Chapter no 42 – Qazhqargla

Murtagh (The Inheritance Cycle, #5)

I cannot help you, Murtagh-man,” said Uvek in what seemed to be a sorrowful voice.


Quick footsteps approached near the entrance of the hall, and then they faltered and there was a soft cry of annoyance. After a moment, flint and steel struck.

Murtagh struggled to sit. Using his right arm, he pushed himself into a slumped position against the metal bars. The iron was so cold it seemed to burn. He tugged his cloak closer around his thin woolen shirt.

A flame flickered to life in the lantern at the head of the hall, and then Alín hurried to Murtagh’s cell, carrying a bowl of watery soup with half a loaf of bread in it. She hesitated upon seeing him. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, and thrust the bowl between the iron bars. “It was never supposed to be like this.” And she rushed away, her footsteps light as feathers on the stones.

Across the hall, Uvek turned his massive head back toward Murtagh. Lit from the side by the lantern, the Urgal’s cragged face was somber and careworn, and there was a wise sorrow in his yellow eyes. “Was it so bad, Murtagh-man, what they had you do?”

“…yes.” Murtagh cracked his eyelids open and, without moving his head, looked over at the Urgal. “…help…me…. I can’t…can’t go…on….” Speaking took every scrap of strength he had, and after he went limp and

had to concentrate on his breathing while he waited for the floor to steady beneath him.


When Murtagh recovered enough to open his eyes again, he saw Uvek watching him with concerned intent.

The Urgal said, “Cannot Thorn-dragon help Murtagh-man? Dragon and Rider together? Dragons very strong.”

“…not…not this…time.”

Hrmm. I not know what to do. I am shaman; I speak to spirits. You know spirits, yes?”

Murtagh managed to nod.

“I speak to spirits. Sometimes they speak back. But they cannot hear me now. Not in this place, not with poison in stomach.”

Gathering his strength, Murtagh said, “…if I could…use…magic… could…free…” The effort was too much; he couldn’t maintain his mental focus long enough to keep talking.

Uvek picked at his thick lower lip with one clawlike nail. “Hrmm. Look, Murtagh-man.” From his rough leather belt, Uvek produced a small object: a piece of carved blackstone tied with a thin strip of woven cord. “You see? I have charm here. Hornless did not take because they think just rock. Hrr-hrr-hrr.” It took Murtagh a moment to realize the Urgal was laughing. Then Uvek held the stone up so that it caught the lantern light. The surface glittered as if embedded with flecks of gold. “Charm is for healing. Could help with Breath, but…”


“But no strength in charm, Murtagh-man. Charm empty. I used to heal deer with broken leg. I try give charm strength, but”—Uvek shook his head

—“weirding not work. But maybe work for you. You are Rider.”

The faintest flicker of hope formed in Murtagh. “…maybe.” He struggled to sit upright.

Uvek hunched forward, cupping the blackstone as if it were fragile as a bluebird egg. “If you escape, Murtagh-man, will you free me? Will you free Uvek Windtalker?”


Hrmm. Urgralgra have many bad dealings with hornless. Hrr. And hornless many bad dealings with Urgralgra. Before I give charm, I need Murtagh-man swear oath that he never break word with Urgralgra.”

“…can’t swear…won’t…”

Uvek’s expression remained as stone. “Then I not give charm.”

Frustrated, Murtagh let his head fall back against the bars. He didn’t have the strength to keep fighting, and yet he couldn’t give up, no matter how painful it was to continue. “…can’t…can’t swear to…whole race…won’t be…bound…” He paused, trying to force past the fog in his brain. “… bound again…like that.” The whole reason he was in the cell, after all, was because he and Thorn refused to give their word to Bachel.

“Hrmm.” Uvek closed his hands around the blackstone as he sat hunched, thinking. Then he said, “There is other way, if you want, Murtagh-man, but…” The Urgal shrugged. “Is not often done, and never with hornless. Is rite of qazhqargla. You become blood brother to Uvek. Then your word is mine, and mine is yours, and we share our honor.”

Murtagh set his teeth as he stared at the dark ceiling. His choices were few, and if he and Thorn couldn’t break free of Bachel…Thorn. He sent his mind seeking toward the dragon and, with what energy he could muster, tried to impress on Thorn the nature of his dilemma.

In return, he received a vague, unfocused response, tinged with understanding and resignation. Murtagh knew what Thorn meant. The dragon would accept whatever choice Murtagh made. He trusted Murtagh, and Murtagh never, ever wanted to break that trust. He already felt guilty enough about bringing Thorn to Nal Gorgoth and not departing earlier, when Thorn had suggested….

“What say you, Murtagh-man?”

Murtagh grimaced as he pushed himself more upright. “My honor…is questioned by…many…. You…may…not want it.”

Uvek’s top lip wrinkled, showing his fangs in a grotesque smile. “I will take chance, accept burden, Murtagh-man. Will you?”

The cool underground air soothed Murtagh’s throat as he filled his lungs and tried to clear his head. He didn’t feel smart enough to solve the most basic problem, and regardless of how he looked at the matter, he couldn’t think of another solution.

The walls he and Thorn had built about themselves could not hold. Not any longer.

“All right,” he croaked. “I…will become blood brother.” “Is not so easy, Murtagh-man.”

“…never is.”

Uvek began to mutter in his native language then, rocking back and forth. Murtagh closed his eyes and let the harsh words wash over him in rhythmic waves. After a minute, Uvek grunted. “This you will need to say, Murtagh-man.” And he spoke several lines of Urgalish that, as far as Murtagh was concerned, might as well have been a convoluted exercise specifically designed to keep him from completing the rite.

For what seemed like the better part of an hour, Uvek coached him in the proper pronunciation of the words. Murtagh had to often rest, and just as often he forgot what Uvek had already taught him.

At last, the Urgal made a huff of frustration and said, “Will do. Gods will understand your intent.”

A belated realization occurred to Murtagh. “…wait…. You don’t have me swear in…ancient language?”

Uvek cocked his head. “You mean weirding words, Murtagh-man? No. They are not of Urgralgra, so why use? If man or Urgralgra will not keep oath in one language, they will not keep in another.”

Relief and a slight sense of amusement made Murtagh chuckle. “… suppose…you’re right.” He had thought Uvek would have him use the ancient language, which was a large part of why Murtagh had been so reluctant.

“Hrmm.” Then Uvek tapped his forearm and motioned toward Murtagh. “To finish qazhqargla, must join blood and speak words. You understand?”

Murtagh gave a weary nod. “Why…why is it always…blood?”

“Blood is powerful, Murtagh-man. Blood is life. Surely hornless know this too?”

“…we…know.” Murtagh rolled back the sleeve on his left arm and then stared blankly at his bare skin for a moment. “…problem…I don’t have… knife.”

Uvek’s heavy brow beetled. “Why need knife, Murtagh-man? Use nails.” He held up his left forefinger, showing the thick, shovel-like nail growing from the tip.

Murtagh held up his own finger. “…too weak.” “Ghra. I forget how soft hornless are. What if—”

“Wait.” Murtagh unfastened the clasp that held his cloak around his

neck. There was a pin on the back, and while it wasn’t particularly sharp, he thought it would work. “…use this.”

Uvek grunted. “Good. Cut here.” And he drew a line just below his hand. “Then we touch, share blood.”

Murtagh grimaced slightly but nodded. The hall was narrow enough that they ought to be able to reach across it.

“Ready now, Murtagh-man?” “…ready.”

In his cell, Uvek hunched over his arm, and he scraped his left thumbnail across his right wrist with a slow, deliberate movement. The Urgal showed no sign of pain as the thumbnail cut into his thick hide, and a line of black blood welled from his flesh.

Murtagh looked away. He took a breath, clenched his jaw, and then—fast as he could, and with as much strength as seemed necessary—dragged the point of the pin across the skin of his left wrist, creating a red-hot stripe of pain.

He cursed under his breath. The pin had only cut halfway or so through his skin. He clenched his jaw again and, without pausing to anticipate the pain, yanked the pin across his wrist a second time.

Blood flooded the angry red stripe, and he let out his breath in a gasp.

Then Uvek pushed his arm between the bars of his cell—it was a tight fit, but with some force, he managed—and Murtagh did the same from his

side, and they pressed their blood-slicked wrists together. The Urgal’s arm was hot to the touch, and his blood burned against Murtagh’s skin.

Uvek spoke his half of the oath in Urgalish, and then it was Murtagh’s turn. He took his time, sounding the words as Uvek had taught him and striving to avoid mistakes. The meaning of the words was, or so Uvek had claimed, something to the effect of: “I, Murtagh Dragon Rider, join myself as brother to Uvek Windtalker. Let his blood flow in my veins even as mine flows in his. This I swear by Great-Horned Svarvok, and if I fail to uphold this sacred bond, may all manner of misfortune befall me and my tribe.” The oath may not have been worded in the ancient language, but it was a serious matter all the same. Murtagh felt the weight of the words as he spoke them.

Upon completion, they withdrew their arms and tended their wounds. Uvek grunted. “The qazhqargla is complete. Now we are brothers, Murtagh-man.”

“…brothers.” It felt strange to say. The only brother—half brother, really

—Murtagh had known was Eragon, and their relationship had hardly been fraternal. And though Murtagh still worried about the obligations his oath imposed, he found it…comforting in a way, to be joined as such with Uvek. The customs of Urgals differed from those of humans, but he felt sure that if he were to call upon Uvek for help, the Urgal would answer without hesitation.

First, of course, they had to escape Nal Gorgoth.

“Here, Murtagh-man. The healing charm. Perhaps it help you.” “…perhaps,” Murtagh mumbled, accepting the blackstone pebble from

Uvek. The stone was warm in his palm, and the knotted strip tied around it pleasantly textured. He tried two things then: First to draw any remaining power from the pebble. In that, he met with total failure. Uvek had spoken true. Not the slightest scrap of energy still lay in the charm. Second to imbue some of his own strength into the blackstone. Even if he couldn’t directly cast a spell, Murtagh hoped that he could at least use the energy in his body to fuel the charm.

The hope proved in vain. No matter how hard he tried, Murtagh could not break the dam in his mind that prevented him from loosing the power

he contained.

Uvek noticed his frustration. “Does not it work, Murtagh-man?” “…no…No!” Murtagh closed his eyes and felt tears leak from the

corners. “…no…I need…strength for the charm, but…”

“You cannot give because of Breath.” Uvek nodded sagely, and he appeared troubled. “I had same problem. Is there no solution?…Murtagh-man, are you still awake?”

Murtagh forced his eyes open. “…yes…solution?…” He shook his head, miserable, and lowered himself to the floor. The flagstones were cold, so he dragged the cloak over him. “…need to…think…sleep…”

“Murtagh-man. Murtagh-man! Open your ears, Murtagh-man. You…

But Murtagh heard no more, and for once he had respite from the livid nightmares of Nal Gorgoth.



When Murtagh woke, at first he did not know who or where he was. He stared at the arched ceiling for a long while before dim, blood-drenched memories of the creekside slaughter spiked his pulse, and guilt again filled him.

He rolled over, intending to sit up, and felt something hard beneath his right hip. He looked, thinking it must be the blackstone charm, but all he saw was the folded corner of his cloak.

He patted it.

Again he felt a hard lump the size of a hazelnut. He frowned.

“What is it, Murtagh-man?” Uvek was squatting in the same position he’d been in when Murtagh fell asleep. It didn’t look as if he’d moved the entire time.

At the question, Murtagh became aware of the throbbing in his left wrist. It felt as if he’d been branded. His shoulder hurt too, and that particular pain brought unwelcome memories.

He shook his head. He was getting distracted. He looked back at the cloak and felt the corner…worked his fingers into the hem…and pulled out

a yellow, teardrop-shaped diamond that glittered like a bead of crystallized sunlight in the dim cell.

Uvek sucked in his lower lip and let out a low sound at the sight.

It took Murtagh a moment to remember what the diamond was…and where he’d gotten it…. Wren…the door of stone…Excitement began to form in him, and he held the jewel up to Uvek. “…energy,” he whispered.

The Urgal leaned forward, his eyes gleaming with fire to match the diamond. “Is enough, Murtagh-man?”

He nodded. “…should…be.”

Then Murtagh opened his mind and reached out with his thoughts toward the diamond. He could feel the knotted whirlpool of energy the gem contained: so close, so tantalizing. But no matter how he tried, he just… couldn’t…get a hold of it and funnel it through his body into the blackstone charm.

He groaned with frustration and again threw his mind against the diamond. It felt as if he were trying to grasp liquid ice; it kept slipping through his mental fingers, leaving him fumbling at emptiness.

“…it’s…no use,” he said, sitting back on his heels and shaking his head. “You want to…try?”

Uvek held out his paw of a hand, and Murtagh—trusting the oath they had sworn—passed him the gem.

For several minutes, Uvek sat staring at the diamond, his brow drawn, his breathing slow and heavy. The muscles in his arms tensed as if he were straining against a great weight. Then, finally, he said, “Guh. I cannot touch fire in gem. It keeps slipping away.”

He passed the diamond back to Murtagh, and Murtagh sat against the wall of the cell and stared at the gem. After a moment, he clenched it in his fist, shook his head, and rested his forehead against his arm. “…has to be a way.”

For a time, they sat in silence. The whole while, Murtagh battled against the ever-present haze that clogged his mind. If only he could think clearly…

He frowned. The Breath of Azlagûr was what disrupted his thoughts, but it was the vorgethan that kept him from using magic, although perhaps the

effects of both were worse in combination. If he could remove one or the other, he and Thorn—and Uvek—might have a chance.

He sat up and looked at Uvek.

The Urgal raised his heavy brow. “What is it, Murtagh-man? You have idea?”

“…maybe…” “Is good?”

“…maybe…. wait…”

So they waited. Without windows in the cell, Murtagh couldn’t be sure of the exact time, but he didn’t think he’d slept the whole night through. His body told him it was either very early or very, very late.

He remained on the floor, eyes half closed as he husbanded his strength, knowing that he would need much of it.

Finally…footsteps at the end of the hall.

Alín, come to retrieve the bowl she had brought him earlier. As he had hoped. The white-robed woman gave him only a brief, concerned glance before kneeling and reaching between the bars for the bowl.

“…wait…,” Murtagh said, and moved to touch her wrist. At the last moment, an instinct halted his hand, though he could not have said why.

She paused, arm outstretched, her eyes wide and round, like those of a frightened doe.

“…will you…talk with Bachel…arrange to…bring…bring me all my meals?”

He could see her tremble. “Why, Kingkiller?” she whispered.

“…so you…can…leave out the drug.” He stared her straight in the eyes, as earnest as he could be. “…so…Thorn and I can…escape.”

Her trembling increased, and she shook her head, as if to deny his words, but still she did not pull back her arm. “I—I can’t.”

“…please…help…. Bachel will…wash the world…with…blood…if she can.”

Alín shook her head again, and then she did withdraw, and she fled back up the hallway, robe flying behind her.

With a groan, Murtagh collapsed back against the wall.

“Was good try, Murtagh-man,” said Uvek. “…not good…enough.”

Hrmm. We shall see. It takes time to calm wild animal.” The Urgal gave him a knowing look from beneath his beetled brow. “Sometimes better to let animal approach you. Otherwise, you scare.”


“Not even gods know what future holds.”

Murtagh glanced at Uvek. The Urgal’s expression was impossible to read, but he seemed untroubled. Murtagh couldn’t decide if Uvek’s attitude was born out of fatalism or faith or some other aspect of his culture or personality, but Murtagh found it impossible to be as calm.

Calm or not, he had no choice but to bide his time and hope. And in the muddled recesses of his mind, the same two words kept repeating:… please…help….

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