MAJOR SPOILERS FOR INHERITANCE BOOK FOUR! DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU.
So. Inheritance. I just finished it. And it honestly depressed me. The inconclusiveness to the romantic relationships bugged me, though I was glad he paired them up the way he did. Murtagh's swift departure bothered me the most, since I adore his character and really think he deserved a happy ending. He's the most awesome character in the entire book, and I loved how his relationship with Nasuada was developing. I just wished Paolini had finished it. And that there had been – well – more.
So what I've written here is a more detailed and extended version of the parts of the books focusing on their relationship. Many parts have been lifted from the text, as you can probably tell, and I've added my own bits too. I hope you all enjoy it. Please leave a review and let me know what you think.
I'd suggest you read the entire book before proceeding, because small details in their interactions have been left out, as well as the circumstances of what happened and how they landed up in the situation. And also, major spoilers.
This story starts off from page 453 of the book, at the end of the chapter 'The Sound of his Voice, the Touch of his Hand'. I suggest you keep the book with you, maybe, when you read this because some bits of conversation are cut off, since I'm focusing really on romantic moments, and Paolini's done a good job with the others.
Disclaimer – I don't own the Inheritance cycle. If I did, Eragon would never have left. Nor would Murtagh. And there would be lots of steamy kisses.
Eventually, he stood, and as he walked towards the door, he paused next to her and touched her on the shoulder. Despite the excruciating aching feeling wracking her body after Galbatorix's torture, that one, soft, touch – no more than a mere brush of his smooth fingers against her bare skin – sent a pleasurable tingle down her spine. It was the first time he'd touched her with his own hands, not metal.
Nasuada felt a tiny leap of excitement, followed by a curl of fear, and then guilt.
No, she told herself, realizing where this was going. Not him, not now, I can't… I shouldn't…
She tried hard to control her thoughts, and the rushing feeling in her stomach as his hand rested on her shoulder. With much effort, she diverted her eyes from his face – strikingly handsome despite his obvious fatigue – to his hand. His nails, she noted, were clean and trimmed, but nowhere near as well cared for as her jailer's.
He murmured a few words in the ancient language, and a moment later, her pain melted away, although her wounds looked the same as ever.
As he took his hand away, she missed his touch almost immediately.
He was looking at her, almost expectantly, a hauntingly sad look in his onyx eyes. They were beautiful, his eyes, she realized, and having them focused on her with such an intensity made her head rush. Still, she couldn't trust him – not entirely, not yet – and even though she was realizing with growing certainty that he wasn't the traitor he had been labeled as – she couldn't lower her defenses around him until she was more certain.
He was dangerous, and unpredictable. And that was probably what excited Nasuada most.
"I cannot forgive…" she said finally, choosing her words carefully, "But I can understand."
Whereupon he nodded and stumbled away, leaving her to wonder if she had found a new ally… or perhaps, something more.
The next time Murtagh came to visit her, he wore no mask, and his expression was somber.
This time he healed her first, without waiting. The relief she felt as her pain abated was so intense, it bordered on ecstasy. In all her life, she had never experienced a sensation quite so pleasurable as the draining away of the agony. Coupled with the feeling of his warm, calloused hands touching her bare skin, magic pulsating from them, it was altogether a rather enjoyable experience.
She gasped slightly at the feeling, her cheeks coloring as she realized how that may have sounded to him.
He didn't respond though, and his face remained the same: focused and expressionless.
"Thank you," she said.
Murtagh nodded; then he went over to the wall and sat in the same spot as before.
She studied him for a minute. The skin on his knuckles was smooth and whole again, and he appeared sober, if grim and close-mouthed. She allowed her eyes to glance over his form – his broad shoulders and muscled torso, the pleasing shape visible under his maroon jerkin – before stopping herself, feeling rather embarrassed.
Fortunately, Murtagh, who was gazing off into the distance with a rather vacant look, hadn't seemed to notice her obvious appraisal of him.
The ladies of the court must be infatuated with him, Nasuada thought to herself, and for some reason, that idea incited within her a jealous spark which even she couldn't deny.
"Does Galbatorix know where you are?" she finally asked, breaking the silence.
"He might, but I doubt it. He's busy playing with his favorite concubines. That, or he's asleep. It's the middle of the night right now. Besides, I cast a spell to keep anyone from listening to us. He could break it if he wants, but I would know."
"What if he finds out?"
"He will find out, you know, if he wears down my defenses."
"Then don't let him. You're stronger than me; you have no one he can threaten. You can resist him, unlike me… The Varden are fast approaching, as are the elves from the north. If you can hold out for another few days, there's a chance… there's a chance maybe they can free you."
"You don't believe they can, do you?"
He shrugged again.
They spoke more, of many things, and he told her about Tornac, and about himself. She listened intently, focusing on him, his words, his voice, his face. She wondered then if there had been anyone else in Galbatorix's court whom he had cared for, but she decided it would be a dangerous, not to mention embarrassing topic to broach.
Eventually she requested him to remove her manacles.
"Just so I can stand up," she said. "I hate lying on this stone and it's making my eyes ache having to look at you down there."
He hesitated, and then he rose to his feet in a single graceful movement, came over to the slab, and began to unfasten the padded restraints around her wrists and ankles. "Don't think you can kill me," he said in a low voice. "You can't."
I wouldn't even want to, Nasuada mused to herself.
As soon as she was free, he retreated to his former position and again lowered himself onto the floor, where he sat staring into the distance. It was, she thought, his attempt to give her some privacy as she sat up, and swung her legs over the edge of the slab. Her shift was in tatters – burned though in dozens of locations – and it did a poor job of concealing her form, not that it had covered much to begin with.
Though Nasuada had been humiliated at first, being clad in such attire, she found that when it was just her alone with Murtagh, a more visceral part of her didn't mind that much.
The marble floor was cool against the soles of her feet as she made her way over to Murtagh and sat next to him. She wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to preserve her modesty.
"Was Tornac really your only friend growing up?" she asked.
Murtagh still did not look at her, and she felt a small swell of disappointment.
"Back to the stone," he growled, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her over to the slab.
She allowed him to push her onto the ash-colored block, fasten the restraints around her wrists and ankles, and then tighten the strap around her head. She knew it was pointless resisting, and, she realized with a jolt, that she was finding it oddly thrilling to have him handle her so.
When he finished, he stood looking at her, his eyes dark and wild, the lines of his body like cords stretched thought. The anger radiating off him gave him an almost frightening attractiveness, and Nasuada felt more drawn to him than ever.
"You have to decide whether you are willing to risk your life in order to save yourself," she said. "You and Thorn both. And you have to decide now, while there is still time. Ask yourself: what would Tornac have wanted you to do?"
Without answering, Murtagh extended his right arm and placed his hand on the upper part of her chest, his palm hot against her skin. Her breath hitched at the shock of the contact, the intimacy of it.
Then, hardly louder than a whisper, he began to speak in the ancient language. As the strange words tumbled from his lips, he fear grew even stronger.
He spoke for what seemed like minutes. She felt no different when he stopped, but that was neither a favorable nor an unfavorable sign when magic was concerned.
Cool air washed over the patch on her chest, chilling it as Murtagh lifted his hand away. He stepped back then and started to walk past her, towards the entrance of the chamber. She was about to call out to him – to ask what he had done to her – when he paused and said, "That should shield you from the pain of most any wound, but you'll have to pretend otherwise, or Galbatorix will discover what I've done."
And then he left, and she found she missed his presence almost immediately.
"Thank you," she whispered into the empty room.
The door to the chamber scraped open.
She forced her eyes to focus as she strained to see who was approaching.
Her heart gave a leap; it was Murtagh.
He looked down at her, his lips pinched, his nostrils flared, and a furrow between his brows. At first she thought he was angry, but then she realized he was actually worried and afraid, deathly so. The strength of his concerned surprised her, and also pleased her; she knew he regarded her with a certain liking – why else would he have convinced Galbatorix to keep her alive? – but she had not suspected that he cared for her quite so much. The idea made her feel lightheaded, and a strong emotion that she couldn't quite place seemed to gush in her chest.
She tried to reassure him with a smile. It must not have come out right, for as she did, Murtagh clenched his jaw, as if he was struggling to contain himself.
"Try not to move," he said, and lifted his hands over her and began to murmur in the ancient language.
"Let me up," Nasuada said.
"Are you su-"
"Let me up."
Without a word, he undid her restraints. Then she got to her feet and stood swaying next to the slab while she waited for an attack of light-headedness to recede.
"Here," said Murtagh, handing her his cape. She wrapped it around her body, covering herself for both modesty and warmth, and also so that she did not have to look at the burns, scabs, blisters, and blood-filled lines that disfigured her.
She leaned against the wall and slowly lowered herself to the floor, pulling the cape tighter around her body. Murtagh's musky scent filled her nose, and she found that she rather liked it, along with the idea of having one of his pieces of clothing wrapped around her. She then dismissed this idea, scolding herself inwardly.
I need to stop behaving like such a foolish little girl!
Murtagh joined her, and the two of them sat staring at the opposite wall.
Despite herself, she began to cry.
After a while, she felt him touch her shoulder, and she jerked away. She could not help it. He had hurt her more in the past few days than anyone else ever had, and though she knew he had not wanted to do it, she could not forget that it was he who had wielded the hot iron.
Even so, she regretted her action immediately, when she saw how it stung him, and remembered how soft his touches had been earlier She reached out and took his hand, entwining her fingers in his own, flushing at her own boldness. He gave her fingers a gentle squeeze, then put his arm around her shoulders and drew her close. She resisted for a moment, though her heart was fluttering wildly, but then relaxed into his embrace and laid her head on his hard chest as she continued to cry, her quiet sobs echoing in the bare stone room.
He comforted her, his hands softly stroking the back of her head, and she moved closer to him, her tears wetting the cloth of his shirt. In spite of her troubled state, she couldn't help but notice that he had a very well-defined chest.
Some minutes later, she felt him move beneath her as he said, "I'll find a way to free you, I swear. It's too late for Thorn and me. But not for you. As long as you don't pledge fealty to Galbatorix, there's still a chance I can spirit you out of Uru'baen."
She looked up at him and decided he meant what he said. His eyes were gazing at her, almost tenderly, and her heart fluttered yet again.
"How?" she whispered.
"I haven't the slightest idea," he admitted with a roguish smile that made her head spin – she hadn't seen him smile in what seemed like eons, and it made him look far too charming for his own good.
"But I will," Murtagh declared, "Whatever it takes. You have to promise me, though, that you won't give up – not until I've tried. Agreed?"
He spoke with conviction, his fingers caressing hers, his eyes never leaving her own, and Nasuada was overcome by the urge to kiss him, there and then. She restrained herself, as she knew she had to, for so many reasons, and spoke instead: "I don't think I can endure that… thingagain. If he puts it on me again, I'll give him whatever he wants."
A pause fell between them. Then he said, "Now I have a question for you: why did you kill those men? You knew you wouldn't make it out of the citadel. Was it just to spite Galbatorix, as he said?"
She sighed and pushed herself off Murtagh's chest so she was sitting upright, facing him directly. With some reluctance, he released his hold around her shoulders. She sniffed, then looked him square in the eyes. "I couldn't just lie there and let him do whatever he wanted to me. I had to fight back; I had to show him that he hadn't broken me, and I wanted to hurt him however I could."
"So it was spite!"
"In part. What of it?" She expected him to express disgust or condemnation at her actions, but instead he gave her an appraising look and his lips curved in a small knowing smile.
"Then I say well done," he replied.
She blushed, and after a moment, she returned his smile.
Murtagh seemed to enjoy their conversation as much as she did, something which heartened Nasuada. Still, the time came when they both recognized that it would be foolish to keep talking, for fear of being caught. So she returned to the slab, where she lay down and allowed him to strap her to the unforgiving block of stone once again, enjoying the feeling of his fingers brushing her skin as he fastened her bonds.
She suspected, once or twice – that his touches were perhaps deliberate – that his fingers lingered for longer than they should have – but she could never be sure, and a part of her was scared to ask, lest he reject whatever hope she was harboring.
Finally she did though, calling out to him as he was about to leave.
"Murtagh," she said, grabbing his hand.
He paused and turned to regard her.
She hesitated for a moment, then mustered her courage and said, "Why?" She thought he understood her meaning: Why her? Why save her, and now why try to rescue her? She had guessed at the answer, hoped at it, but she wanted to hear him say it.
Her heart pounded, as she waited for his answer. He stared at her for the longest while, his dark eyes startlingly intense.
Then he raised her hand to his lips, and said, in a low, hard voice, his breath warm against her skin, "You know why."
He released her and left immediately after, leaving her staring after him with a racing heart and flushed cheeks, feeling dazed – and yet more exhilarated than she had ever been in her entire life.
That night, he had come to her, and they spent hours sitting together and talking. He told her of the Varden's progress – they were nearly upon the capital – and of the Empire's preparations, and he explained that he believed he had discovered a means of freeing her. When she pressed him for details, he refused to elaborate, saying, "I need another day or two to see if it will work. But there is a way, Nasuada. Take heart in that."
She had taken heart in his earnestness and his concern for her. Even if she never escaped, she was glad to know that she was not alone in her captivity.
Somehow, the dreary hours spend incarcerated in the room weren't all that bad, when she knew she could look forward to the few hours Murtagh spent with her every night, sitting next to her on the hard floor.
The atmosphere between them wasn't awkward, but at times Nasuada thought she felt charged moments, driven by her now definite attraction towards him. Nasuada had come to terms with her feelings, and could deny them no longer, though she wasn't sure about the scope of them yet. Many a time she felt like pressing him for answers, or perhaps doing something to hint him of hers; she relished whatever physical contact she shared with him and yet simultaneously craved for more.
They were, as usual, sitting on the floor, and she was facing him, though his eyes were cast downwards, his bangs covering most of his face from her view.
"Murtagh…" Nasuada murmured, breaking the silence, and though he didn't look up at her, he nodded slightly, indicating he was listening.
"Thank you… for – everything," she began, hesitating slightly, "Everything you've done – I know you've risked a lot… and-"
"The risk is worth it," he said softly, "If it means I can free you."
He extended his hand, curling his fingers around hers and Nasuada's breath hitched.
"Look at me," she told him softly, touching the curve of his cheekbone with her fingertips.
He did look up, suddenly, his eyes meeting hers, and they were dark, flashing with something that exhilarated her.
"You never answered my question, you know," she stated, and his hands shifted to the sides of her face, his fingers threading through her hair.
"Why ask questions to which you already know the answers?" he countered, gazing at her with a look that made her already racing heart beat faster.
She wanted to kiss him then, so badly, and she wondered why he wasn't kissing her. Could he not tell? Why was he hesitating? Did he not want her, then?
She moved her face towards him, and noticed him tensing slightly.
Nasuada sighed to herself, but nonetheless, brushed her lips against his cheek, savoring the feeling.
When she pulled back, he was staring at her with a dazed expression. His fair cheeks were tinged with pink, and Nasuada felt rather pleased with herself
This time, it was she who stood and walked towards the stone tablet so he could strap her up. His hands lingered deliberately at her waist this time, and at the smooth skin of her calf, as he tied her straps, she was sure of it.
He left almost instantly after, shooting her a burning look that made her tingle with want before disappearing altogether.
Eragon glanced over to Murtagh again. He and Nasuada were standing now, talking to each other. They were standing rather close, too close,according to Eragon, whose suspicions only grew.
Nasuada frowned at something, and then Murtagh reached out, grasped the neck of her tunic, and pulled it to the side, tearing the fabric.
Eragon had drawn Brisingr halfway out of its sheath before he saw the map of angry-looking welts below Nasuada's collarbone. The sight struck him like a blow; it reminded him of the wounds on Arya's back after he and Murtagh had rescued her from Gil'ead.
Murtagh looked concerned and his brows were furrowed as he said something. Nasuada nodded and bowed her head.
Again Murtagh began to speak, this time, Eragon was sure, in the ancient language. He placed his hands upon various parts of Nasuada's body, his touch gentle – even hesitant – and her expression of relief was all the evidence Eragon needed to understand how much pain she was suffering. He also noted, however, that she seemed to be almost bashful, as she allowed him to touch her rather intimately, and Eragon began to fully comprehend what he was seeing.
He wouldn't say it was entirely unexpected, though it still seemed sudden.
After everything that happened between them… If only Arya would succumb to me that easily, he thought, with a tinge of bitterness.
Still, if anyone deserved happiness, it was Murtagh, and, studying his half-brother, Eragon could perhaps understand Nasuada's infatuation with him. Though he didn't have Eragon's elvish qualities, he was incredibly good-looking nevertheless, and projected an air of quiet strength and confidence. Eragon just hoped that the two of them would exercise the caution not to upset the Varden with whatever it was they intended to do.
"Please… don't…" Nasuada said, her voice trembling. She felt tears pricking her eyes, but wouldn't let them fall, not then, not in front of him.
"It's the only way," he said softly, and she could see the pain and the regret filling his eyes, etched onto every line of his face, "Nasuada… I'm so sorry-"
"No," she cried, shaking her head, "I'm the leader of the Varden, I will explain what happened, he forced you, I can get you exonerated of you crimes-"
"And what of the dwarves?" he asked, and she hated the fact that she knew he was correct, "I killed their king. And the elves? I killed their oldest rider. And Orrin's people? And the people whose families I slew? Galbatorix's orders or not, Nasuada, they will detest me. They won't differentiate. They'll even start to doubt you. It's a lost cause. I'm meant to be alone. I always was-"
"No," Nasuada sobbed, gripping his tunic, and she couldn't hold back any longer, and the tears streamed from her cheeks, "No – I can't lose you – again…"
He moved closer to her then, brushing away her tears with his thumbs, cradling her face in his hands.
"Don't cry, Nasuada," he pleaded softly, "Please don't cry. You're free now – you can – live happily – I'm sure you'll find someone whose not a – a traitor like me-"
Nasuada noticed, with a shock, that there was a film of moisture coating his eyes as well. His comment, however, enraged her.
"Don't!" she spat, glaring at him, "Don't ever say that. I would never –ever– care for someone else! Don't disregard my feelings for you Murtagh! I loved you even after we thought you'd defected – I knew you were still there somewhere, I trusted that you'd come back-"
She stopped however, when she noticed Murtagh staring at her oddly, his eyes wide.
She then realized what she'd just revealed, and blushed furiously.
When he spoke, his voice was brimming with barely suppressed emotion.
"You – love me?" he asked, disbelief crossing his features.
"Yes," Nasuada said firmly; no point denying it to him now, "I love you. And though you're too pigheaded to admit it out loud, I knowyou feel something for me too, Murtagh."
"You love me," he shook his head, as if unable to comprehend the meaning of her words, "You – after everything that has happened – love me-"
"I do," Nasuada said fiercely, "And I always will. It's not going to change."
"I – I love you too," he said, his voice cracking, "So much. It nearly killed me seeing what Galbatorix did to you and I would do anything to be with you, were I anyone but myself."
He was staring at her intently, his hands running down her face, her arms, her waist, as he spoke, looking at her with an expression so tender it made her head reel.
"I love you more than anything in the world, except Thorn, but Nasuada-" Murtagh paused, biting his lip, "I can't stay with you. Thorn and I – we have to go. For the sake of both of us, and you as well."
She then noticed the tears running down his cheek and her heart nearly broke at the sight of it.
"I'm so sorry," Murtagh whispered, pressing his forehead against hers, "I love you, Nasuada. Please don't make this harder than it already is…"
He turned to leave, but she grabbed his shoulders, stopping him.
"Don't," he began, but this time she decided she had to – at least once– he was going anyways, and there was nothing to lose.
She kissed him, firm and hard on the mouth, pressing her lips against his, savoring the moment for as long as she could, her tears mixing with his own.
She pulled back, but then something in Murtagh seemed to break, and he grabbed her by the waist, pulling her flush against him, and then slid his lips back onto hers.
It was a dizzying kiss that made her heart flutter and her head spin and her knees go week. He kissed her with such passion that she thought she'd explode from it, from the emotions rushing through her veins. It was as if every nerve on her body was on fire, as he kissed her thoroughly, his lips moving almost frantically against her own.
His hands were at her waist, and then the small of her back, and then her hips as he held her tightly to him, and she allowed her own to run over his chest, and then finally into his long locks of hair.
She felt him nibble at her mouth, and gasped momentarily, and he took the opportunity to slip his tongue into her mouth. He caressed her tongue with his own, the erotic action causing her to swoon, her attraction towards him increasing tenfold, if that was even possible.
And then he pulled away suddenly, too suddenly, and shot her one last, burning, anguished look, his eyes filled with sorrow and unimaginable pain – and love – however much love he could convey with one glance – and then he had mounted Thorn and was gone, their figures a diminishing red shape in the sky.
Nasuada stared after them, staggered, touching her swollen lips.
Then Murtagh held out his hand, and Eragon grasped him by the forearm. They stood like that for a moment, gazing at each other.
"Be careful," Eragon said.
"You too… brother."
Eragon hesitated, then nodded again, his voice trembling slightly. "Brother."
Murtagh moved to mount Thorn, but then Eragon gave into his impulse, and yanked on his arm, pulling him towards him before embracing him roughly.
Murtagh seemed shocked at first, and froze, but Eragon didn't care, and hugged him tightly. After a moment, he felt Murtagh's arms wrap around him loosely, hugging him back, rather awkwardly.
"I wish we had more time together," Eragon whispered, "I really enjoyed your company before, you know… you and I… we really are good for each other."
Murtagh pulled away, staring at him with an odd expression, and then smiled slightly, shrugging.
"If we're not trying to kill each other, that is," he said dryly, and Eragon grinned.
"I'm going to miss you," Eragon admitted, "I hope you choose to come back soon. I'm sure Nasuada would want that too."
Murtagh's face seemed to crumple momentarily at the mention of Nasuada's name but he soon schooled it back to a more neutral one, before smirking at Eragon.
"Stop being sentimental, little brother," Murtagh joked, reaching over and ruffling his hair, which surprised Eragon.
"Hey," he protested, though he was smiling too, for a moment.
Then Murtagh walked away and checked the straps on Thorn's harness once more before he climbed up into the saddle. Eragon felt his heart sink, as if tied down by some great weight and the smile was wiped off his face.
As Thorn spread his wings and started to move away, Murtagh called out, "See to it that Nasuada is well protected. Galbatorix has many servants, more than he ever told me about, and not all of them were bound to him by magic alone. They will seek revenge for the death of their master. Be on your guard at all times. There are those among them who are even more dangerous than the Ra'zac!"
Then Murtagh raised a hand in farewell. Eragon did likewise, and Thorn took three loping steps away from the sea of nettles and leaped into the sky, leaving tracklike gouges in the soft earth below.
The sparkling red dragon circled over them once, twice, three times and then he turned and set off to the north, flapping with a slow, steady beat.
Eragon joined Saphira on the crest of the low hill, and together they watched as Thorn and Murtagh dwindled to a single starlike speck close to the horizon.
Saphira nuzzled his cheek with her snout, and it was then that Eragon realized he'd been crying.
I spoke with Thorn. He'll be back, little one, she comforted him, give him a few years. If for nothing, his heart rests with Nasuada. You will see him again…
Author's Note – There. Done. I had to include the Eragon/Murtagh brotherly moment too, mainly for Saphira's last line. I may do a sequel where he does come back, let's see. I hope Paolini writes one in which he does nonetheless.
I'm also probably going to do something similar for Eragon/Arya, where they at least share a kiss or something rather than just true names. I mean that idea was nice, but I want snogging damnit :P
I hate that both my favorite couples paired up but didn't get action. Or they did. I'm pretty sure he left out some good Murtagh/Nasuada bits.
But there you go. Review please!