Title: Dream Walk
Summary: Eragon falls to his sorrow. An unlikely savior appears.
Notes: Set directly after 'Eldest' in the moments following Eragon's pledge to Roran.
Disclaimer: In no way do I claim ownership over any names, places or themes within the Eragon and Eldest books.
Eragon knelt by the waterside on weak ankles. He wiggled his toes cautiously, sinking slightly into the patch of soft mud he'd been forced to trudge through. He found his balance easily enough, then peered around him, and leaned forwards with cupped hands.
The water was freezing, and slipped easily through his slender fingers. He sucked crisp air in as he splashed the water on his face, washing away the signs of his day. It would be impossible to clean away the dirt completely, but Eragon did his best. He enjoyed getting dirty, but all the same, feeling clean was just as lovely.
Around him the forest echoed its mystery to him. Trees made unknown sounds, animals stalked Eragon openly and flushes of power washed over him of an unknown origin. Eragon both knew the forest very well, and felt completely at odds with it. He felt torn between welcoming every living creature into his heart, and fleeing in escape.
He rose and stepped away from the water. His small feet made clear impressions in the soft embankment's grass as he climbed up and away. He cut through the vegetation with purpose. He didn't quite know what that purpose was, but only that it was important. He either had places to go, or people to see, and at the very least things to experience. He was no stranger to mystery, of which was surely waiting for him deeper in the forest.
"I am not lost," he said pointedly, glaring at the accusing bird that chirped at him from up high in a tree. "I'm really not at all." He tried not to let his voice crack.
Eragon stood firm by his words, remembering his lessons. There was no shame in bending the truth for the right reasons—selfless reasons, but unforgivable was an outright lie with intent to deceive. And since Eragon felt unequivocally there were no lies spoken from his lips, he had nothing to defend, nor feel ashamed of. True, he did not have the slighted clue where he was, but he certainly was not lost. He would know if he was lost. He would feel it.
He had to keep moving, because when he stopped he felt the pain. His heart ached for reasons he didn't know. It was the kind of hurt that felt vaguely familiar, and completely foreign at the same time. The pain scared him. He didn't know if he wanted to understand the cause at all, because he feared it might be too ferocious to recover from. After all, he was only a small boy and the hurt felt very large. He worried it was a hurt he would never recover from it he fully recognized it.
At the back of his mind a voice whispered to him in a frantic voice, one that made the pain in his heart stand out only more prominently. There was a frantic tone, one of the likes Eragon had never truly experienced before. And in any other situation Eragon believed he might have found the voice somewhat comforting, as it did harbor an edge of concern. However its demanding nature scared him. He felt as if he were in trouble and tried to lose himself from it. He would find the voice later; come back to her, whoever she was, and then he'd heed her words. He would follow her out of the forest as she pleaded for him to do. But first there were other things that required his attention, and they lurked in the dark.
Eragon felt an unnatural chill as he came upon a clearing, a deer resting easily enough in it. The animal didn't look wounded, only at rest, and he approached slowly, drawn in by the creature's beauty.
"You're very pretty," he told her, his mind having reached out to discover the deer's gender. When he was very near his mind probed further, seeking for what he did not know. He knew only that there was something to be found.
Green eyes watched him guardedly for a moment, and then the deer climbed to her feet and pranced off, even amidst Eragon's cries of protest.
"You know better," a voice echoed from behind.
Eragon spun towards the voice. The child suddenly found it difficult to draw in oxygen. "Murtagh," he nearly whispered.
"You know better," Murtagh enforced. "Don't play with dangerous, wild animals." The edge of his brother's voice further chilled Eragon.
"What are you doing here?" Eragon asked, the two children engaged in a sort of standoff. Then Eragon proceeded with, "She wasn't dangerous. She was lovely."
"The prettiest are always the most dangerous, and you'll do well to remember that. Trust her only as much as you need, and then withdraw, or you will face the darkest existence possible."
Eragon felt as if they were not speaking of the same subject any longer.
Murtagh offered little in the way of body language, looking as stoic as usual. "What are you doing here?" The older challenged Eragon back.
Eragon rocked on the heels of his feet, hands clasped behind him. "I don't know," he answered honestly. "But it's pretty here."
"It won't be once it gets dark, which it will soon. More importantly it's dangerous here, Eragon."
The younger brother gave a look around. "Doesn't seem like it to me."
"It is, trust me." And Eragon did trust him.
Murtagh stepped towards Eragon, who instinctively took a step away. They stood a good twenty paces from each other, though it could have been all the distance in the world.
Eragon sized his brother up, slightly wary of his sudden appearance. He was very mindful that despite Murtagh's young age and how utterly dwarfed he looked in his dark tunic, he was still very dangerous. The red sword clasped to Murtagh's side might have been too big for him, but Eragon knew its destructive nature. His big brother was a deadly force and Eragon was apprehensive as to why he was present.
"I want you to come with me now," Murtagh said advancing forward, pleased when Eragon did not move back.
"I already told you, it's dangerous here. We have to leave, before dark."
Eragon shook his head, gazing up at the taller boy. "I don't want to."
"Eragon," Murtagh tried, patience laced into his voice. "Take a moment. Sense your surroundings. You know it is wrong stay here. You know it is wrong you ever came here to begin with. You already feel the cold, and you know it will get worse if we don't depart."
Eragon couldn't deny he felt a building unease. He did feel slightly as if he should turn and leave. Part of him felt as if he didn't belong. But there was something so alluring about the dark woods. He could not see very deeply into them, and his curiosity was great. He needed only to venture a little further in to find what he so desired, what the trees told him to search for.
"You feel the call," Murtagh said softly. "You want to see, don't you?"
Eragon's eyes grew wide, his gaze snapping from the trees to his brother. "How'd you know?"
"I too have felt the call. There is nothing beyond those trees that you should find in this lifetime, Eragon. You should never have come this far to begin with, and I take responsibility for what has transpired here."
Pulling his arms around his chest, Eragon asked Murtagh, "How can it be something bad?"
Murtagh moved even closer. "It's not necessarily something bad, you should understand that. What lurks in those woods that draws you in so deeply is the sorrow in your own heart. Make no mistake that sorrow is something you should never live without, for it defines us in adversity, but if you venture in too deeply, you will never emerge."
"I don't remember anything," Eragon said. "I don't feel sad. What am I sad about?"
Eragon did not flinch as Murtagh's fingers found his head and slid through the strands of hair. "You've forced yourself not to remember, little Eragon. If you awaken you will remember, and the deepest sorrow will have passed."
"I'm dreaming?" Eragon's eyes drifted upwards to the rapidly darkening blue sky.
"Reach out with your senses. Do you feel awake?"
Murtagh let out a small sigh and pulled his brother closer, pressing the small boy to his side.
"It is time to wake up, Eragon. It is time for both you and I to resume our destinies."
Eragon threw his arms around Murtagh's waist. "You sound as if something awful has happened. I don't want to go back to something bad."
"In our lives wants have no place. We do what we must, and often we experience the harshness of life."
When Eragon looked into his brother's eyes he saw untold wisdom, hard earned. He saw eyes clearly too old for the young body in front of him, and he saw something he could not place. Eragon felt safe within his brother's hold, and at the same time knew it was not to be.
"If I wake up," Eragon asked, releasing Murtagh and stepping back. "Will you be there, Murtagh?"
"Not by your side, Eragon. Will not stand side-by-side for a very long time, if ever."
"Then what's the point of waking up?"
Murtagh held his hand out to his younger brother, palm up. "You must, Eragon. Now, do you trust me?"
The younger nodded warily.
"Then take my hand," Murtagh insisted, shaking it slightly. "Take it and wake up."
Eragon hesitated only a moment, then reached out and curled his fingers around Murtagh's. He felt a brief sensation of vertigo, and everything came rushing back to him. When he awoke, which was only a moment away, he would remember the battle, Murtagh's betrayal, and his oath to his cousin. He would once again be Eragon the Rider, and Murtagh would be his enemy more than his brother.
Yet still Eragon would awake and the sorrow of his failure would not take him.
And so Eragon awoke, to Roran and Saphira's concerned faces. In his lethargy Eragon recalled his dream walk and Murtagh's presence, and his words. "He was right," he told the eyes on him. "It has passed."
When Murtagh came to his legs ached. They were tucked securely under him, and numb from the constant pressure. He had no way to judge how long he'd kept them immobile, as time passed entirely different in separate realms. Yet even as they burned with pain when he unfolded them, it had been worth it.
Thorn's head poked through the flap in his tent and spoke succinctly.
"It was my duty," Murtagh told him aloud, struggling to his bedroll. "At the very least it was my right. Had Eragon fallen in his dream state everything would have been lost." He rubbed his eyes and comforted Thorn, "I am fine. Eragon's mind was complex. It was hard fought to gain entrance. It was a trying experience, but I will be fine after a rest."
Murtagh rested back against the ground, eyes searching the enclosed space in the tent. He had told Thorn the experience had been trying, but it had been so much more. He'd glimpsed at his baby brother's secrets, and respectfully kept away from them. There had been overwhelming forlorn feelings he recognized from his childhood and in just one moment he'd bonded more thoroughly to Eragon then he'd ever imagined he would. More than just their parentage and their chosen battle sides linked them now. Murtagh felt they were imprinted upon each other now, even soul bound. Recent events would make their next meeting that much more trying.
"My duty," he whispered to himself, feeling more alone than ever before. "My duty as his brother."