Hello lovies!

Sorry it's been so long!

Here is the next chapter!

NOTE: THIS CHAPTER TAKES US BACK IN TIME A LITTLE BIT. And by a little bit, I do mean a small amount of time. This starts out on the first day of the festival. It's the same time period but from other characters' perspectives.

I hope you enjoy! I've already started writing the next chapter, so hopefully it won't be too long in coming!

Enjoy!

Chapter 15: I'm Not Going

After the rather terrifying ordeal at the Menoa Tree, Thorn and Murtagh had made their escape. Saphira joined them not long after, and Thorn took off with her. Murtagh knew Thorn needed the comfort the sapphire-scaled dragon could give him, but it still stung knowing Thorn had someone to turn to while Murtagh had no one. There was always Eragon, but it didn't feel right going to him, not this time.

Murtagh wandered alone through the forest, meandering over roots and past game trails. The whole forest seemed to be changed by present event. The animals wandered near each other and frolicked, predator and prey in harmony.

I guess it's only fitting he thought. This was all started back when elves and dragons became one, following the bloody war.

Murtagh knew exactly how bloody wars could be. He had always known the pain of physical wounds (thanks in large part to his wonderful father and the sword Murtagh now carried), but the mental scares of being forced into malicious deeds and the label of 'evil' applied to you without any warning… those never quite healed. They were scares that would always remain a wound, just a bit. The skin around it raw, or the wound cracked and enflamed. You could never feel whole again with the terror of it being ripped open again at your back.

Giving a sigh, Murtagh turned and started moving back in the general direction of the music and laughter. It's not natural. Usually trees muffle sound, but these seem to echo it. The music filled the forest and every living thing creature seemed to fall, stepping in time with the beat. The small world here beneath the thick canopy of pine branches becoming one beating heart. Just not natural!

But then, little was where the elves are concerned. All of that was subjective, he guessed. After all, not many people could wield magic; even fewer rode and communed with dragons. He himself had ever so slowly begun to change to look like them. The tips of his ears now pinched up to a neat point and his face shape had become more angular ever so slightly.

He still looked far more human than Eragon, though. Even after his 'change', Eragon's features had continued to progress towards what Murtagh referred to as 'elfdom'. If Eragon ever decided to re-enter the human world, without Saphira by his side, he was convinced the people would think he was a full-blooded elf.

Staying here and living among the elves seemed to suit Eragon in Murtagh's mind. He seemed more at peace with himself. Perhaps we should move here and look for some peace of our own Murtagh thought with a grimace. It would never work. It would be too much for Thorn to bear. Murtagh honestly found the elves almost TOO peaceful anyway. The way they could flit around like twittering birds all day long and yet be very private, strict being boggled his mind. How would a whole race be two things at the same time?

Eventually Murtagh could see the soft light of the ceremony filtering through the trees up ahead. He didn't go towards it, but rather turned to run along it still concealed in the shadow. Finding an old log, Murtagh slumped down onto it heavily. Closing his eyes and leaning against the tree behind him he considered what to do next. He wanted a distraction to slow his thoughts and calm his mind. The closer he came to the music, light, and dancing figures, the more he was reminded of standing in front of all of those people, praying they would take what he offered with grace(… or at least pretend to).

As a string of tinkling laughter reached his ears, Murtagh turned his head towards the light. A figure was making it's way through the trees. "What have we here? I had begun to think you'd fled Ellesméra altogether!" came a welcomed familiar voice.

"I considered it, but Thorn flew off with Saphira. I don't feel up to walking. Maybe tomorrow," Murtagh gave a sad smile.

"Yes. I had feared that's what happened. Verdenci is quiet put out by the whole ordeal," Petrya said as she reached his tree.

"Where is Verdenci anyway? I haven't seen too much of him lately. You wouldn't think it would be hard to spot a gigantic green dragon, but there it is. I've apparently missed him. Maybe he blends in with the tree too well or something," he joked. Petrya's laugh instantly raised his spirits. I made her laugh!

"Perhaps. Mostly has been off on his own allowing the elves to fawn over him, in a rather unseemly manner in my opinion. As for that tree… it isn't right. Some chickie fuses herself into a tree and the whole civilization of elves worship her… it? I don't understand it at all. How on earth that would be a good thing is beyond me. It's all a bit silly, really." Petrya found another log a few feet from his.

"It is a lot to swallow I guess. But they know what they're talking about more than us." Murtagh studied Petrya. She was tall, for a woman, but still much shorter than himself or Eragon. Her features were becoming lean and lithe. Her eyes had slanted dramaticly already, her ears less so. It changes us all differently. We change as differently as we were different before we became Riders. Murtagh had never thought that before. Of course, Eragon had a helping hand in his transformation which left Murtagh with no one to really compare his own progression against.

"So what are you sitting out here for? Moping, no doubt." A dramatic 'woe is me' expression was given to him. He shook his head and tried to hide a smile.

"However did you guess?" he started. After a long breath he continued, "Just trying to get my bearings again. It wouldn't be couth to reenter the festivities whilst 'moping' as you put it."

"I know what you did was hard for you, but you did the right thing. If I am correct, and I always am, you entered a great amount of respect this evening," Petrya said in a firm voice.

"Thank you." He paused for a moment and then asked, "So what are you giving? Knowing you, it's something rather outlandish and gaudy."

"Don't poke fun! That's offensive! I prefer the term 'creative'."

"You mean 'tacky'?"

Petrya reached over and slapped him playfully on the arm. Murtagh cried out in mock pain and rubbed his arm. Petrya made an overly exaggerated eye roll before both broke into laughter.

"I'm giving them a piece of art."

"Art?"

"Yes, Murtagh. Art. You know: paintings, sculptures, plays, songs… all of that stuff." Murtagh couldn't be sure int eh soft light flitting through the trees, but he thought a blush might have covered her cheeks.

"I know what you mean. I guess I'm just… I didn't know you made art. What kind of you make?" he asked.

"You really aren't interested in this. So let's just stop it there, Murtagh."

"But I am interested! I'm interested in everything about you!" Murtagh mentally slapped himself. He couldn't help it- the words had sprung out before he had even the slightest chanced of swallowing them.

A very awkward silence followed; both of them squirming where they sat. "I mean… I didn't mean it like that." He did. "I just meant that I don't really know much about you which is a shame. You're the newest Rider, one of only three. We're a small family. You're the youngest, our little sister. But I feel… I guess Eragon and I never really took the time to get to know you when you weren't aback Verdenci. I'm sorry for that." Even now, the awkwardness continued. Great. Just great, Murtagh. That was a total disaster! Now she'll get up, mutter an excuse, and run. Can you blame her?

"I draw."

Murtagh's head snapped up to look at the slim girl.

"I draw. Sometimes I paint. I like to paint. Art was my passion before Verdenci, before elves, before dwarves, before magic… just before," she explained shyly. Murtagh couldn't help but smile. It was odd to see Petrya so… timid. He had never really thought about the girl she used to be.

"Are you any good?" he asked jokingly. She looked up to slap him again. Murtagh tried, unsuccessfully, to dodge and laughed as her blow landed.

"Yes! I like to think I am, thank you very much!" Murtagh sat quietly watching her. The small smile and twinkle in his eyes did not escape Petrya's notice. "If you're lucky, maybe I'll let you see some of it one day!"

"I'd like that very much."

The silence return, but this time it was a warm comfortable quiet. A small bit of peace found just outside the whirlwind of celebration, just within the tree line.

"Have you seen Eragon? I was looking for him and found you instead!" She meant it as a jest, but Murtagh's insides froze in an instant.

"No. I haven't."

"Hmmm. I thought I saw him talking to one elf or another, I can't really tell them apart. That… Well, Arya…"

"Ah. I see. You didn't want to deal with her?"

"Exactly. It wouldn't do to make a scene. I will so very much love it when she has to stand there by her mother and act pleased with my gift! What a farce!"

"She is the princess, you know? If something should happen to Islanzadí, she will become queen."

"Of course I know that! Why else would Eragon want to be with her? He has more sense than to fall for her wooing." Petrya put her nose in the air, her chin raised high, daring him to contradict her.

This won't go well. "Petrya, Eragon loves Arya, very much in fact. Arya has never tried to woo Eragon. It has always been the other way around. Always. Arya has turned him down at every turn. He truly loves her," Murtagh pleaded with her while still trying to sound reasonable.

"All the more reason!" Petrya stood suddenly, her fists clenched tight and her lips pursed. "She wants nothing to do with him? Then why keep trying if it never comes to fruit? Why try for 300 years at the same thing? She's magiced him. She must have put a spell on him to make him obsessed with her!"

"No, Petrya." Murtagh spoke softly. "I've been there nearly the whole time. It is rare to find someone who can look at another person as adoringly as Eragon ardently looks at Arya. He loves her. And will forever. Always."

"It's not true!" Petrya cried. Tears were in her eyes now.

Stubborn to a fault! Something broke inside Murtagh and a surge of anger and frustration rushed through him. He stood and grabbed Petrya's shoulders. "Always. He's never going to stop. And one day she's going to come around."

"They can't! She's a princess. It wouldn't be right to make a Rider king! That's too much power resting in one man's hand. The world won't accept it and certainly not the elves!"

"They'll find a way. And if not, they won't get married. But they'll always be together. They'll always be bound to one another in some way. They already are!"

"Stop it!" Petrya said, her voice strained and her lip quivering.

"You want him to give up on Arya? Heh, you would do better to give up on him yourself!"

SLAP!

Murtagh stood stunned as the stinging on his cheek began to synch up with the strangely loud sound that had preceded it. Murtagh heard Petrya's ragged breathing.

"Stop it! I told you to stop!" she beat her fists against his chest. Murtagh stepped back once to catch her blows, but otherwise stood still and let her take her frustrations out on him for a few moments. When the flurry of her fists began to slow, Murtagh reached up and took her by the arms.

Finally stopping, Petrya began to cry in earnest, her head lying on Murtagh's shoulder, his hands still frozen on her arms.

As Petrya's sobs and sniffling began to subside, she lifted her tear-streaked face. Her skin was red and puffy, her eyes shining with tears. He took one of his hands and wiped the tears from her cheeks.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he whispered. Leaning in, he planted the lightest of kisses on her forehead.

She pushed roughly away from him. She stared at him, her soft eyes suddenly having turned cold. "No," she said, her voice like ice. "I won't give up. I'll prove your wrong!"

"Is this about your feelings for Eragon or just about being able to best Arya?" Murtagh, this is not going well. Stop. Digging! But he couldn't. He obsession with Eragon was helping no one and causing a rifts among just about everyone. The worst of it was that if there was to be a falling out amongst the Riders, Murtagh had no idea who he would go with. The very thought of not being able to decide shamed him. Eragon was his brother. Eragon had saved Murtagh, saved the world. Murtagh should have immediately stood by his side. But…

What a strangely powerful word: 'but'.

I love her. I think. I've never wanted to be this close to anyone before. I want to protect her, to always be by her side, and to do whatever I possibly can to make her happy. Maybe this is what Eragon feels when he thinks of Arya. Does his heart pound and grow tight in his chest? Do his palms sweat? Can he stop himself from feeling as though he's a bumbling fool? Come to think of it, who would Eragon choose if something were to happen: Murtagh and the Riders, or the woman he loved above all?

Petrya turned on her heel and stomped back to the festival with her back rigid.

Ugh.

….

In the afternoon of the following day, Petrya presented her gift. A beautiful piece of artwork done in vivid colors of pain overlaid with a drawing done in charcoal. Only a very few people knew what this was. THIS is how a dragon sees the world.

Petrya called it "Freedom".

She stubbornly refused to meet Murtagh's eyes all day. This was supposed to be a great celebration of harmony. The last thing Murtagh wanted to do was celebrate. When he and tried to snake off back to his sleeping quarters to sulk, Eragon had caught him and drug him back into the fray.

Murtagh finally gave up on just about everything concerning the Bloodoath and poured himself into a drunken stupor. He took his magic barriers off and let himself get lost in everything. After all, his part was done. Eragon was the only Rider left to present anything.

Murtagh vaguely remembered something about pretty blue lights and didn't realy try to remember anything more. I'm sure Eragon's gift was lovely. If he asks, that's what I'll say. I'll say, "Yes, Eragon. It was lovely. Now please let me back to my throwing my life away. There's a good lad! Truly lovely, though, really! Well done!" Murtagh smiled and lurched to his feet.

Across the way he saw Petrya scowling in the direction of the tree line. Murtagh followed her gaze (it took a little while) and saw Eragon walking into the forest. Shall you follow him, Petrya? I'm sure he'd love to turn you down again! He knew he was being harsh in his thinking, but he also knew he was very drunk.

Petrya's hard gaze turned quickly to one of absolute rage. Looking back in the direction Eragon had gone, Murtagh spied Arya slipping into the tree line after him.

Ugh-oh.

Murtagh sobered up in record time as he made his way through the crowd. Petrya made to go after them, but Murtagh caught hold of her first. "Petrya, don't do this."

"Leave me alone." She shook her arm free of his grasp.

"Not now. This isn't the right time or place. You know that as well as I do."

"I have to try."

"And I know you will. But think! You have a very long life ahead of you. Use that to your advantage and don't hurry yourself into a disaster."

"I'll have him now!"

"Eragon wanted her right away too. He hurried himself into one mess after another with Arya for years. In fact, the first time he managed that was 300 years ago at this very festival! While he's lived here, though, he's learned to be patient, and it's paid off in full. Look at them! You only have ot glance at them to know they're closer now than they ever were before."

A calculating look came over the girl's face. He eyes still fixated on the forest, she began to nod. "They are closer than ever. Patience did pay off for him, but it won't pay off for me without a bit of intervention to balance the scales first," she mumbled to herself.

"Intervention? What…?" Murtagh instantly knew she had taken his words to heart… and as soon as she had them she turned, immediately running with them in the wrong direction. This can't be good!

"They're too close. If I'm patient, Arya will only put her claws in him even more! I have to act fast, but not at getting Eragon to love me. I have to get Eragon not to love her. Why ever didn't I think of this before?"

"Petrya, please don't do this," he begged. "You'll tear his world apart."

"No. She'll tear his world apart. I'll simply be there to pick up the pieces." A sly grin cam over her face, changing her into a stranger Murtagh had never expected to see in Petrya.

"No. Petrya, please. It will kill him. He's finally happy. Leave him be. Let him have the peace he's wanted for so long. Please, let's just finish the festival and leave here as early as we can. As soon as the magic wears off you'll think more clearly."

"I'm not going."

"Not going?"

"Yes, Murtagh! If you're just going to repeat everything I say this conversation is pointless. It has already become rather annoyingly circular!" Sighing exasperatedly, Petrya lowered her voice and explained, "I'm going to stay here in Ellesméra. I'll keep a close watch on him and make sure Arya is kept well away from him."

"Oh? And how will you command an elf princess? You may be strong, but she's stronger. What will you do? Have Verdenci burn her to death? You'll have the entire kingdom out for your head with Eragon leading the pack!"

"Of course not. Stop being dramatic. Something will happen that I can use. There's always something."

"Something?"

Petrya looked at him in disbelief and gave a curt 'tsk!' Shaking her head, Petrya pushed past him, heading towards the forest. "Go back to your wine, Murtagh. I'm done with our little chat."

Murtagh watched as everything fell apart right in front of his very eyes.

Taa-daaaaaah!

I hope you liked it!

.I: Happy birthday to you! This is your present! … Unless I am able to get the next chapter up by the 29th. Then you can have your choice of the two. C:

So that's that!

I will try really hard to get to updating sooner. I know I've started to get behind. /:

Revieeeeew!

ILY! Kess lml/