Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Summary: In the aftermath of the Empire's downfall, Eragon contemplates his brother's grave
Warnings: Non-canon character death
Disclaimer: Not mine
Author's Note: The title is Latin, and means "Thus passes away the glory of the world"
The word left a bitter taste in his mouth, made his already-forced smile freeze on his face when he heard it fall from the lips of one who didn't understand what glory truly was. He had spectacularly failed to cover himself in glory in the final battle before the gates of Urû'baen, going against the expectations of thousands. No, Galbatorix's death had been by another hand.
The grave before him was oddly placed, right beside the road in front of the main gates – there had been no time for ceremony or planning in their haste to bury the dead and prevent plague from spreading as the corpses began to rot. But still, the grave had clearly had more attention devoted to it afterwards than most. An intricately patterned cairn of black stone had been raised over what had originally been a shallow grave in the dirt. The surface had been melted into beautiful designs – Thorn's doing – and words were visible on a flat area around eye-height:
Murtagh son of Morzan
A traitor in life
A hero in death
Every time he saw the epitaph, it made an insane, wholly inappropriate urge to laugh well up inside him: he suspected Angela's hand in its wording. He couldn't help but wonder what future generations would make of this less than ringing endorsement, and he hoped that the historians would accurately record the events that had led to the filling of this grave.
It didn't matter though, not really. He knew the truth.
He had been held back from the fighting for most of the final battle – he did not argue, for he knew perfectly well that he would be called upon to fight Galbatorix. Given the obvious importance of this task he was impatient for it to be accomplished so the war would be over.
The clash, when it came, was beyond anything he had ever imagined: the King the incarnation of evil astride a monstrous black dragon, the titanic forces of magic battling for dominance. A red dragon, smaller than Shruikan or Saphira, hovered somewhat dubiously on the fringes of the battle…almost as if he and his Rider were unsure which side they wanted to be on. Far below, the armies drew back in awe and watched the duel above, almost forgetting that they were supposed to be regrouping and preparing for another charge.
Both parties were nearing exhaustion when a sudden, decisive blow was struck: a bolt of crackling black fire streaked from the King's hand and somehow got in under the younger Rider's guard. Blasted from his saddle, he fell; trailing blood and smoke as he plummeted to the ground below. His dragon was equally incapacitated and crashed into the muck a hundred yards away, unable to help him. A groan rose from one army, and deafening cheers from the other.
But what happened next, no-one could have predicted.
Far ahead of the others who struggled to reach the fallen Rider's aid, the red dragon swooped down over him like a swallow; and at the lowest point of the arc his Rider leapt from his back. He hit the ground and rolled to his feet in one swift movement, running the short distance to the younger Rider. He skidded to a halt and fell to his knees; seemingly unaware that every eye on the battlefield was fixed on them.
"I don't care about my oath," he growled; "I should never have let this happen. Rest, little brother, I'll finish this."
"You can't break your oath," the other managed to say, coughing blood.
"I'll find a way."
The younger of the two stared at his self-confessed older brother in amazement; "No-one is strong enough to defy a vow in the Ancient Language."
"Vel eïnradhin iet ai Shur'tugal; wiol ono eka atra waíse, iet vo'breoal."
No-one was quite sure afterwards what had happened, or how. Magic users gave conflicting accounts of a strange spell the like of which they had never seen before; altering the way of things so that for the briefest of moments it was not impossible to break a vow in the Ancient Language, but doing so resulted in death. Others said that the two conflicting vows had cancelled each other out, and that the power of the spell which killed the King was so great that it also killed the caster. Whatever the truth truly was, in an instant two of the only three Riders in the world died.
The cries of victory or despair from the conflicting armies were drowned out by their Dragons' screams of agony.
Irony of ironies; that one whom they had denounced as a traitor should save them all. He smiled faintly and reached out to touch the cold stone; words of magic leapt unbidden to his mind. He spoke them with a half-smile lingering around the corners of his mouth and watched the third word insinuate itself into the second line; Rider, Warrior, Brother.
"Sé mor'ranr ono finna unin andlát, iet vo'breoal," he murmured.
With those words he turned and walked away from his brother's grave, accepting finally – as he should have all along – that they truly were brothers. But he had no time to reflect further: there was work to be done, and no matter what he had suffered, no-one would be better able to do it than him. People were counting on him to be strong and capable.
So it was not until later, alone in his tent, that he allowed himself to weep for his brother.
"Vel eïnradhin iet ai Shur'tugal; wiol ono eka atra waíse, iet vo'breoal." – Upon my word as a Rider; for you I will be, my brother.
"Sé mor'ranr ono finna unin andlát, iet vo'breoal." – May you find peace in death, my brother.
(Uh…"vo'breoal" was the best I could do for "brother", given that the term is never used in the books. It's an extrapolation from the word for family and what appears to be a male prefix)
Reviews will be magically turned into flowers and laid on Murtagh's grave. Flames will be shown to Saphira so she can laugh at how pathetic they are compared to her own.