A/N: I sat down to write a Murtagh/Nasuada story, started thinking about how both of them end up playing much the same roles as their fathers did, and ran with it. This is the result. Unfortunately, the MurNas is only hinted at, but I hope you enjoy.
Murtagh can't remember when the thought of his father didn't eat him up inside. Surely as a baby, wide-eyed and innocent (never really innocent), cradled all-too-briefly by his mother he must have looked at Morzan with childish curiosity, too young to understand.
The world's simple to a newborn—those arms his mother held him in for less than a day weren't much different from the grip of the servant woman hired to nurse him, whose own baby had been stillborn. Both were warm, and only one was available. Infants take what's given them. Oh yes, the world's simple to a newborn.
The world splits and stretches the older he gets; who can tell the difference between right and wrong sometimes? No man's a monster, entirely—even on his guiltiest days, he knows there's some good in him. As long as he can remember, though, his mind has linked the man who sired him only with pain. Pain, and shame, and fear.
But surely even his thrice-damned murdering traitor father must have felt some pride at the birth of a son? A child to carry on his name (and the curses that went with it) his legacy (what child would want that burden?) and his bloodline (along with all that innocent blood on his hands).
Even if his father never exactly loved him (that's an understatement), even if he was an illegitimate accident, a danger to both of his parents, surely Morzan must have been satisfied, somewhere in his convoluted mind, at having an heir.
That's only natural, right?
His hands are shaking, and he can taste warm blood in his mouth. He bit his tongue hard earlier (and who wouldn't have, the way he was being tortured?) and now, standing in front of the king, he's been worrying at the cut with his teeth. His whole body hurts anyway; what's a bit more blood?
Worse than the physical pain is the raw, torn openness in his head. He's been trained since he was a small child to keep any unwanted presence out of his mind, and except for speaking to Saphira when planning the rescue attempt in Gil'ead, his mind had not been violated. No longer.
Although Galbatorix is not directly in his head anymore, rifling through his thoughts, extracting memories like diseased teeth, his mind feels battered and sore. He can sense the newly activated, strange connection with the little red dragon throbbing, the hatchling's own confusion and pain evident.
The king's footsteps, pacing toward him, are softly menacing. He halts, directly in front of Murtagh. He feels Galbatorix's hand brush the side of his face, and shudders.
"Look at me, Murtagh." The king's voice is as quiet and dangerous as the sound of his feet. Those fingers pressure him to raise his head, and he looks Galbatorix directly in his terrifying dark eyes.
For a moment he stares at the king with all the anger in him, and then the king opens his mouth and begins to speak in the Ancient Language. Though Murtagh speaks none of that tongue but the few words he learned while traveling with Eragon, he understands something of the words. Galbatorix is describing him, every facet and minute aspect of his personality.
This feeling is far, far worse than the invasion of his mind. It's as if the king had ripped out his soul and pried at all the most vulnerable parts. He sways, feeling sick, and falls to his knees.
The king looks down at him coldly, and smiles.
"Yes. I know who you are. I know your true name."
"You're mine now. Swear yourself to me, on your true name, as your father did. Be my servant, my right hand."
"No," he says, his voice alarmingly shaky, even just on one syllable.
Galbatorix's smile broadens, showing teeth.
"You don't have a choice."
When he's finally let go, feeling the oaths he's been forced to swear tightening around him like bands of iron, the guards lead him back to the cell where the dragon hatchling is kept.
The little dragon—his dragon—rushes to him in alarm as he sinks onto the floor. Clambering over his legs, the hatchling lets out a huff of warm air, and Murtagh feels him emanating a sharp prick of concern, as well as relief at his return.
Murtagh wraps his arms around the dragon, now the size of a small dog, and buries his face in the creature's scaly neck. He feels a nose nuzzle the side of his head, and the sense of concern intensifies.
If only the dragon hadn't hatched for him. It's doomed to the same fate as him, once it develops enough of a personality to swear oaths. They'll be slaves together, Dragon and Rider. And of course, since he's more powerful than otherwise, Galbatorix will want more from him.
He pats the dragon's warm, ruby-colored side, and thinks of Eragon's sword—his father's sword, only a few shades lighter. Of course the green egg didn't hatch for him. No, his dragon is as red as his father's sword, as red as his father's dragon.
He never knew Morzan had sworn himself to the king on his true name. He wonders if some of his father's famous loyalty was forced. Even so, Morzan chose to betray the Riders, to align himself with Galbatorix. No one tortured his father into committing atrocities. Even if he was bound to the king, he stepped into those bonds of his own free will.
The third Rider in the land knows he's been pushed into his father's position. He'll fight against the Varden, everything he's begun to align himself with, brave, beautiful Nasuada. He's doomed now. He knows his father gloried in being the second most powerful man in the country. Although he, unlike Morzan, did not make the decision that led him here, he's trapped. And he wonders if he'll grow to enjoy the power and prestige of his new position. The thought makes him feel ill.
His father, whether by personal choice or the bonds of his oaths, was the king's executioner, loyal as a dog. And Murtagh knows that, though unwilling, he'll be exactly the same.
Nasuada hopes with every fiber of her being that she can be as good as leader, a warrior, a general as her father. She's willing to take up Ajihad's position, but she prays that she can make her father proud. She prays she can restore the rightful balance of things, establish justice, and win the war.
She has Jormundur to guide her, thank every god in the heavens. And Eragon has sworn himself in fealty to her. She is allied with a Rider and his dragon. She's not afraid of the Council of Elders. She knows she has the strength of will to maintain the power invested in her. It's what she will do with that power that worries her.
She must fight. She must attack the Empire, wreak vengeance against them for her father's death, for the wrongs they have inflicted on their people. For the destruction of the dragons, for the deeds of Galbatorix, Morzan, and the rest of the Forsworn. For Murtagh, with whom she felt an ironic kinship, considering who their parents were, dragged below-ground and cruelly murdered.
She must take the battle to Galbatorix. It hurts her to leave Tronjheim, the only home she's ever known. But the Varden must leave the safe halls of the dwarves—not safe anymore, after the battle they've just come out of. They must go to Surda and take the war to its next, more open level. It is necessary. She closes her eyes, praying for victory, for wisdom.
The Varden loved her father, and they love her for her resemblance to him. She must be as clever, as fair, as fierce in battle, and as competent in diplomacy as he was. They love her, and they follow her. She must deserve their love, their allegiance. They've chosen her, but is she worthy?
Alone in her bedchamber, after the coronation ceremony, she whispers to Ajihad, hoping the spirit ears of the dead can still hear.
"I promise you, Father, I will do everything in my power to live up to your name. I will do all I can to enact your vision and free this land. I will lead your people, my people now, into whatever will come."
Her oath made, she bites down on her tongue, trying to stop sudden tears. She looks down at her hands and sees that they are shaking like dry leaves.
It's only natural for Nasuada to idolize her father.
She was his only child, his heir, his beautiful daughter, and she always knew he both loved and was proud of her.
When she was just a little girl he was impossibly tall. She used to play in his study, deep in Tronjheim, as he pored over papers. He was busy, but she was a quiet child. She watched and listened, behind his desk. When he finished the day's work, he'd call her out from the corner of the room, and she'd come running, dropping her doll or her slingshot or whatever she was playing with.
Gathering her skirt in her hands, she'd dash to him, jumping into his strong arms. He'd swing her up—she was so small then, just after he'd become the Varden's leader, no more than three or so. He'd let her ride on his shoulders, or spin her through the air. The worried lines of leadership in his face would soften and he'd smile. She'd laugh giddily, drunk on the height of her perch, and his embrace.
When he was just a councilor, she wasn't allowed into the Varden's meetings. When he returned from his work, he'd sink into a chair, and she'd clamber up his legs, tuck herself into his lap, and reach up, running her plump toddler's hands over his gleaming bald head. He'd look up, breaking into laughter, and lean in to kiss her cheek.
Once, she told him his head was like the moon. He teased her about it for years after. He used to call himself "your moon-headed father."
She'd wriggle, embarrassed at his teasing, but she'd laugh too. He was her father, her wise, brave, gentle father. Not the bold warrior, not the great leader, but someone who was entirely hers.
The world is very simple to a child, wide-eyed and innocent, and there could never be anything wrong when they played together. She would start to see him as Ajihad, as the Varden's leader, as someone to emulate, when she grew older and saw more of life.
But when she was small and he was so, so tall, he was simply her father, and she knew he was proud of her. Not because she was the fighter she'd learn to become, or one of the people whose council he trusted most, but because she was his daughter.
Nasuada can't remember a time when she didn't look at her father with adoration.