Chapter no 26 – MURTAGH

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)

For a long while, Eragon was aware only of the burning in his side. Each breath was painful. It felt as though he had been the one stabbed, not Brom. His sense of time was skewed; it was hard to tell if weeks had gone by, or only a few minutes. When consciousness finally came to him, he opened his eyes and peered curiously at a campfire several feet away. His hands were still tied together, but the drug must have worn off because he could think clearly again.Saphira, are you injured?

No, but you and Brom are.She was crouched over Eragon, wings spread protectively on either side.

Saphira, you didn’t make that fire, did you? And you couldn’t have gotten out of those chains by yourself.


I didn’t think so.Eragon struggled to his knees and saw a young man sitting on the far side of the fire.

The stranger, dressed in battered clothes, exuded a calm, assured air. In his hands was a bow, at his side a long hand-and-a-half sword. A white horn bound with silver fittings lay in his lap, and the hilt of a dagger protruded from his boot. His serious face and fierce eyes were framed by locks of brown hair. He appeared to be a few years older than Eragon and perhaps an inch or so taller. Behind him a gray war-horse was picketed. The stranger watched Saphira warily.

“Who are you?” asked Eragon, taking a shallow breath.

The man’s hands tightened on his bow. “Murtagh.” His voice was low and controlled, but curiously emotional.

Eragon pulled his hands underneath his legs so they were in front of him.

He clenched his teeth as his side flared with pain. “Why did you help us?” “You aren’t the only enemies the Ra’zac have. I was tracking them.” “You know who they are?”


Eragon concentrated on the ropes that bound his wrists and reached for the magic. He hesitated, aware of Murtagh’s eyes on him, then decided it didn’t matter. “Jierda!” he grunted. The ropes snapped off his wrists. He rubbed his hands to get the blood flowing.

Murtagh sucked in his breath. Eragon braced himself and tried to stand, but his ribs seared with agony. He fell back, gasping between clenched teeth. Murtagh tried to come to his aid, but Saphira stopped him with a growl. “I

would have helped you earlier, but your dragon wouldn’t let me near you.” “Her name’s Saphira,” said Eragon tightly.Now let him by! I can’t do this

alone. Besides, he saved our lives. Saphira growled again, but folded her wings and backed away. Murtagh eyed her flatly as he stepped forward.

He grasped Eragon’s arm, gently pulling him to his feet. Eragon yelped and would have fallen without support. They went to the fire, where Brom lay on his back. “How is he?” asked Eragon.

“Bad,” said Murtagh, lowering him to the ground. “The knife went right between his ribs. You can look at him in a minute, but first we’d better see how much damage the Ra’zac did to you.” He helped Eragon remove his shirt, then whistled. “Ouch!”

“Ouch,” agreed Eragon weakly. A blotchy bruise extended down his left side. The red, swollen skin was broken in several places. Murtagh put a hand on the bruise and pressed lightly. Eragon yelled, and Saphira growled a warning.

Murtagh glanced at Saphira as he grabbed a blanket. “I think you have some broken ribs. It’s hard to tell, but at least two, maybe more. You’re lucky you’re not coughing up blood.” He tore the blanket into strips and bound Eragon’s chest.

Eragon slipped the shirt back on. “Yes . . . I’m lucky.” He took a shallow breath, sidled over to Brom, and saw that Murtagh had cut open the side of his robe to bandage the wound. With trembling fingers, he undid the bandage.

“I wouldn’t do that,” warned Murtagh. “He’ll bleed to death without it.”

Eragon ignored him and pulled the cloth away from Brom’s side. The wound was short and thin, belying its depth. Blood streamed out of it. As he had learned when Garrow was injured, a wound inflicted by the Ra’zac was slow to heal.

He peeled off his gloves while furiously searching his mind for the healing words Brom had taught him.Help me, Saphira, he implored.I am too weak to do this alone.

Saphira crouched next to him, fixing her eyes on Brom.I am here, Eragon. As her mind joined his, new strength infused his body. Eragon drew upon their combined power and focused it on the words. His hand trembled as he held it over the wound. “Waíse heill!” he said. His palm glowed, and Brom’s skin flowed together, as if it had never been broken. Murtagh watched the entire process.

It was over quickly. As the light vanished, Eragon sat, feeling sick.We’ve never done that before, he said.

Saphira nodded.Together we can cast spells that are beyond either of us.

Murtagh examined Brom’s side and asked, “Is he completely healed?”

“I can only mend what is on the surface. I don’t know enough to fix whatever’s damaged inside. It’s up to him now. I’ve done all I can.” Eragon closed his eyes for a moment, utterly weary. “My . . . my head seems to be floating in clouds.”

“You probably need to eat,” said Murtagh. “I’ll make soup.”

While Murtagh fixed the meal, Eragon wondered who this stranger was. His sword and bow were of the finest make, as was his horn. Either he was a thief or accustomed to money—and lots of it.Why was he hunting the Ra’zac? What have they done to make him an enemy? I wonder if he works for the Varden?

Murtagh handed him a bowl of broth. Eragon spooned it down and asked, “How long has it been since the Ra’zac fled?”

“A few hours.”

“We have to go before they return with reinforcements.”

“You might be able to travel,” said Murtagh, then gestured at Brom, “but he can’t. You don’t get up and ride away after being stabbed between the ribs.”

If we make a litter, can you carry Brom with your claws like you did with Garrow?Eragon asked Saphira.

Yes, but landing will be awkward.

As long as it can be done.Eragon said to Murtagh, “Saphira can carry him, but we need a litter. Can you make one? I don’t have the strength.”

“Wait here.” Murtagh left the camp, sword drawn. Eragon hobbled to his bags and picked up his bow from where it had been thrown by the Ra’zac. He strung it, found his quiver, then retrieved Zar’roc, which lay hidden in shadow. Last, he got a blanket for the litter.

Murtagh returned with two saplings. He laid them parallel on the ground, then lashed the blanket between the poles. After he carefully tied Brom to the makeshift litter, Saphira grasped the saplings and laboriously took flight. “I never thought I would see a sight like that,” Murtagh said, an odd note in his voice.

As Saphira disappeared into the dark sky, Eragon limped to Cadoc and hoisted himself painfully into the saddle. “Thanks for helping us. You should leave now. Ride as far away from us as you can. You’ll be in danger if the Empire finds you with us. We can’t protect you, and I wouldn’t see harm come to you on our account.”

“A pretty speech,” said Murtagh, grinding out the fire, “but where will you go? Is there a place nearby that you can rest in safety?”

“No,” admitted Eragon.

Murtagh’s eyes glinted as he fingered the hilt of his sword. “In that case,

I think I’ll accompany you until you’re out of danger. I’ve no better place to be. Besides, if I stay with you, I might get another shot at the Ra’zac sooner than if I were on my own. Interesting things are bound to happen around a Rider.”

Eragon wavered, unsure if he should accept help from a complete stranger. Yet he was unpleasantly aware that he was too weak to force the issue either way.If Murtagh proves untrustworthy, Saphira can always chase him away. “Join us if you wish.” He shrugged.

Murtagh nodded and mounted his gray war-horse. Eragon grabbed Snowfire’s reins and rode away from the camp, into the wilderness. An oxbow moon provided wan light, but he knew that it would only make it easier for the Ra’zac to track them.

Though Eragon wanted to question Murtagh further, he kept silent, conserving his energy for riding. Near dawn Saphira said,I must stop. My wings are tired and Brom needs attention. I discovered a good place to stay, about two miles ahead of where you are.

They found her sitting at the base of a broad sandstone formation that curved out of the ground like a great hill. Its sides were pocked with caves of varying sizes. Similar domes were scattered across the land. Saphira looked pleased with herself.I found a cave that can’t be seen from the ground. It’s large enough for all of us, including the horses. Follow me. She turned and climbed up the sandstone, her sharp claws digging into the rock. The horses had difficulty, as their shod hooves could not grip the sandstone. Eragon and Murtagh had to pull and shove the animals for almost an hour before they managed to reach the cave.

The cavern was a good hundred feet long and more than twenty feet wide, yet it had a small opening that would protect them from bad weather and prying eyes. Darkness swallowed the far end, clinging to the walls like mats of soft black wool.

“Impressive,” said Murtagh. “I’ll gather wood for a fire.” Eragon hurried to Brom. Saphira had set him on a small rock ledge at the rear of the cave. Eragon clasped Brom’s limp hand and anxiously watched his craggy face. After a few minutes, he sighed and went to the fire Murtagh had built.

They ate quietly, then tried to give Brom water, but the old man would not drink. Stymied, they spread out their bedrolls and slept.

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