AN: So I wrote this months ago on notebook paper, and just found it recently. I tweaked some stuff and decided I wanted to put it up. Playlist link for this story is on my profile. Also, I know Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr were written in third person POV, and when Eragon comes into this story, I'll probably switch to that. Oh, and I don't own anything. All credit goes to Christopher Paolini.
Sitting by my window, I observed all of Uru'baen. My tower room was the highest point in the city. Sometimes I contemplated just jumping out, and ending the misery of my life. I could imagine the wind rushing by me, and the sweet bliss of feeling free before I collided with the earth and was truly free for the rest of time.
Knowing Galbatorix, though, I wouldn't be surprised if he brought me back with some cruel form of Dark Magic.
I heard my maid, Gretchen, ascending the winding staircase to my chambers long before I saw her. She knocked twice and entered, panting like a dog.
"Galbatorix requests your presence." I could hear the hidden meaning in her words. Go to Galbatorix now, or face the consequences of your error in judgment. This particular maid had been with me ever since I could remember. She was small and grandmotherly, with a tight grey bun atop her head and an apron permanently around her waist.
I stood and sighed. "Tell him I shall be down."
She shot me a sympathetic look and smiled sweetly. "Wash your face, dear." She got me out a fresh drying cloth and went back down the stairs.
I went to the small water basin by the door and splashed my face before I looked in the mirror. Emerald green eyes stared back, with a wildly curly mane of crimson hair to frame them. I fixed my hair so that it hung over my ears, obscuring their pointed tips. As I stared, I again saw what made some of the servants spit and call me witch. My eyes were round like a human's, but my cheekbones belonged on an elf's face. I was tall and willowy like an elf, but my hips curved under my dress like a human woman's. My whole body contradicted itself, half human; half elf. For the short time I had been spying on the Varden, I had put spells on myself to look completely human, but after a while my face felt like a muscle stretched too long.
I turned away and walked through the complicated network of tunnels and halls that led to Galbatorix's underground holdings. When the guards let me pass, I stopped and knelt before him and his calculating dragon, Shruikan.
"How fare thee, Father?" I asked quietly.
"Rise child." He said coldly, ignoring my greeting. His voice always seemed akin to snakes and dark places to me. I did as I was told and stepped forward at his command. His black eyes never left mine as he started to speak. "I have a small task for you, but it will be difficult. You will most likely have to fight to stay alive." He made a noise as close to a chuckle as was possible for him.
"Anything." I vowed. It almost pained me to say that one word. I would love to leave Galbatorix's dark palace tonight and never return, but I was bound by fear. No one would help me, and the consequences of such a traitorous act promised dire consequences. If Murtagh had been unbound, we would have been gone ages ago. When the Twins had brought Murtagh back, I had been immediately sent to the Varden in Surda to spy. I had never had the pleasure of meeting Eragon and his dragon, but talk of them filled the dinner table conversations of every family in the camps.
Galbatorix's lips twitched, almost like he wanted to smile, but didn't want me to have the satisfaction of his approval. He stood and put his hand on Shruikan's foreleg. I stayed immobile. I breathed a small gasp of relief, though, when he turned his eyes away from me. He never treated me as if I was his daughter. I was just another to serve him.
That's what I am to him. His prized killer. His Black Hand. His murderer.
"I want you to go back to the Varden. Feinster seems to have fallen under their rule, and I want you to take it back for me. Kill Nasuada." He spat the poor girl's name with such menace I'm sure she felt as if someone had walked over her grave. "Kill anyone else who makes the mistake of getting in your way." His eyes snapped back to mine and I nodded.
"When do I leave?"
"For the sake of saving time, I have arranged for Murtagh to fly most of the way with you, and then when you reach Belatona he will return and you will be left to find your way. After you finish in Feinster, return to me. I will supply you with enough provisions for your travel. You leave immediately." Murtagh and I had been raised as brother and sister, but since Thorn hatched I hadn't gotten to see him even once. The first oath he ever swore was to never, under any circumstances, reveal exactly who I was. I could remember coming up to my room as a child, bloodied and bruised from one of my Father's training sessions, and Murtagh was always there to clean and bandage my cuts. He had even let me come to his lessons he had with Tornac. I was surprised that Galbatorix was letting me go with him. We were quite the trouble makers.
My surprise must have shown on my face. Galbatorix's eyes flashed with something I couldn't describe and he waved a hand as he sat down. He looked at me again, and Shruikan shifted uncomfortably. I was surprised he would ask me to do something so important. My being a woman didn't help alleviate my suspicions.
"Will you accept the task?" he asked. I knew for sure his question was one to make me think I had a choice. I don't know who he thought he was fooling, because it definitely wasn't me.
I nodded and bowed. I waited to be dismissed, but after I stood in silence for a minute I looked up to see what was keeping him.
"Come forward." He commanded after staring at me in silence for a few seconds.
I rose from my kneeling position and stood before him on his throne.
"My Black Hand." He crooned, maliciously sweet. "You look more and more like your Mother every day that passes, may she rot in her grave." I flinched at the venom in his words, and jumped when Shruikan snorted loudly, flames dancing in his nostrils. Galbatorix reached behind him and pulled a sword onto his lap. I realized it wasn't just any sword; it was a rider's sword. Mor'ranr flashed in the light, and the sharp point of it seemed to take on an ominous glow.
"You may face a rider on your trip. I think it would be clever to give you a sword that will award you with half a chance at survival. Your swordsmanship is formidable at best, so I expect you to have Murtagh train you while you are traveling." I nodded once more and turned to leave.
"Oh, and Elena?"
"Yes?" I turned with lowered eyes.
"Do not fail me."
"I won't." I said quietly. I met his eyes with what I hoped was determination, but I was reeling inside. I had been raised to kill, and I was bloody good at it. But that didn't mean I wanted to be a murderer. Rough times and an even rougher teacher had made me acquire a brutal air by necessity. If I wanted to live, if I wanted the ones I loved to live, I would continue my dark deeds. Plus, there was no getting away from Galbatorix. You could run, and maybe even hide. But unless he was dead…he would come for you.
His eyes roamed over my face once more, and with a bored wave he threw the sword down to me. I caught it out of reflex and examined the blade. The emerald was astonishingly close to the shade of my eyes, and the sword felt like it had been constructed especially for me. The good balance of the blade made it easier for me to maneuver and hold. I bowed again, finished with my inspection, and waited to be dismissed.
"You may leave." He barked. I turned and ran back to my room as fast as my feet would carry me. Nothing in the world could make me want to spend even one minute more in his presence than I had to. Galbatorix was a genius, but the fact that he was mentally unstable made him frightening even to his own dragon. His genius showed when he chose me to do his dirty work.
The fact that I was the best one for this job was unarguable. I was the most trusted and educated on everything that had to do with the Varden and dragons, along with elves, dwarves, and the Ancient language. Plus the fact that I could use magic as well as a dragon rider made me that much more desirable. Galbatorix had me training from the moment I started walking. When my mother had found out about his preparing me for a murderous future, she had died protecting me with the only thing she had.
And in doing that, she had ensured that killing was my only future.
When I finally made it to my bedroom, I went straight for my dresser. The sooner I was away from my Father, the better. I packed only tunics and leggings. Where I was going, I definitely wouldn't need a dress. I had one good pair of boots that were perfect for sparring and light enough that I would be able to run if I needed to. They were made from strong leather, so I knew they would hold up. I slid my dress down off of me and pulled on a tunic with a leather bodice to hold throwing knives. I slipped on deep red leggings and my boots before I put my belt on. I retied Mor'ranr to my hip and used a piece of leather to hold my hair out of my face. I opened the chest in the corner and grabbed my bow and small silver throwing knives. I shoved my extra clothes in a pack, strapped the knives onto my bodice, and tied my bow with my bag. When I was satisfied everything was attached to my person I went to go find Murtagh. Gretchen came in as I was leaving and stopped me.
"Where are you off to now, child?"
"Oh you know. Some crazy mission that will most likely kill me. The usual." I smiled.
Gretchen fussed over my pack as she spoke. "Oh, dear. I do worry about you when you're gone, but I have no doubt that you'll come back. You're like your mother, a strong heart and even tougher mind." Gretchen was one of the few people that knew of my mother.
"Thank you." I said soberly.
Gretchen squinted up at me and put her hand on my cheek. "Be careful, and keep your wits about you girl. Guard your heart."
"I doubt I'll find love where I'm headed." I said dubiously.
"You'd be surprised. I know I'm old, but I'm not dull. You just mind what I've said." She kissed my forehead, and after our goodbyes, I left to find Murtagh.
I hummed under my breath as I wandered the castle. If you got passed the creepiness, it was actually very beautiful. Morzan's taste in architecture was surprisingly modest. The rooms were well portioned, big enough to be called lavish, but not wasteful.
I rounded a corner and pulled up short. Down a hallway I had never ventured into was a cloaked figure running towards me. I stayed just out of sight as I watched them. I knew for a fact that that particular section of the castle was off limits, and this stranger had a bag. Galbatorix may be a deceitful troll, but I couldn't let some servant steal from him. I drew Mor'ranr and strolled into their view. The figure stopped abruptly and drew their sword.
I dropped into a fighting stance and charged them. They blocked me easily, like they were humoring a child. That made me angry, and I flew into a blur of complicated forms. We fought for what seemed forever, exchanging blows and blocks, and even a few thrusts hit their destination. Neither of us could gain the upper hand until the cloaked servant kicked me hard enough to knock me backwards. They reached up and pulled the cloak down to expose their face.
I got up and prepared to lunge, but I recognized his face.
"Murtagh?" I asked.
"Elena?" Confusion colored the question. Muztagh's hair had grown, and his face was now all hard lines, not the rounded childish face I remembered. He was handsome, even.
"What are you doing down here?" I asked incredulously.
"What are you doing down here?" he countered.
"Looking for you!" I yelled, exasperated.
A pause. "Oh."
"Well?" I pressed.
"What?" His voice held a hard edge and I could tell he was getting annoyed.
"What are you doing in Galbatorix's holdings?"
"We'll talk about it later. We have to go." He grabbed my arm and led me up a hidden stairway that abruptly ended with a small balcony.
Thorn appeared over the edge of the small overhang and I screamed as I was pushed over the edge. I flailed before I realized I had landed on a saddle. I scrambled into a sitting position before Murtagh jumped after me. I hated to admit it, but he was much more daring and agile than I in the air. Or he was just used to riding a dragon. Which explains why he was better at it than me.
I pushed my competitive thoughts aside and wrapped my arms around his waist as Thorn flew off in the general direction of the Spine. I watched as roofs and trees turned into hills and farms before we entered the air above the most feared forest in Alagaesia.
Thorn was flying forward fast, but Murtagh seemed to be leaning back towards the castle.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"He's pulling me back." He said shortly.
I reached out with my mind and touched Thorn's. Thorn? I called out towards him.
I felt his barriers shift, and ten or more minds fell from the cracks until his mind was a shining beacon, as bright as the sun. Emotions of restlessness, frustration, love, and unadulterated hate filled my mind. I asked him how he was resisting my Father, and images spilled into my head of many different colored stones pouring such a vast amount of magic into Thorn I was surprised the orb's bright lights didn't fade out of existence. Pictures of the sack on Murtagh's back rushed through my mind, and others Thorn associated with redemption.
I assumed that whatever was in that bag was more valuable than I had thought. Thorn's massively dominating mind receded from mine and his shields slid back into place, impenetrable. Both dragon and rider were silent after that.
The silence stretched on until we were so deep in the forest all I could see were trees in every direction. I was so used to the steady flap of Thorn's wings that I was jarred from my impassive thoughts when he started to descend toward the ground. We landed smoothly, and after Murtagh slid off he helped me down.
He turned to me immediately.
"Have you sworn any oaths to him?" He asked.
"What? You know I can't."
He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and relax ever so slightly.
"I have something I need you to do." I was scared of the helpless tone his voice had taken on.
"Murtagh, what's in the bag?" I asked stonily.
"Will you do something for me?"
"Murtagh! What do you have in that bag?" In a panic I grabbed for it. He let me, and as the sides of the bag fell away my breath rushed out and I almost choked.
"The dragon egg?" Panic and icy daggers of hopelessness made my stomach clench. If I had anything to do with this, I knew my Father would destroy Murtagh and come for me. He would be merciless and everything, everyone, in his path would pay. Thousands of people would die for this.
"Will you let me speak?"
"What is going through your head right now, Murtagh? He'll kill you! He'll have someone kill me!"
"Listen Elena!" He grabbed my shoulders and made me look into his eyes. They were almost as flat black as Galbatorix's, but they had peculiar grey flecks.
"I took the egg so you could take it to the Varden. You're the only one capable." He begged me to understand.
"I can't do that!" I jerked away from him and set the egg on the ground in between us. "He will stop at nothing to get this back!" I pointed accusingly at the egg.
"Elena, the Varden need this. If they get that to hatch, they could free us all. They could free us and bring Galbatorix down. Help me, Elena. " He made his tone sound reasonable, but I could hear how fast his heart was beating.
"Why are you doing this to me?" I tangled my fingers in my hair and pulled roughly out of frustration. I would give anything to be free of my Father, but Murtagh didn't seem to realize what would happen when he, inevitably, grew weak enough and Galbatorix pulled him back like he had him on a leash. He would die a most horrible death, or be made to kill someone he cared for. He had already been forced to try to kill his own brother!
He pulled my hands from my hair and made me look at him again. "Take the egg to Eragon. Tell him who you are, and who sent you. They'll be wary at first, but they'll learn to trust you. Stay with them no matter what. Help me bring down Galbatorix." He closed his eyes in pain. "I can't kill another dragon." Shame poured from his features as he pleaded with me. I had heard about the gold dragon rider who had come out of hiding and fought Murtagh.
I stared at him for a long time weighing options, looking at the pros and cons; I wanted nothing more than to see Galbatorix gone, but was I ready to risk everything to make it happen?
I reached down and picked up the egg. I couldn't help but hold it to my chest. "I'll do it. But I will come back for you." I vowed.
"Don't say that. I don't want you to think of me. I almost started to truly hate my own brother over something he couldn't help. I had a major epiphany about that…but anyway, go now. I can't fight him much longer. Small talk helps no one. Take this." He handed me a small pack filled with food, supplies, and some money before he started to walk away.
I hugged Murtagh impulsively as he started to leave. I knew how much he was giving up. Galbatorix would make his life as miserable as possible, and then he would kill him only when he had broken Murtagh so completely that there was nothing left but a shell of a human.
"Make me proud, Sis." He said with a weak attempt at a smile.
"I love you, Bubby." The childhood endearments made tears spring to my eyes. I hugged him harder and as I pulled away, something on his face changed.
"Go now. He'll make me hurt you." Murtagh kissed my forehead and closed his eyes as he pushed me away. His face twisted into a grimace, and I was gone before Galbatorix opened his eyes.
I ran through the forest, tears streaming down my cheeks. Branches stung my face like leather whips as I went through a thicket of trees. The earth seemed to fly under my feet as I used all of my strength to pull me forward.
I ran until the moon disappeared and the sun started to rise. When I was sure I was far enough away from where I last saw Murtagh, I stopped. I was physically strong enough to keep going, but my head felt like I had too much stuffed into it. So much had changed in so little time that it left my head days behind. I started out on my way to kill Nasuada, now I was inadvertently helping her.
I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to do if they thought the spawn of Galbatorix was too much of a risk and tried to kill me. I would have to fight back…and I would win. There was no way I was going to sit around and let some human dispose of me.
I walked to a small stream and got a drink of water before I took the water skin from the pack Murtagh had given me and filled it up. I walked back over to a small patch of grass and sat down roughly, unloading all of my packs impatiently. When they were unloaded, I pulled the most precious one in front of me. Gently, hesitantly, I pulled the strings of the bag and let the sides fall down, exposing a beautiful emerald stone. I reached out and touched it haltingly with one finger, marveling at the cool smoothness of the glasslike egg.
After my initial touch proved not to be disastrous, I ran my fingers along the egg's length before I rapped my knuckles on it a few times. A single note, like tapping crystal, rang out before it faded sluggishly. I looked to the sky and noticed the sun was a few hours from setting.
Deciding my cushiony spot of vegetation would be a good place to sleep; I walked a few yards away and gathered some branches for fire.
When I had that done I got out my bed roll and laid down with the egg beside me. Before I consciously knew it, I was fast asleep.
I awoke again in the dark, the inky blackness of the night only altered by the soft glow of dissipating embers from my fire. I felt like something had woke me up, and I sat up quickly. I drew Mor'ranr and stood shakily with the feeling that something was off. I looked around quickly, sure I was about to be attacked, but saw nothing but trees and rocks. An owl hooted in the distance. My neck prickled and I whipped around to see the dragon egg shaking madly.
Afraid something was wrong, I dropped to my knees and tried to hold it still. I had a fleeting thought of Galbatorix skrying me to summon the egg back with magic and my hand flew to my neck. I felt the cool chain that held an emerald to my throat and relaxed. One of the last gifts from my mother had been this very necklace, which made magic users incapable of skrying me. A loud crack resounded through the night, and I found myself feeling irrationally terrified. The egg's hard shell began to develop large cracks in the surface and I jerked my hands back as if burned. Another loud crack had a small piece of shell falling from the side of the egg.
I fell backwards in astonishment before I crawled slowly forward again. I watched closely as something moved in the hole and the egg shattered.
A small green dragon rolled onto its legs and stood shakily. It lost its balance and careened sideways before it stood solidly on all four feet. It curled its tail and stretched its wings before it noticed me. It bared its teeth in a small snarl before taking a step forward.
As if of its own accord, my arm raised, and after a hesitation I touched the triangular head of the baby dragon.
White hot fire shot up my arm and numbed me before I felt like a lightning bolt of energy was shot into my body. The dragon squealed as I hit the ground. I felt its warm body curl up beside me as I stared at the tree canopy.
I was a dragon rider now. I looked at my right hand and saw the incriminating gedwey ignasia mark.
There was no way that I could drop the egg off with the Varden and go on my own way now. I would be expected to join one side. I would have to fight.
I stared into the big green eyes of my dragon and the open devotion in his stare did something to me. I got such an overwhelming feeling that I needed to protect him that I felt as if I could, would, fight through the king's army to keep him safe.
The small dragon I now held in my arms would grow to be a huge fighting machine if Galbatorix had his way. But I was in the wilderness, and perfectly capable of staying there. I could live in the Spine until my dragon was big enough to defend himself and then we could go to the Varden. We would answer to no one, do what we wanted.
A cork seemed to pop in my mind and excitement filled me. But it wasn't all me, it was my dragon. Of course he was excited to fight, but he was also excited to grow up here. That decided it.
I would stay here and we would train together until he was big enough to fly and protect himself when I couldn't. And then we would go to the Varden.
AN: Reviews make my life : )