said.
"It was Brom's idea," Murtagh replied. "We just couldn't tell you without having any proof, and you wouldn't have believed me anyway."
Ajihad sighed. "I wouldn't have. I knew there was at least one traitor amongst us, but it never occurred to me that it would be the twins. I just thought that the traitor was excellent at hiding his thoughts, and that's why the twins had never found him. Thank you for helping to capture them. Everyone will be relieved that they have finally been caught."
"You're welcome," Murtagh smiled. He hesitated, not wanting to ask Ajihad if he was free.
"Although, you do realise that many people will still be suspicious of you, even if they don't hate you?" Ajihad continued.
Murtagh's heart sank. Even after what he'd done, he was going to be kept prisoner here. "You're still going to lock me up," he said softly.
Ajihad sighed again. "To be honest, that would be a poor way of thanking you for what you did, but I also fear what your presence would do to the Varden if you're not locked up. You see the dilemma, Murtagh?"
Murtagh could. "Don't worry about me," he said. "Lock me up if you want. At least I won't have to worry about being killed or hurt by the twins."
"You would do that?" Ajihad asked incredulously.
Murtagh shrugged. "I'm willing to prove I mean the Varden no harm, and if that's the only way I can then I will."
"I have another idea," Brom said walking back into the cell. "Why don't we let the people here decide Murtagh's fate? If the majority want him in prison then he stays here and if the majority don't then he's free. Killing him is not an option of course."
Murtagh laughed darkly. "I'm sure all of them will want me to stay in this cell where I won't be able to hurt anyone, since killing me is out of the question."
"Not if we tell them you helped catch the traitors," Brom replied "and brought the green dragon egg and Arya to us."
"It's still doubtful they will want me around," Murtagh replied.
Brom shrugged. "We will let them decide tomorrow." He went over to the unconscious twins and gave them both the drug to suppress their power. "Help me get them into separate cells," he said. He began to drag one twin while Murtagh and Ajihad dragged the other one.
When that was done, Ajihad turned to Murtagh. "You still need to take the drug too," he said.
Knew this part was coming Murtagh said to Thorn. He nodded and walked over to the tray of food that was sitting beside his bed. He checked it for poison anyway, and when he was satisfied that it was safe, he started eating it. Ajihad closed the gate and locked it.
After a few minutes Murtagh felt the drug start to work on him. He laid down on his bed and fell asleep.
In case anyone was wondering, in this story Angela was already at the Varden :)
I can't promise when I will next update because I start uni next week.