In the Depths of Misery

Summary: (AU) After getting lost in a forest, Murtagh discovers an injured Eragon. It's a battle of survival, and the two brothers must rely on each other if they want to make it out alive. That is, if they don't kill each other first…

Authors Notes: This takes place shortly after Eldest.

Disclaimer: I do not own any familiar characters featured in this story. They all belong to the creative Christopher Paolini.


In the Depths of Misery
By: Silver pup
Part One


Murtagh crouched down lower as he watched the forest beneath him. The sky rumbled with thunder and lightening as the storm continued barbarous as it had been for the past three hours. He was getting rather irked with it actually, since he had little cover standing on a high branch in one of the many trees. In fact, his black and red clothes were soaked along with his boots and gloves, and he barely suppressed a shiver from the cold.

How long had he been kneeling here? Thirty minutes? An hour? He had lost count after twenty minutes had gone by, finally getting bored with simply counting the time away. He had debated for a little while about contacting Thorn, but finally came to the decision not to since they were going to be meeting up soon.

Their mission had been finished not to long ago; they had located the small base the Varden had been using (which it turned out to be a ditch that extended out underground a few feet, something he found pathetic, but then again, their main base had been in a mountain so he really shouldn't be surprised). It had then taken most of the day to capture the leaders and the ones who seemed worth interrogating before killing the ones who refused to surrender.

Hunting Rebels was annoying, but Murtagh wasn't complaining. After all it was better than sitting in the palace with Galbatorix. Just being in the same room with the older man sent a chill down his spine, and ignited that burning hatred he held for him. He much preferred to be far away from the psychotic king, and for as long as possible. That was why he always volunteered for missions that would require him to leave the palace and never objected when Galbatorix sent him on one of his many mundane tasks.

Of course, standing in a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm is not what I really had in mind, the brunette thought starkly. Still, it could be worse…

Crack...

BAM!!

And it was.

Murtagh blinked his eyes slowly as he stared up at the tree he had just been standing in. That was before the branch broke and he came tumbling down with it. He groaned in frustration, and slowly sat up and rubbed his back. It didn't hurt really – he been through worse – but he had fallen into a dark puddle of water and mud, and now his entire back and hair were covered in mud.

Lovely.

With a string of creative curses, Murtagh stood up straight and slowly began to wipe some of the mud off his clothes and hair. He was partially successful since the rain helped by washing it away, but much to his distaste, it began soaking into his clothes.

"Oh, good enough," he finally mumbled before walking away. Like hell he was going to hide in another tree and risk falling again, not when he could simply find a cave or something and hide there. Besides, he doubted that there would be any other little rebels crossing his path anytime soon, so there was really no point in hiding anymore.

The rain continued to pound against his body and the wind added to the cold temperature, but Murtagh ignored it, for it was a weakness to acknowledge that he was cold. He was a warrior and warriors didn't have weaknesses or flaws. His father had drilled that tiny fact into his mind for years and now he believed it.

Or at least he used to.

Murtagh found that since Galbatorix captured him, his beliefs had slowly changed. Actually since he met Eragon he had slowly began to question if the verdicts he once held onto with a strong dedication were right. And now, thanks to Galbatorix, he had begun to pick away at the flaws in his ideals until he had nothing left. His doubt and uncertainty were slowly driving him insane.

The young man pushed away a low branch as he carefully stepped over another puddle. When did his life become so unstable? Was it the moment he decided to run away? Or when he became Galbatorix personal slave? Or perhaps when he discovered Eragon was his brother? Of course it could also had been Eragon's rejection…

No! Eragon has nothing to do with this! That brat means nothing to me damnit! he thought viciously, and subconsciously curled his hands up into tight fists.

Eragon.

His brother seemed to keep popping up in his mind these days no matter how much he tried to ignore the younger teen. It baffled Murtagh why he couldn't stop thinking about his brother. He had never felt such an attachment to another person since his mother had passed away. Thorn was important to him, yes, but Eragon wasn't his partner, he was his brother.

Brother. It was nothing special, just another relative. Well, okay, maybe he wasn't just another relative, but still he wasn't that important, right? It wasn't like he had done anything for Murtagh other then become the first true friend he ever had. And, okay, the younger boy did help Murtagh in many ways and hell, Eragon even mourned for him when he thought Murtagh was dead. But none of that really counted, right?

The words sounded fake even to him.

"What the hell is wrong with me?" Murtagh asked out loud as he stopped and looked around. That's when the brunette blinked, and realized he didn't recognize the area. In fact, now that he stopped and thought about it, he had no idea where he had began walking to in the first place. So that meant he was…

"Lost. I'm lost in a freaking forest in the middle of a thunderstorm. Great, just great." he muttered with a nasty scowl.

Above him, the sky rumbled in agreement, and Murtagh couldn't help but get the feeling that someone up there was laughing at him.


The rain continued falling on him, and Murtagh was sure that if he wasn't soaked before then he was now. He was drenched to the very bone, and his fingers and toes had gone numb a while back. He had been walking for ages it seemed, but much to his discomfort it seemed that he was going in nothing but circles. Everything looked the same, and Murtagh could have sworn he had seen that same tree five times already.

Of course, I could be delirious considering the fact that all this rain and cold weather has most likely gotten me sick. And that would also explain why the ground keeps tilting, the brunette thought as leaned against a boulder to catch his breath.

In his mind, the logical part of him was urging him to contact Thorn. But a bigger part of him (whom he labeled his independent nature though most would argue that it was simply his male ego) was dead set against it. He didn't need anyone's help, including Thorn. He had survived this long and had faced much harder challenges in his life, so finding his way out of one little forest should be a breeze!

Then why are you still here? Shouldn't you have found your way out by now? A nasty little voice whispered in his mind. Murtagh had found out long ago that this nasty little voice in his mind (which Thorn kept pointing out wasn't really normal) loved to point out things he had done wrong. The sad thing was that it was usually right.

"Oh, shut up," he grunted out loud and pushed off the boulder began walking again.

He hadn't been walking very long when he heard it. Gasps of pain that caught his full attention, and he froze where he stood. Now what the hell could that be? An animal perhaps? Or some lost rebel or soldier? And were they injured?

Murtagh cocked his head to the side and listened closer. He could faintly hear moans and hissing as the person or thing shifted. But that was all he could hear before the thunder blocked everything else out.

Hmm, what to do, what to do. Should I be a nice guy and help them, thus risk the chance of being eaten if it's a hungry animal, or attacked if it's a rebel. Or I could be myself and just ignore them and walk away, the brunette pondered.

"Pfff, this rain must be leaking into my brain," he muttered as he began to stalk towards the unknown person or thing.

Quietly the young man pushed back some vines as he looked to see who or what was injured. What he got was a minor heart attack.

"Eragon?!"

He didn't realize he had spoken out loud until Eragon's head snapped up. The boy was sitting on the muddy ground cradling his left arm, while his left leg was stretched out in front of him. His clothes were torn, dirty, bloody and he had numerous scratches and wounds marking his skin, along with a very large and nasty gash on his chest. His face was pale and there were dark circles under his eyes, and he was panting softly. All in all he looked like hell, but not surprisingly Murtagh noticed that his dark eyes still burned with an inner fire that seemed to be a part of what made Eragon who he was.

"Murtagh! What the hell are you doing here?" Eragon snarled as he glared at his older brother.

"Admiring the view," he answered dryly, rolling his eyes. "Why do you think I'm here, Eragon? To hunt down simple rebels, of course. I thought I got all of them too, but it seems one little rebel got away."

Eragon stiffened as Murtagh began to walk towards him, and struggled to move farther back against the tree he was under. But to his relief and suspicion the older boy stopped about a foot away from him, and simply stared at him with a thoughtful look.

"What?" he snapped, uneasy about the way his brother was staring at him.

Murtagh smiled. "It seems my baby brother went out and got himself injured, and now he is stuck in the forest all alone. Probably from trying to be the hero again…"

For a moment, Eragon could have sworn that the words were said in an affectionate tone, but then quickly dismissed the idea. Murtagh didn't care about him or anyone else for that matter. The friend he had known was dead the moment he joined old King Psycho and his twisted dragon. The man before him was simply a stranger using his brother's corpse and masquerading as Murtagh.

Reassured that the man in front of him was the enemy, Eragon spoke again in a chilly voice, "What do you want, traitor?"

"Nothing you can possibly offer," Murtagh muttered.

Eragon stared at him in confusion. "What? What is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," Murtagh said shaking his head. "It's not important. Now, I am very curious to know why exactly you are sitting in the middle of a forest during a thunder storm, looking as if you've been reincarnated as a rag."

"Why the hell should I tell you?" Eragon questioned.

Murtagh walked a little closer and kneeled down in front of the dithery young man. He smiled in a way that was both threatening and creepy, though mostly threatening, and said softly, "Because, little brother, I haven't forgotten the last time we met, and unlike you I am more than ready to finish our little fight. Now do you really want me to start up old business?"

Eragon took in a quick a breath. He knew Murtagh would most likely follow through with his threat, and he knew there was no way he could defend himself. The battle from earlier had taken its toll on his body, and he could barely stand with out leaning against something for support. His magical levels weren't so good either, considering he had used up all his strength healing Saphira. No, he couldn't fight his brother so the only option left was to try and keep Murtagh calm, while figuring out a way to make him go away.

"I was helping establish the new base when we were attacked. Everyone is dead except for Saphira and I, but Saphira was badly hurt. I healed her the best I could and left to find help," he finally answered honestly, but still trying to hold back from giving away too much information.

Murtagh nodded but stayed silent and continued to stare at him calculating. Finally he spoke after a few tense minutes, "I see. And considering the state you're in now, you're probably to weak to move, huh?"

At Eragon's nod he continued, "So you also must know the way out of here, right?"

Eragon looked at him in bewilderment. He nodded cautiously and watched the other with keen eyes.

Murtagh ignored his paranoid behavior and continued speaking. "Then you, little rebel, are in luck. I need your help in escaping this stupid forest, and if you help me then I'll assist you also in getting out."

Eragon stared at him. "What? Wait, do you mean you're lost? You, the great and powerful Murtagh lost in one little forest?"

Murtagh scowled. "So what? Look, it's not my fault! I've never been to this region before, and I'm not like one of those tree-hugging elves that can connect with anything that's alive, okay? Now do we have a deal or what?"

"Yeah, sure," Eragon said, trying to hold back a snicker. But then he got serious again. "Wait, what's the catch?"

"No catch. You help me, I help you, and then we go our separate ways and never mention this again. I can take a vow if you're still uncertain," Murtagh said, standing up.

Eragon nodded his head slowly. "No, no vow, I believe you. And I agree, but don't think that I trust you or anything. Be aware that I'm watching you and everything you do, and if I feel threatened then I'll leave you here. Got it?"

Murtagh shrugged. "Sure, deal. Now let's go before this rain leaks more into my brain and begins to make me think I'm a woman or something."