Disclaimer: I do not own Eragon, Eldest, or the Inheritance cycle.

A/N: I'm not really sure why I wrote this fic other than pure boredom and an overactive muse. Oh, and the fact that I have strep and can't sleep. XD So yeah. Hopefully it isn't horrible and OOC. It's just my view on how Galbatorix might use a sort of mental warfare to break down his captives. Parts of it may sound choppy, but honestly, it's rather intended to because it's structured around Murtagh's thought patterns, which would have been slightly erratic by this point.

Reviews are much appreciated.


It was dark.

That was the first thing that Murtagh noticed, and for a long time, it was also the only thing. It wasn't hot, it wasn't cold, it wasn't damp, it wasn't arid. There seemed to be nothing but the darkness, wrapping itself around him and penetrating to his core. It wasn't as if he was afraid of the dark; no, he had been taught to fear nothing… nothing but Morzan's wrath…

But Morzan was gone now; Brom had taken care of that. So what did that leave for his son, for Murtagh, to fear? Much, it seemed, if even the darkness was beginning to affect him. But really, he thought, it wasn't exactly the darkness itself… It was the complete lack of anything else.

Never could he remember such a complete darkness, such a total isolation. Yes, Murtagh had been alone. That didn't bother him; in fact, he had come to terms with it, even grown to like it at times. But then again, he wasn't used to being alone any more. For a long time, he had traveled with Eragon and Saphira, and he had grown used to it, to having someone there. Someone who cared.

And Eragon, at least, had cared. Murtagh knew that the Rider had tried to scry for him since he had been gone; but the Twins' magic amulet had blocked that.

Ugh, magic. That had to have been the start of all of this. The dragons' magic, the elves' magic, Galbatorix's magic, Morzan's magic – even Eragon's and Saphira's. For years, Murtagh had survived alone, had taken care of himself. He hadn't been caught by the Empire; he had been free. Well… as free as any son of one of the Forsworn could be. It couldn't be a mere coincidence that encountering Eragon and the Varden and their magic had come right before what he had been dreading and avoiding ever since his escape from Uru Baen.

Or maybe it wasn't even magic. Maybe the answer to this riddle lay within Murtagh himself, within the fact that he had grown dependent on someone else. But he wasn't dependent! He could fight, he could survive, he didn't need anyone.

Nonetheless, it would have been nice to have Eragon around right about now.

And there was the root of the problem, Murtagh thought grimly. He had trusted, he had befriended, he had even confided in Eragon to some degree. Well, certainly to a higher degree than he had ever done before. No one else would have commanded enough respect for him to have given away his secret, the secret of his identity. Of course, that wasn't, and would never be, Murtagh's only secret; but it was a fact that he had guarded closely for years.

And what now? Now, with Ajihad dead at the hand of the treacherous Twins and the Urgals, Eragon was one of few living men who knew that secret. Eragon, the Rider. Eragon, ally of the Varden. Eragon, who was the only defense left between Galbatorix and the rest of the world.

Maybe I alone am not the only reason Galbatorix wanted me brought back alive, Murtagh pondered thoughtfully. Maybe he believes that I can give him information on Eragon, or Saphira, or the Varden. Could I hold back that information, if he were to forcibly search for it? Should I even try?

Of course, he would try. He had to. He would defend his mind, his last sanctuary, with every ounce of strength he possessed… but it seemed that, as time dragged on, that strength waned. The solitude and the weight of the pressing darkness were beginning to take their toll.

What could one man do in the end, anyway? What did it matter if Galbatorix broke through his defenses? His knowledge of the Varden was minimal, aside from their location, which the king obviously already knew. Yes, Murtagh knew of Eragon and Saphira, but by this time, most of that knowledge would be irrelevant. So what did that leave? What else would be worth retrieving him for?

It could be that he wishes to kill me, Murtagh thought grimly. He spent years grooming me as an apprentice. It is doubtful that he would appreciate the fact that I escaped, or that I wound up in the stronghold of the Varden with the first Dragon Rider to exist outside of his control in a century. Perhaps he only wishes to kill me himself.

Yet that didn't seem likely. He could easily have done that long ago, without leaving Murtagh trapped in this room for who knew how long. He wasn't even sure it was a room, really; it could have been a hall or a dungeon or any number of similar places. The place might have been large as Farthen Dur itself, for all he knew. But no, it didn't seem like a big place… And there was no echo…

At least, he didn't think there was. In truth, he couldn't seem to bring himself to break the silence that was the only thing in this room except for the velvety blackness. At least it was familiar; silence was something that Murtagh understood, that he could live with. Once he had even been glad for the days when it was silent, because that meant that his father was not home…

But those days were long past. Murtagh was not a frightened child any more, so it was time he stopped acting like it!

… But wasn't he? In the end, wasn't that was the king was reducing him to? A scared little boy, huddling in a corner of a dark room and trying to impress upon himself the idea that his existence and his life meant something. That it was worth fighting, that he shouldn't just give up and give in to the embrace of the darkness and the silence, let it wrap itself around him and take him away from it all…

You're sounding like a madman, he berated himself mentally. Of course you can't give up fighting. You'll defeat yourself in your own mind before Galbatorix even gets a chance to try.

And that was when it hit him. This was Galbatorix's attempt to break him. The silence, the solitude, the all-encompassing darkness… It was the king's attempt to cut Murtagh off from what he knew, and what he was. All these years that he had fought, that he had trained, that he had prepared himself for the chance that he might be retaken… and it meant nothing. Physical acuity was worthless when the battle being fought was being waged against his mind.

But my mind isn't weak, either, he reassured himself firmly, trying to ignore just how foreign his own voice was beginning to sound inside his head. I have trained it, as well. I've tempered it. I can withstand this, I can withstand anything he throws at me.

I won't break.

I won't give in to his form of persuasion.

That was when the darkness was suddenly split by a beam of blinding light. A door was opening, a door through which was streaming beautiful, glorious light. Murtagh thought it might have at once been the most amazing thing he had ever seen, and the most terrible.

For framed in the light was the self-proclaimed king himself, a horrible sneer distorting his already gruesome features.

"It's time we had a talk, boy…"