Disclaimer: Eragon was written by Christopher Paolini, the canon and its characters belong solely to him.

Claimer: The plot is mine.

Warnings: This is a slash story with physical intimacy in later (much later) chapters. If that's not to your liking... The story also includes torture and rape, although only implied.

Important first A/N: This is set post Eldest. However, I haven't read the books in a while, so maybe some small facts are not quite accurate. I hated the movie, but I liked the way both Eragon and Murtagh looked, so that's how I imagine it for my story: Eragon is blond, has blue eyes, etc. Oh, and he has not gone through that elf-transformation thing. I cannot stand a Larry-Stu Eragon. Period.


15th Harvest Moon

Fate must truly hate him.

A single tear slid down Murtagh's cheek. He could not tear his gaze away from Eragon, who was fast asleep on the large bed in the centre of the room. If a stranger was to enter at this moment, he would probably say it was a scene of peaceful quiet. However, just as likely he would change this statement once he caught sight of the fearful and pained expression that Eragon's face held even in his sleep.

Murtagh sighed and leaned back from the bed. He felt the wetness on his cheek and wiped it away angrily. His crying was the last thing that would help right now. He ran a hand through his unruly dark hair, went over to the big table at the window and slumped down on a chair. His head came to rest on his arms and he closed his eyes for a moment, relishing the light breeze that carried a scent of late summer into the room. He was utterly exhausted.

It had taken all his knowledge of healing magic as well as the skills of his faithful old handmaid, Jora, to pluck Eragon from the claws of death. Close it had been, and still was, as his younger brother had seemingly lost his will to live. This was not much of a surprise, though.

The broken ribs Murtagh had mended with no effort; he was used to performing this spell on himself. The fractured right leg had caused him a small headache at first, but now it was splinted and bandaged and could heal properly. The swelling of the calloused wrists and ankles as well as Eragon's neck was going down slowly and healing scab had begun to form. But curing the flogged back had been a different matter. They had cleansed the open wounds, washing away both pus and blood, and Murtagh had tried to puzzle the lose strips of skin back together. However, too many pieces had been missing and he knew it would take weeks for new skin to cover the once muscular back.

To his frustration, this meant that large scars would remain. Yet Jora had provided some ointment and - more important – had promised that the scars would fade over time.

Unwanted, a memory was pushing its way into Murtagh's mind. He saw his brother being chained tightly to a wall, his back a mess of torn, raw flesh, and blood everywhere: dried in Eragon's hair, on his arms, his back and also running down his legs from an unseen wound between his butt cheeks….

"No!" Murtagh startled himself by hearing his own voice. But this was not the right time to agonise over what had happened.

He looked over to the bed and made a short mental list of Eragon's current appearance. His brother's face looked haunted and his cheeks were sunken in. It was framed by blond hair that was soaked in sweat and stuck to his temples in clumpy strands. His skin, which had always been a proof of his healthy, outdoor life, was ashen now, at least in those places where it was not covered in varying shades of black, blue, or purple.

The young man was tossing and turning now, revealing part of his bandaged upper body. Murtagh suppressed a sigh. If Eragon did not rest well, recovery would take longer; and also, if he did not lie still, the friction between the sheets and the bandages would hinder the wounds from healing.

But nothing of all this was the reason why Death still hovered over the sickbed. It was the fever that held him there. Murtagh did neither know the cause for it nor could he cure it, but the disease was destroying its victim. Physically, Eragon did not have the resources anymore to fight against it, and worse, he also lacked the spirit to do so. His mind probably embraced the oblivion that the fever offered. Jora had explained to Murtagh that this was the reason why his magic was useless in this case: It was mainly an internal battle of the young one, and apparently he had capitulated.

The old woman had prepared an arrangement of herbs and brews that would strengthen the blond, yet Eragon had to be awake to swallow the medicine, as it was impossible to force it down his throat in his momentary state. Murtagh had tried – to no avail. The emaciated body had fought off the healing drink with a force that Murtagh could only accredit to some self-defence mechanism and a surge of adrenaline. It was then that it had hit him: Doubtlessly, he had not been the only one who had recently tried to force Eragon to open his mouth and swallow…

Murtagh got up and walked back to the bed, silently cursing that he had let his mind wander once more.

He took a linen towel and dried Eragon's face, letting his hand rest for a moment on the forehead to determine the temperature. Still burning. His other hand reached down to cover his brother with the blanket which had slid down to Eragon's waist, but he quickly decided otherwise. The blanket was clammy and cold, so he pulled it away completely, hurried over to the cabinet next to the door and got out a clean, chequered quilt. He returned to the bed and draped it around his brother neatly, approving of the result when he was done.

Convincing himself that Eragon was unlikely to wake up anytime soon, Murtagh prepared for another period of idleness and sat down on the small stool at the side of the bed. Sure enough, his brother being awake - if only for a short moment - was his most urgent wish. The sooner Eragon would take his medicine, the sooner he would be part again of the living, conscious world.

Nevertheless, Murtagh knew that the second Eragon woke, a new, severe problem of quite a different nature would make itself felt. Because for his brother, he was only one thing: the archenemy.