I'm back once again!

The typical warning apply here: like everything else I write, this will be slash. That means hot male on male action, people! Homophobes and the timid beware, read on at your own risk. You have been warned. Thoroughly.

This particular fic is also going to have scenes of... ahem graphic nature later on. As in lemons. As in plural.

Third warning: swearing. Though if the lemons and the slash don't bother you, I don't see why strong language would.

Is everyone who shouldn't be reading this gone?

Good. Moving on...

(Disclaimer: The rights to Eragon belong to the one and only Christopher Paolini. I am not working with anyone affiliated with Christopher Paolini or his publisher, and am in no way making money for this.)

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Prologue: Forgetting

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Another one dead.

Bodies – living bodies attacking him, dead bodies tripping him, dying bodies thrashing and oblivious. Bodies everywhere, all human, male and female, some too mutilated to tell, all dead or about to be. He was outnumbered, hopelessly so – there were exactly seven dead, three dying, and twelve either unharmed or only slightly injured. Eragon's face was grim as he spun, sword thrusting and whirling, feet skipping lightly on the ground, his body in constant motion as he danced to avoid the various attacks.

He was winning.

He was a Rider, after all.

He spun again, catching one unawares – only a few would approach him now, and this one had been bold. Too bold. The man stumbled away, stomach contents exposed through a gaping slash, blood spilling over it's companions dead bodies before it, too, fell, not dead but hopelessly dying.

Killing them was just so easy.

He pushed onward with a growl of anger – whether toward himself, or toward these beasts, he didn't know. He just did it.

Another traitor fell, bleeding, then another, and this time the victim's neck was completely severed with the force of Eragon's blow. Then the Rider stopped, considering the ten left. Ten. Just those few, when originally twenty, and he the only sent after them.

How easy. How horribly, laughingly, frustratingly easy.

Moments later, two more where dead. Eragon was tiring of this, but he knew he couldn't stop. He had to kill them all as soon as possible – he had a responsibility. They were traitors.

It had nothing to do with the frustration tearing him apart.

No, he was doing this for Lady Nasuada.

Eragon slashed off another' head – an impossible feat for a human, but an easy accomplishment for him. The man died instantly, face transfixed in surprise and pain and rage. Another and another fell – five left. Eragon panted, swinging with wild abandon now. He wanted them dead. He wanted it bad, wanted to kill until everything just went away, wanted to push his body to it's furthest limits and push it farther still.

A sudden movement startled him – his brown eyes flickered to the side. A single young man fleeing.

Mentally, Eragon cursed. There where still four left he had to kill, he couldn't go after the runaway. But someone else could.

Saphira, he called.

Yes, little one? Saphira responded after a moment. She was hunting – Eragon could feel her teeth clench around the deer she tore voraciously at. What are you doing?

Eragon hesitated. Now that he thought about it, maybe he could handle this on his own. All he had to do was kill the four left quickly, then go after the runaway. Besides, Saphira wouldn't find hunting in a forest very easy – the trees would prevent her from landing, and she wouldn't be able to move very well with her size. No, he didn't need her.

Nothing, never mind, he told Saphira, then immediately shut their connection.

A moment before he did, he felt her protest, but it was cut off as he blocked her out. He didn't need her right now, and he couldn't be distracted.

He stabbed another – three left.

Two more thrusts and there were two.

A short leap. A kick and a slash. One.

A scream of rage. His or the traitor's? It didn't matter.

The soft sound of a blade entering flesh and tearing through to the other side. A gasp, a last intake of breath. Blood spurting, soaking his clothes.

Then there were none.

Eragon dropped to the forest floor, panting, his body aching pleasantly from exertion. As soon as his breathing eased, he sprang upright again, eyes searching for the spot the young man had disappeared into.

The forest around him was dark as night was falling, the moon rising, a distant wolf howling and a pack joining his song. The crickets chirped softly as he listened and strove to block out such sounds. The small clearing that the traitors had been camping in was wet with blood, the thick smell of recent death clogging his senses; the bodies stank in life, and now, drenched in blood, they smelled even worse. His eyes, although better for night than most human eyes, had to strain to see.

Eragon struggled to remember where he had seen the young man exit – he'd been in the throes of battle at the time, it hadn't occurred to him to try to memorize the spot. He knew that the fleeing man would not go to east – that was were Nasuada's new headquarters were.

Where, then?

Finally, something occurred to him.

He knelt on the blood-stained grass, looking into a pool of blood. He considered it a moment, then nodded to himself. It would work.

"Bei'noya iet uinnaraoi (show my prey)," he commanded in the ancient language. (A/N: the part in parentheses is a translation, if you didn't already figure that out). Immediately, shadows began to ripple under the surface of the crimson liquid, morphing into images.

Eragon smiled triumphantly. He had worried the young man had fled to a place he had not seen before, and therefore could not scry, but apparently it wasn't so. There were definitely surroundings – the only problem was that the murky red tint made it difficult to see much. After a moment, however, he managed to make out where it was.

Quickly he rose, turning southwest.

His prey didn't have a chance.

He stumbled as he fled, leaving a beautifully clear path for him - crushed undergrowth, disturbed leaves along the forest floor, things such as that. When Eragon finally caught up to his prey, only a fifteen minutes had passed. When he paused to rest, Eragon drew his sword, leapt forward, and ran the young man through.

The body dropped, and he was alone again.

He stared blankly at the body, the man he'd killed. It had been necessary. He'd enjoyed it – the thrill of the hunt that drew him away from reality. There was nothing wrong with what he had done – nothing at all. And he felt no guilt. But now everything was wrong, now everything was bad, and he was alone – no distractions.

I have Saphira, a voice whispered in his head. My partner. My friend.

"Constantly in my head, reading my thoughts, seeing everything there – I don't want her in my mind, not now or ever," he muttered.

I need her. She's always been there for me. She's a part of me.

"Just another person, no matter who she is to me, don't want anyone seeing in my head…"

She's the only person I can talk to.

He sat down on the ground, closing his eyes.

He was sick of this. Sick of killing, sick of wanting to be killed, sick of responsibility.

Nasuada needs me to do this, he told himself. The more rebellious young men deserted, it was an emergency . Someone has to kill them before they get to Galbatorix – some of them are high-ranking officials who know more than we can allow Galbatorix to find out.

He nodded. Nasuada needed him to do this – he was the only one who could. He'd spent days in the forest and surrounding area of the new Varden's headquarters, he had seen almost every spot of the area of the traitors were in. That meant he could scry them and find them, unlike the other magic users, who would only be able to see the people (if they were even that lucky), not their surroundings.

And if his liege sent out parties to track them down, there would be that many less people working and guarding – not to mention that some would die, but it was highly unlikely any of the traitors would managed to kill a Rider. He was the only logical choice.

Logic. That was all that was left, now.

He felt a tug at the edge of his consciousness – Saphira was calling him. He gritted his teeth and strengthened his mental walls, blocking her out with difficultly; after all, it was kind of hard to block someone out of your head when they spent a good deal of their time there. Not that she did anymore.

She wants to help.

"I don't want her in my head," he muttered. He got up, brushing himself off. He had killed thirty-three deserters; that was almost half of the ones he'd been told were missing. He still had things to kill, no time for contemplation.

Silently, he knelt on the blood-stained ground. A pool of blood had collected in the grass; the dirt was still soaked from last night's downpour, so the blood hadn't soaked in yet. "Bei'noya iet uinnaraoi," he commanded again.

Once again, the shadows rippled under the surface of the liquid, then morphed into images. Eragon frowned as he saw them. A party of six men sat around a fire. But the space around the fire was unusually big for such a small group – it looked like they were seating twenty-five, not six. Perhaps they were expecting others?

He quickly decided it didn't matter. Cleaning and sheathing his sword, he trotted off.

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"Lady Nasuada, where has Rider Eragon gone to?"

Nasuada looked up. She sat at her desk, calmly composed like always. The reports and her notes were scattered all over the desk – she was too busy to keep everything organized, and she allowed no one to touch her desk save herself, in case they misplaced or threw away something important.

Arya stood before her – it was she who had spoken. Her face was unnaturally serene as she spoke again, bowing. "I apologize if I am interrupting you, Lady Nasuada. The guards said you had no pressing business. Do you know where Rider Eragon is?"

Nasuada nodded briefly. "I'm afraid about fifty men deserted. Morale has been low since the news about Murtagh's betrayal was leaked out to the men. I sent Eragon to kill or capture the deserters. I thought it best – he can find them quickly and is a strong enough warrior to beat them without much of a problem."

Arya's reply was smooth. "Indeed, and I wish him well, but he is not well. Things may not turn out best."

Nasuada shrugged, but Arya could see that underneath the woman's uncaring exterior she was worried. "He is a Rider," she said simply. "He strength in battle will not fail."

"I do not worry for his physical strength - it's the way he's been acting, Lady. But when will he return? I must speak with him." Arya's face was still smooth was expressionless. In an earlier time, she probably would have taken off her blank mask. In an earlier time, things had not been so tense. In an earlier time, Arya had begun to trust the human woman.

But not now. Things were very difficult now – now that Murtagh had betrayed them. Everyone was tense now, wondering who the next traitor would be, who could be trusted, who wanted what. No one trusted anyone anymore.

"I have no idea when he will return," Nasauda replied, looking back down at her reports. "He left this morning at first light. It's been almost twelve hours – I'm not sure how long it will take, however, and if he will return immediately after completing his task."

Arya bowed her head. "I see. Thank you, Lady. Please inform me when he returns."

She left.

Arya was silent as she moved through the halls of the Varden's new base of operations. She stepped without purpose, not sure where she was going or why she was going there. She wanted to speak with Eragon, but… he wasn't around, and just as Nasuada said, he probably wasn't going to be back for a while. But what should she do in the meantime?

Perhaps I should talk to Saphira, she thought, stopping suddenly.

No, she thought a moment later. Or… maybe yes.

She began to stride determinedly through the halls, this time with purpose. She needed to talk to Eragon, so she'd tell Saphira to tell him to come back as soon as he was finished hunting down the deserters. Either that, or she would just tell Saphira to tell Eragon, or ask Saphira to inform her when the Rider returned.

Soon she found herself stepping into the huge chamber that was Saphira's room – or more like her large, roofless hall – smiling at the sapphire dragon, who was curled up on her bed of pines nettles. The dragon's stomach was swollen – no doubt she had been hunting recently.

"Saphira," she called out, her tone respectful.

The dragon's eyes flickered open. She had apparently had not been sleeping after all. Yes, Arya?

Where is Eragon?

Hunting. He will return soon, I believe.

You believe? Arya asked, puzzled. You do not know? Can you not contact him?

He's shutting me out. He has not spoken to me out of anything but necessity since... since the battle. When Murtagh revealed himself.

Why?Arya exclaimed, horrified.

She knew of the close bond between Rider and dragon, and knew how strange it was for one to shut the other out for long periods of time. The bond between two such beings was sacred, and to cut it away...

But for Eragon to do this… his mental state must be more unstable than any of them realized.

He's been depressed, Saphira told her. Frustration, as well as hurt, leaked into her tone; the dragon was not as skilled as the elf in hiding emotion.

Oromis should know of this, Arya said.

Do as you wish, Saphira replied unhappily, closing her eyes again.

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Eragon slipped through the forest, eyes straining in the dark. He knew he should probably stop and rest for the night- it was already almost too dark to see, the full moon's light hidden beneath thick clouds. But he couldn't - he still had deserters to kill. That was excuse enough. Besides, they'd be easier to kill when half-asleep. If he made it quick enough, he could possibly make it back before nightfall the next day.

So he crept stealthily along in the shadows of the trees, almost invisible in his dark cloak against the blackness of the creeping night. Soon it would be pitch black, but he dared not summon magical light – he couldn't be seen.

Finally, he saw it. In just the place he saw in his scrying, he saw a flickering light, a campfire, shining it's way through the dark forest like the light at the end of a tunnel.

Perfect. He smiled.

The darkness concealed the path beaten through the underbrush and the damage done to the shrubs and bushes – signs that more than six had passed this way. Quite a few more than six.

He also missed the withered appearance of the foliage, leaves dead, stems brown and broken, berries rotted and half-falling off their bushes – all sure signs that a magic user had drained them to regain lost power.

Eragon slid behind a tree, keeping the campfire opposite of the barrier. He hadn't seen much of the six at the fire; he dared not sneak a peek around the tree, and he'd only caught glimpses before as he went from shadow to shadow, focusing mostly on not being seen or heard. He strained to hear the conversation. Low voices spoke, two of them, both male. Finally, after several moments of struggling to hear and only making out the barest of sounds, he muttered, "Thverr vindr un atra eka hörna (transverse air and let me hear)."

It was as if a switch had been flipped. He jumped slightly as a voice spoke next to his ear.

"-not so sure we should do this," a male voice said.

Eragon winced. He hoped that he was the only one able to hear the results of the spell.

"You're having second thoughts now?" chuckled a second voice. "We already made off with food supplies and valuables from Lady Nasuada and deserted her, we can't exactly go back."

"I know, but those people are… terrible," the first man said. The words should have sounded childish, but so full of fear and disgust, they sounded only sincere. "Especially him."

"Don't let him hear you," mumbled a third voice.

"I don't see him anywhere," scoffed the second.

"That's when you need to be scared," muttered the third man. "When you don't know where he is. Shadow beast that he is..."

"Blöthr du Shur'tugal (hold/bind the Rider)," growled a male voice.

Eragon froze as he heard those words. Partially because the male voice wasn't the one of those from before, partially because the voice had spoken in the Ancient Language, which was impossible because there hadn't been a magic-user among the deserters, and partially because his body was now literally frozen.

Utterly helpless, Eragon couldn't even blink, much less speak the words he needed to free himself, much less even gather the air in his lungs to speak those words. He could only sit, frozen into a sitting position as someone behind him chuckled softly and dragged him by his shirt into the clearing.

He lay on the ground there, staring at the boots of his captor and the circle of people around the fire. If he could have breathed, he would have gasped, because it wasn't six people around the fire – it was almost thirty.

Impossible. When he'd scryed –

I can only scry things and people I've already seen before, he realized suddenly. I only saw the deserters I'd met before. But the magic user -

There shouldn't have been a magic-user, and there shouldn't have been this many people. There were extra, at least five extra, that, from their clothes and fine swords, were not of the Varden. That wasn't right –

They shouldn't be here – there shouldn't have been a magic-user, this wasn't right, he couldn't die, and it hurt, his lungs were burning and the world was spinning and the magician was talking, something about someone dying and he was dying; everything was vanishing in patches, and he couldn't even twitch in protest – he'd been forced into a life or responsibility and unwanted fame for this? To die in the dirt, suffocated –

- everything was spinning –

and then it was all gone.

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Yeah, Eragon's kind of angsty in this one. I'll explain why later. Don't worry –he doesn't stay like this the entire fic.

-DH