Disclaimer: Paolini's, not mine.

A/N: Alright, for the first time, I am inside Eragon's head although he is thinking about Murtagh. No, not like that. No. Just...no. Review!


He offered us everything with both hands, though one was wrapped around his yew bow, the other resting on his sword. I hardly knew what to make of him, the boy older than I who had been dropped at my feet by a dragon and then who laughed as though he hadn't a care in the world. He was alone, I knew, and possibly out of his mind. Saphira claimed he had been following us and I believed her. He had the look of a hunter. But he was not grave or serious toward us in that first meeting. Instead an abundance of emotion seemed to roll off him in waves, exuding joy, trust, hope. Later I devised that these were all things he had felt at that time when he decided to meet the dragon and Rider he had been tracking. How distrustful I was! I was wary, yes, and so was he, but I doubted him strongly while all he held was caution.

His laugh introduced me to him before words were ever exchanged—deep and throaty, not often heard but pleasant, genuine. He rolled confidently to his feet, bracing himself with his bow with the familiarity of an old friend. His first words, a confession, "All my life I've dreamed of dragons." I remember how his smile flashed white like a dazzling burst of sunshine. Instantly an image of the mother I never knew came to me—she would have loved his smile. I demanded his name. He strode forward, ever the warrior, proclaiming his name and his usefulness immediately in his actions as well as his words. He offered himself to us without asking us our names or our purposes. His gaze was open and friendly despite the strange appearance his light eyes had in his pale face, set against dark hair. A smile constantly played around his mouth as though he could break with the joy he felt that day. I demanded, how arrogant I was!, that he tell us his history; and he gave it without preamble, without sadness. He didn't demand pity for his past and would have scorned it had it been offered. He seemed to know more about us than I was comfortable with, but I agreed, grudgingly, that he could lead us to the Varden. The only thing he needed was silently declared when he said that we would learn to trust him. He needed trust as badly as a starved man needs bread. I doubt that anyone aside from his former tutor had trusted him in any way, even his—our—mother. Saphira growled at him, at the perceived arrogance in his statement, and I did nothing to stop her. Murtagh, however, was not dissuaded. I shouldn't have thought he would be after being picked up by a dragon and then dropped in front of a stranger. Instead he grinned, seeming pleased that Saphira guarded me so closely.

He gained our trust, as he had promised. We learned quickly who he was—he seemed so eager to share himself with us. It wasn't until later, after we had reached the Varden, when we learned what he was. I am older than I was then and perhaps wiser, wise enough to know that what he was is not as terrible as we all thought. I myself am the son of Morzan, yet others know me first as Dragon Rider. Murtagh never had that chance—he was born and he grew up, labeled forever. I, a peasant boy, learned who he was first and should have made my conclusions of him based upon that, a far firmer foundation than his status. I didn't know that he didn't want to enter the Varden's cave. I learned later, guessed, that he had hesitated before following me under the churning waterfall. I could easily imagine that at that moment anyone could see he was panicked, with his air coming in short gasps, his eyes holding a grudging, child-like fear. I can see now that what made Murtagh what he is was that he didn't want to show this fear to anyone. He could hide so well, physically and emotionally. He granted me a rare gift that day we met and I was too garish a fool to accept. If he offered me himself and asked for my trust again, I would accept in a much different manner than I did that day many years ago. That day when he laughed and smiled like true hope had come. That day when he introduced himself to me in his actions more than with his words. That day that caused me to grow up, when I look back on it. He would deny teaching me anything if he was asked, but he taught me everything I needed to know to be man, with a few short words, a smile, and a laugh.

Laugh ungrudgingly when you can, he taught me.

Be cautious but not unkind, his eyes said.

Eagerly await the future, he demanded.

Smile with true happiness, his joy proclaimed.

Fear nothing that cannot harm you, and protect all that you value with a strong hand.

I know many things now—I am old and have trained up many Riders in my day—but I claim that my first training was from my brother, the Dragon Rider Murtagh, Morzan's son. I remove the tarnish from his name every time I join it with mine, but he is truly the greater one. He taught me all I need to know, to live well, to die well. Dragon Riders are given the gift of immortality, but I will choose to fall asleep forever one day soon. And when that time comes I want to be ready to do as Murtagh had at a much younger age: I want to offer him everything with both hands.