AN: It's been too long since I returned to writing this. However, recently work has been taking up more of my time than normal so writing was more difficult. But I've got started again and have a chapter! Thanks for all the reviews- they're lovely and I really enjoy hearing what anyone thinks. Big thanks also to those who have this on their alert list. On with the chapter!

As Galbatorix strode ahead, his steps echoed loudly in the corridor. Marcus swallowed hard and continued behind him, half of his attention devoted to keeping the wretched torch steady and the other to staying conscious. His mind was a maelstrom, thoughts swirling furiously around his mind and leaving turmoil in their wake. Suddenly Galbatorix came to a halt.

Marcus, somehow convinced he knew what was in his mind, felt panic rise painfully in his chest. Galbatorix turned to face him and Marcus suddenly realised that they had in fact come to the end of the stairs. An end he'd been sure didn't exist.

Galbatorix gestured between the terrified man and the door. "Do you have the keys?" "N-n-n-no, my lord." Marcus gasped, lips having difficulty forming the words. He watched Galbatorix carefully, trying to judge whether his expression read life or death.

But the tyrant's brow was creased in neutral thoughtfulness. Mystified, Marcus made a superb attempt at looking blank and servile. His attempt was apparently successful because Galbatorix turned from him. "Return to your post." he said coldly. With not even a snap of his fingers, he faded from Marcus' stunned view.

He observed the area carefully. Then he waited a few minutes and when nothing happened for some time he pulled the keys from his pocket, unlocked the door and received a soggy tomato in the face. "You're on duty for another ten minutes, you lazy-"

Murtagh staggered into his room some time later. A quiet sob of relief and stress escaped him as he made it to the bed by sheer force of will.

The dragon pulled out of his grasp and curled up at the bottom of the bed. He followed its example and gratefully sank into dreams uninhabited by Galbatorix, the Varden and inconveniently observant guards. When he woke, he did so reluctantly. He didn't know what time it was and he didn't care. The dragon did though. He snapped at him, his meaning clear- it was food time.

Murtagh bit his lip, unsure of what to do. The dragon would probably prefer to eat something meaty and bloody but that was hardly human fare. It could probably eat strips of dried meat but he was in a castle. He wasn't entirely sure, but he was confident that he was the closest thing to a prince the place would ever see. So, no dried meat for Murtagh.

He walked over to the door anyway, despite the lack of ideas. Due to his absent-mindedness, he nearly stepped right onto the bloody haunch of...something that had been placed right before the door.

The shock nearly felled him and then paranoia attacked. This was clearly a really stupid plan to kill him. Bloody meat? Failing that it was possibly a reference to the dragon. A sort of 'I know your secret...' type thing.

He bent down to examine it and saw a note placed on the platter the haunch was resting on. It read:

This is for your dragon to eat. Don't worry; the secret is still just that. A spell follows this that will enable you to check for poison and hopefully assuage your worries. The meat will glow certain colours for certain poisons. Blue, however, is neutral.

His brow creased as he read. A spell? What use was that to him? The dragon caught his eye. It was stretching and yawning, the whole of its small body vibrating.

Something in his mind clicked. Eragon...He could use it. He'd never explicitly said, but Saphira must have been responsible somehow. His lips formed the word that had been the reason Eragon had found out. Brisingr...Just in time, he clamped his mouth shut. That could have been disastrous. The spell was still a problem, however. He didn't know exactly what to do and you had to work up to your limits, didn't you?

The dragon hissed and across the connection, he felt hunger claw his stomach in sympathy for the dragon. The spell suddenly flowed from his lips as a result. To his intense surprise, a blue streamer issued from his hand which suddenly glowed fiercely. The streamer enveloped the haunch and Murtagh gasped for more air as strength suddenly left him. A gentle buzzing noise filled the air.

This went on for some time, but just as Murtagh was certain he was going to pass out or worse, the spell ended. Seeing this, the dragonlet scampered over to the haunch and began tearing strips in it.

Eragon let out a low hiss of pain as he raised himself slowly to a sitting position. But tender as he was, it was still more uncomfortable to remain lying down for hours on end.

His mind drifted to the reason he was in pain. Galbatorix hadn't been here today and he'd been making daily visits too. But although he was faintly worried, he was mainly relieved. He was sure one more session would finish him off.

Maybe Galbatorix had reached the same conclusion. It was information he wanted, after all. Not Eragon's life. Not yet, at least. The door to the dungeon began to open with a loud creak, and Eragon jumped in alarm, hissing with pain and falling back immediately. The walker didn't sound like Galbatorix though. This walker lacked the self-assuredness the King had.

They came into view and halted outside of his cell. It was a young man with serious, intelligent eyes. Eragon eyed him indifferently, his expression tempered with regret. He looked like he had morals. He wouldn't soon. The man eyed him warily. "You're Eragon?" he asked. Eragon nodded, a frown appearing on his face. This wasn't standard procedure. "What's your name?" he asked, purely out of habit. It didn't matter. "Marcus." he replied warily. Eragon's expression sharpened. Wariness? That was interesting. "What do you want?" he asked.

Marcus considered this. "Right now?" he began, musingly, "Right now I'd lie you back to full health and out of that cell. Same with Murtagh. I want out of here, out while I'm still able to leave."

There was something not entirely right. Something beyond the obvious yearning for freedom. "'While I'm still able to leave'?" Eragon quoted. Marcus immediately looked shifty. "Yes?" "Don't play with me, Marcus. You obviously want my help eventually and I want the whole truth."

"What do you think I mean?" Marcus demanded miserably. "There's rumours. Rumours that he wants every guard to swear their damn soul to him!" "Rumours." Eragon repeated, his doubt clear in his tone. "I'm not willing to risk that. He's evil anyway. I want out." Marcus snapped.

Eragon lapsed into thought. He wanted out and this seemed like it had a slim, slim chance of succeeding- which was more than he and Murtagh had alone. And Marcus had struck a chord with him. He was young, idealistic...and Eragon would never put things such as the rumour past him. But. Marcus was young. As far as Eragon knew, it was him, Marcus and Murtagh standing alone with a dragonlet in tow.

Marcus was examining his expression and correctly interepreted it. "I'm about the same age as you." he said quietly. "There's also one or two more guards and a magic user on our side." Despite himself, Eragon was impressed. "I didn't think decency had a chance in this place." he said. Marcus smiled slightly and turned to the door. "I'll come back tomorrow. We needed to know if you were willing to throw in your lot before we planned."

With that he turned on his heel and left the dungeons, leaving Eragon to settle in a more comfortable position and ponder the conversation and the new hope he'd been given.

The observant folk may have noticed a little reference to a plot point in 'Brisingr'- the guards sworn to Galbatorix. That is a sign that I'm going to follow it somewhat. I'll work it in somehow. As soon as this goes live I'll begin on the next chapter! Please review and give me your thoughts. Praise or criticism- I'm happy to have both. Thanks for reading! Hope you don't mind my first OC. I think he's quite sweet, actually. Maybe that's just me!