Disclaimer: Eragon and Eldest are two magnificent masterpieces—truly, with the emphasis on master—by Christopher Paolini; the movie adaptation of Eragon, and perhaps the rest of the Inheritance trilogy, was done by Twentieth Century Fox. As I am neither, no; I do not own Eragon, Eldest, or anything of the Inheritance trilogy. Also, as I am neither male nor dead, I am not Algernon Charles Swinburne, either, whose poem "Epilogue" provides the title for this one-shot.

A/N: Um, yeah. Eragon and Eldest spoilers—deaths are, of course, inevitable; and, along those lines, as is betrayal—are the center of this one-shot. If you have not read of events concerning Ajihad, Brom, Hrothgar, and Eragon and Murtagh, then I don't recommend going on. Once again, this story is post-Eragon and is post-Eldest!

To get you into the "angst" mood that Eragon suffers from in the first part of the one-shot (worked miracles for me), I recommend listening to Taku Iwasaki's instrumental "Sound of Snow Falling" (downloadable at Gendou), a beautiful piece from the "Trust and Betrayal" Rurouni Kenshin sequence. Then, for Eragon's more 'determined' scenes, I suggest Patrick Doyle's "Eragon", "Legend of Eragon", "Saphira Returns", "If You Were Flying", and Jem's "Once in Every Lifetime": These songs may be found on both the Eragon soundtrack, or on iTunes, where the songs are arguably cheaper. (The last six songs—listen to them, and you will more than likely notice something.) Also, Patrick Doyle's "Saphira's First Flight", and Avril Lavigne's "Keep Holding On"—both are songs from the soundtrack as well—are nice to listen to, as well.

Funny, this originally started out as a poem dedicated to Ajihad, Brom, and Hrothgar, with a separate one at the bottom for Murtagh. Strange, these circumstances.

-- -- -- -- -- -- --

In this Black Wind of War:

Shur'tugal and Skulblaka

By DuchessCarlyle

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This was his time to mourn.

Roran had said what needed to be said on his part, and Eragon had given his consent, had given it freely because the situation that Roran faced involved saving Katrina from a very nasty fate in Dras-Leona.

But even Riders—Shadeslayers, Eragon's mind whispered tentatively, even praised Shadeslayers—needed time to themselves. Not all of them were greedy, were self-centered, were selfish; most definitely, not all of them were like Galbatorix, like Morzan, like—

And Eragon found himself unable, rather, unwilling to finish that thought, because he did not want to finish the thought, because he did not want to think of someone he'd thought of so fondly as a companion, someone he'd mourned for when he thought the other dead, as one of them. He found himself unable to condemn and seal their fate, his and—and Murtagh's. He did not want his fate to be sealed wherein he was to kill Murtagh and his—his dragon one day, although the fact that Murtagh was a Dragon Rider surprised him. Eragon, you fool, he chastised himself. If you are a Dragon Rider, and your—your father was a Dragon Rider, it would make sense that Murtagh's a Dragon Rider, too; in fact, you should be surprised you're a Dragon Rider. Murtagh's your elder brother, remember? Although it was inevitable, and there was the painful feeling in his chest and the ruthless cold in his stomach that told him it was inevitable, he did not think it, well, possible. Murtagh had said so himself—he hated the king, and he didn't want to become the monster their father—and the usage of the collective 'their' pained Eragon very much—had become!

And yet—

And yet he became the one he so loathed, Eragon thought ruefully, not noticing where his legs were taking him. He did not feel tired—depressed, rather, and quite lonely—although he was very cold. He shook his head, his eyes downcast.

Little one? That voice soothed him in a way, perhaps, that only Arya's or Brom's, perhaps even Oromis', voice could. He allowed his mouth to twitch upward, but only slightly, in what he was able to call a pathetic attempt to smile, and then he whispered to his dragon in response, Saphira.

Saphira's blue scales were the first thing he saw when he held his head up high again, and then her concerned blue eyes were the next thing he saw when he looked up even higher. He sighed, and then answered her unvoiced question, knowing that her concern and inquiries were inevitable, It's—it's just...I can't believe it. I mean, Saphira, Murtagh! A Dragon Rider, and a very powerful one at that! He shuddered, memories of the magical strength of Murtagh flowing like an uncontrolled, rapidly-raging river entering his mind.

Saphira's head bobbed up in down in a nod, I understand, Eragon. You are not the only one troubled by this. Even Nasuada and Arya are baffled as to what caused this—this grand change in circumstance. I can only imagine what Oromis and Glaedr would think, knowing that another son of Morzan has turned out to be just like Morzan.

Eragon's temper flamed immediately—he did not want to think of Murtagh just like Morzan—but he kept it inside. His temper bursting—at such a time, and at Saphira who, had he not been her Rider, would have burned him to a crisp—wasn't the best of ideas.

The dragon padded around Eragon gently, and when she was behind him, she settled, beckoning to him, Rest, Eragon. You need it.

It's not rest that I need, Saphira, Eragon replied tersely, his voice tight, although he sat against her belly nevertheless. I don't need rest; I'll get plenty of that later, but answers—where shall I get thoseThe next words were rather choked, and although Eragon was not reduced to tears, his eyes were brimming with them, surfacing along with memories that he had tucked away so carefully. Brom is—Brom is dead, as is Ajihad, and both of them died through my mistakes; I can no longer ask questions and receive answers.

Saphira looked at him curiously, Brom and Ajihad would have given their lives to you freely, Eragon; it was a sacrifice they would have been happy to wait, because they had been waiting for you.

Eragon sighed, Were it not for my recklessness with the soldiers, Brom would not have been hurt, and he would still be here with us. Were it not for my clouded senses, Ajihad would still walk among us, would still be with Nasuada where he rightfully belongs. He took a deep breath, and continued, The two people who could have possibly given me the answers I seek now are dead, Saphira. They have waited long for me—and this is the way that I repay them. It's nice, isn't it? He ended with a sarcastic drawl, closing his eyes and then using his hand as a shield from everything else.

But Oromis— Saphira began after a few moments of contemplation, but Eragon cut her short as he removed his hand from his eyes and opened his eyes.

Oromis is in Ellesméra. I doubt, with my level of magic, that I will be able to communicate with him as he did with me previous. Eragon seemed to have cut off Saphira's next question as well. She lowered her proud neck to curl around Eragon, and, looking at the Dragon Rider, she saw the forlorn expression on his face. She then began shielding him from the view of the outside world with her beautiful wings.

Eragon protested, No, Saphira. There will be no one who will disturb us here. The dwarves are—and he became choked again—the dwarves are preparing Hrothgar for his funeral, and I am sure Nasuada, Arya, and the other members of the Varden are trying to clean things up.

Twice, he had been given the blessings he felt he did not deserve—one being Brom's, the other being Ajihad's. Circumstances were, indeed, strange, for it had been he who had blessed Hrothgar; it had been he who had uttered "Stydja unin mor'ranr, Hrothgar Könungr", who had told the dwarf king to "rest in peace", because it was he who was welcomed into Dûrgrimst Ingeitum by Hrothgar's blessing. Therefore, he was the one charged with Hrothgar's proper burial. Eragon released a heavy sigh, leaning furthermore into her belly. I don't think I deserve their blessings, he concluded with sadness as he looked at the gedwëy ignasia with something that was either on the border of, or very, very close to disgust on his palm. Not Brom's, Ajihad's, or even Hrothgar's welcome. I really don't—

Saphira growled. Stop belittling yourself, Eragon. You are a Rider, and it would do you good to remember that.

Eragon was surprised—although he knew he had no right to be, for she was speaking the truth—at Saphira's sharp tone and even sharper words, but nodded nonetheless.

Brom gave you his blessing, Saphira continued, with his dying breath. Why would he have done that—he, a Dragon Rider, and a true one at that, of all people!—if he did not mean it?

Saphira's words broke Eragon's wall of ignorance, and prompted him to further examine Brom's characteristics; because of the length of time he hadn't actually been around Brom, or Brom around him, he had forgotten that Brom was, in a sense, a true Dragon Rider. He didn't keep secrets—although Eragon snorted at this, because he knew very well that Brom kept secrets, but he let this slide because he also knew that Brom had kept secrets from him because he knew the time wasn't right, was perhaps never going to be right—and although he was blunt and brusque in action, Brom had a valiant heart. Eragon breathed in and out, and then spoke again to Saphira, his voice softer. I—you're right. He—he wouldn't have lied about that.

And Ajihad! Saphira continued, happy that Eragon was listening to her, what reason would Ajihad have to place insincerity behind his blessing?

That sent Eragon's mind reeling; although he had not known the leader of the Varden very long, he did know a few things about him from, and figured out a few more by himself, the way Nasuada and Jörmundur spoke so highly of him. What possible reason would Ajihad have had to word it as a blessing, but intend for its effects to employ only untruth as a curse? He surmised, then, Ajihad would have had no reason to—

Saphira cut his musings short, saying quickly, Then in succession comes Hrothgar. What reason would the dwarf king bear against you? He may have loathed Zar'roc in the hands of—of that monster—and Eragon noticed how she struggled against calling Morzan "Morzan", "your father", or "that monster", and apparently had settled for the third, and perhaps safest, option—but he no longer loathed it, not when you wielded Zar'roc. He welcomed you through his own free will, Eragon; do not forget that it was he who offered. Not Orik, not another member of Dûrgrimst Ingeitum, but Hrothgar himself.

Eragon let another nod, then again once more, take over his head. You're right, Saphira. I shouldn't have doubted their freely-given words. It was wrong of me.

His blue-scaled dragon nodded curtly. Then she began gently curling her mind protectively around his like her tail was currently curling around his body. Eragon, you are Shadeslayer; remember that you killed Durza for Brom. I am sure that, up amongst the stars, he is proud of you, and he is smiling down at you this very moment. She looked back at him, and knowing that she had fully captured his attention as though it were everyday prey that she could have caught in her sleep, You bear the gedwëy ignasia, and the title of Argetlam with it. Then you are honored with the title Firesword, and perhaps people are calling you other titles that we have not yet discovered! You had every right to their blessings, and although I surmise that they had no ability to see the future, they felt you worthy, just as I judged you worthy when I hatched for you.

Eragon managed a joke, Sometimes, I feel as though I am your hatchling, Saphira, and you are my Rider.

Ha! Saphira wrapped her tail tighter, although it was not very tight that she was going to break him. I love you, little one. Do not forget that.

Eragon leaned against her, And I you, Saphira.

But there is one more matter that which we must discuss, no matter how painful, Eragon, said Saphira quietly. Eragon nodded, for he knew she was to come to this sooner or later.

Murtagh, he said, and, in very direct relationship, my—father. He struggled with the word—he'd always viewed Garrow as his father, and then later on Brom and Oromis—but he supposed he was to call the first and last of the Forsworn his father either way.

Saphira nodded. Murtagh, and he is no longer the Murtagh that saved us, no longer the Murtagh that was our companion, but now he is Murtagh, a Dragon Rider. What will you do, Eragon, when he and Galbatorix with their dragons confront you?

Then said Eragon, if a bit bitterly because the blade had served him well, With Zar'roc in his hand, it will be hard.

Saphira acquiesced, Yes, that is true, now that the father's inheritance is back with the father's eldest son. That, and the both of you are well-matched in swords. Therein lies our superbly large quagmire, yes?

Yes, said Eragon lowly. If—if it ever comes to killing Murtagh, Saphira. Do you think I'll be able to do it?

Saphira let out a breath as though she'd held it in anticipation of the question. I know, she then answered, that it is hard to think of it now, Eragon. Perhaps, if the circumstances were different, Murtagh would be the one having to make this decision as well. I know, she continued, eyes facing Eragon's with fierce strength and unfailing determination, that you will make the right decision when we finally cross that bridge. You would kill him, Eragon.

Not to Saphira's surprise, Eragon's protest flew like out of his mouth like fire flew proudly out of hers, Saphira, how could I kill Murtagh, of all people? I know he's sided with Galbatorix now, but does that instantly make the friendship we had null and void?

Saphira was patient with her Rider: Therein lies the answer to your question, Eragon. He's sided with Galbatorix

Unwillingly, Saphira! Eragon objected. You were there with me, you heard that he'd been tortured!

Nonetheless, he sided with the king, said Saphira as though she were the Rider and he the hatchling. Murtagh could have kept his mouth shut, could have chosen to die.

Eragon then said, But how can you die and completely surrender with the knowledge that a dragon hatched just for you!

Saphira looked at him sadly, You are being a hypocrite, Eragon! Do you realize that what you have just said completely nulls the effect of what you said previous?

He's my brother, Saphira, objected Eragon nevertheless. It's like saying I would kill Roran in a flash just because he's sided with Galbatorix, and you know very well that I can't do that.

Saphira's next words shook Eragon to the core, Eragon. Where does your allegiance lie, if not to your heart? I knew that I could not answer this as well as I had hoped, but I understand now, Eragon—and so must you. It is your duty.

As Argetlam? As Shadeslayer? As Firesword? he asked bitterly. Perhaps even as Shur'tugal? As the Dragon Rider I never expected I would one day be? The final word came out thickly, spoken as though gravy and bread had been shoved down Eragon's throat just moments before.

Nay, said Saphira. As a brother. You know it, Eragon, and I can sense it in your heart. You know that the paths of releasing Murtagh from his oath to Galbatorix are few. Either you will kill Galbatorix or Murtagh's dragon, and although I am confident in your melee strength, I am not quite sure your magical strength will be able to stand up to Galbatorix's.

You will help me, Saphira, will you not? Saphira recoiled; it was as though he was testing her loyalties, and he truly was. He threw her words back at her, switching to the ancient language, knowing that Saphira would not lie to him, Where does your allegiance lie, if not with me as your Rider?

Your ex cathedra privileges as a Dragon Rider would not have been bestowed to you, Eragon, had it not been for me! The force of the ancient language was startling, even to Saphira as she spoke.Now she was snarling, and he was growling, but she regained herself quicker than Eragon did. There was a maelstrom of emotions running through the both of them, and Saphira took less time sorting them out. Forgive me, Eragon, she told him formally, her head bowed lower than it had even been to Islanzadí. I have lost myself.

Eragon sent forgiveness through their link: You are forgiven, Saphira, for it is I who should ask your forgiveness.

Saphira and Eragon both shared a collective sigh.

The final choice, Saphira then continued inveigling Eragon to hearing her reasoning, is but to kill Murtagh himself, Eragon. His temper flared again, but she waited patiently until he had controlled it, and that was when he had nodded at her tightly. The way I perceive it, killing Murtagh himself is the lesser of, in this particular case, three evils. Eragon's mouth opened, but Saphira's tail swished and stayed erected behind her, and it was her upright tail that held such an air of authority that Eragon shut his mouth just as quickly. If we were to kill Galbatorix, it would merely release Murtagh and his dragon from his oath—but not from the mourning and the weeping and the never-healing wound, such a wound that, in a way, is worse than the wound Morzan inflicted.

Eragon's mind was sharper this time around, and he caught on to the other "evil" Saphira referred to, If we were to kill Murtagh's dragon, then it would only make his anger grow—and he would still be in Galbatorix's clutches either way, because the oath still holds.

Saphira nodded gravely, That is why I believe killing Murtagh himself is the best option, even if it will mean the loss of another option for a mate. If a dragon could, Saphira smiled wistfully then. That way, we would release Murtagh from Galbatorix's oath, and he would no longer have to suffer the criticism of the Varden, and those who opposed your earlier friendship with him.

Eragon snorted. Imagine how the Varden would react to the knowledge of Murtagh being my brother.

Focus, Eragon, Saphira coaxed as though she were talking to a hatchling, speaking tenderly, what with her voice suddenly so very mellow. He would be proud to die in battle, I am sure.

With his kin Eragon stirred. In fact, would it not merely further the stain on his name—that he is killed by his younger brother?

Saphira's voice was still low and was still exquisitely soothing, It would be the only way he is to die a grand and noble death, Eragon. A death by the hands of Galbatorix would merely seem as though a warrior's death had been cheated from him, and a death by the hands of any man or woman in the Varden would merely lower their opinion of him. But, Eragon, if he were to die as a Dragon Rider, to die as a warrior, as your brother, your flesh and your bloodshe paused here. No. Instead, Eragon, think of a happy, peaceful smile upon his face. Does he not deserve peace in his death? Death by the hands of any other being but you would merely cause unsettle and unrest. I do not think rest will be eternal and peaceful for him were Galbatorix to kill him.

Essentially, Saphira, said Eragon in near-objection, if we kill Murtagh, we are murdering the dragon that hatched for him.

Saphira's eyes were sad and downcast when she answered her Rider mildly. Yes.

We could—we could give the both of them a proper death, he said slowly, as though he did not believe the words that were coming out of his mouth; the both of them could die together, as Dragon and Dragon Rider, as skulblaka and Shur'tugal. Would that not be a Dragon Rider's death, Saphira?

Yes. And that was the only word spoken between them for a good few minutes.

Then:

Vel eïnradhin iet ai Shur'tugal, Eragon whispered to Saphira confidently, speaking more fluently in the ancient language to prove to his dragon that he meant what he was saying, I will avenge Brom and Ajihad and Hrothgar. And if I must do it to save him..., Eragon paused slightly, as if rethinking his decision, but he shook his head, and continued on determinedly with renewed vigor: And if I must do it to save my brother, then I will kill Murtagh and his dragon. Eragon stared at the scenery before him, before faced his dragon with a bright light in his eyes that Saphira's mimicked soon after. I will kill Galbatorix and Shruikan, if not for you and for me, but for Brom and Ajihad and Hrothgar, who gave their lives for the purpose of saving the people of Alagaësia; then, if not for them, for the people of Alagaësia themselves. Upon my word as a Dragon Rider, he finished with zeal.

Saphira snorted, although she was very pleased with his decision; Eragon could see her approval in her shining eyes. She spoke in the ancient language, as well. You alone cannot kill Galbatorix and Shruikan, now with Murtagh and his dragon on their side, but I am with you, Eragon. I am always with you, and we will save Alagaësia and its people; and we will avenge those who have died for our cause. Together. Upon my word as a dragon. Then she repeated, Vel eïnradhin iet ai skulblaka.

Eragon smiled at Saphira, and then when she presented her back to him, he mounted her. He could feel her wings outstretching, readying themselves for flight. She took off, and Eragon felt a freedom that he had never felt before. He felt freer than ever, and did not mind the gathering black wind of war that stretched far and wide across Alagaësia.

He did not mind the gathering clouds of doom and despair because he knew that, in due time, he and Saphira would dispel those clouds, along with the black wind.

He and Saphira would dispel those clouds, and that wind—together.

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In this black wind of war they fly
Now, ere that hour be in the sky
That brings back hope, and memory back,
And light and law to lands that lack;
That spiritual sweet hour whereby
The bloody-handed night and black
Shall be cast out of heaven to die;
Kingdom by kingdom, crown by crown,
The fires of darkness are blown down.

—Algernon Charles Swinburne, "Epilogue"
(Verses 118 to 126)

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This one-shot was completed and first posted on the web on
December 27, 2006.

A second version, although never posted, was completed on
December 28, 2006.

This version was completed and first posted on the web on
January 11, 2007.