Disclaimer: Not mine. Paolini's.

A/N: Thanks for the idea from Dragon Rider of Alagaesia!

Clashing sounds and bright light skittered across his consciousness, followed by muffled movements, whispers, and dark. He didn't know where he was, but he preferred the dark with no noises, the kind that overtook the hushed darkness every so often after a sharp pain, generally to the back of his head. He didn't know if he ever opened his eyes, but he assumed that he did. Once he saw a blurred image of a face devoid of emotion, but then he felt pain riddle through his spine and he tried not to open his eyes again. It hurt anyways. Anything to escape at least some of the pain.

Someone was scuffling around him, ripping off his gauntlets, then his tunic. He shivered in the damp dark without it. There was the sound of tearing cloth, of unsheathed steel, and then he felt the cold prick of a knife against his vein. Something warm flowed against his palm and between his fingers, and his arm was smeared against the ground.

"We cannot have him dead. We'll have to use some of our own," a hushed voice said and he felt something trace up his arm to heal it.

As he hovered between consciousness and sleep, he forced himself to recall everything that had happened since he last felt like himself. At first he was only able to hold on to consciousness long enough to remember his name and his heritage as Morzan's son, something he had always done subconsciously, before blackness swirled around him again. Then he stretched, ignoring as best he could the persistent flashes of fire that always seemed aimed at his head, and remembered fighting, his journey with the Varden's leader, their ambush from the Urgals, the strange swirl of mist that had surrounded their band until only he was left with Ajihad and the Twins.


Then the pain had begun.

Not the normal pain he was used to, where you could center on where the hurt was coming from and grit your teeth and bear it. This pain was different, not like having a wound; it seemed to generate from an outside source but it bloomed from within his body. It felt like the daggers that danced up and down his spine were cutting from inside him; like the incessant pounding near his temples was from his own heartbeat; like the raw ache that steadily grew to make every movement painful was something he had always lived with.

Yes, he remembered.

Murtagh opened his eyes hesitantly, bringing to mind how difficult it had been only yesterday. But that was when he had still been under the Twins' complete control. They were either tired from constant surveillance, or he was growing stronger. Or perhaps they merely decided that enough was enough. After all, how much pleasure could one derive from seeing a captive twist in agony as he was dragged by magic through dark, subterranean tunnels?

He was greeted by the sweep of a purple robe and a lifeless cackle before he felt his throat constrict until he was gasping for breath.

Oh. That's how much, he thought faintly as black spots swirled before his eyes.

"You'd do well to remember that we can exercise our power over you, weakling," one of the Twins sneered, "at will."

"Don't provoke us," the other hissed, landing Murtagh a kick in the ribs before turning away to confer with the other.

Murtagh lay on his side obediently, refusing to move a cramped muscle even though his legs protested from disuse. He'd been taken this far by magic, he knew, probably because of his incapacitated state from the Twins'…treatment. But from the looks on their faces and the rising ire in their voices, he guessed that from here he would have to move on his own without help.

And probably with some hindrance, he added as the Twins' sent him a venomous glance and began moving down the dark tunnel again, small globules of light in their hands lighting the path before their feet. A sudden jerk around his neck made him lurch forward and instinct told him to pull back. His resistance earned him a sharp blow from one of the Twins and another jerk from the invisible chain that seemed to be the Twins' way of keeping control of him. This time he got up quickly and followed the older men's robed figures, testing warily how far the invisible bond would let him stray. Another jerk after dawdling nearly eight feet behind them told him he wouldn't be allowed out of their sight—or their fists.

He didn't have to guess where they were going. He had only one enemy. It all made sense now, everything the Twins had done, had wanted to do to him. They were hypocrites, the worst of liars. And in his eagerness to prove himself he had given up his own safety while striving for something that might have any number of names: truth, honor, respect. Maybe it was the culmination of all three, but whatever it was, he hadn't attained it.

In another situation, Murtagh would have taken his frustration out on himself. As it was, he found the opportunity for more damage wasn't one he wanted to take. And from the glares and angry tugs the Twins' were giving him, he figured it'd be all he could do to make it to Galbatorix in one piece.

A/N: So, not really a cliffy. But, YES, there is a second chapter. Dum dum duuuuuuuum! And if you're wondering, no clue where this piece is going...none. I have no plot. No conclusion. Just a bunch of evil bald-men cackling and Murtagh being tortured. But really, I'm hoping it's better than just that. ;)