Chapter no 43 – A Question of Faith

Murtagh (The Inheritance Cycle, #5)

Murtagh was not long waiting before the cultists once again came for him and escorted him to the temple’s inner sanctum, where Bachel held court with her guests.

The day passed much as others had in Nal Gorgoth. Murtagh served his role as silent companion to the witch—an object of derision and not some little fear on the part of the guests—while Bachel went about her business.

Once, he saw Alín among the witch’s retinue, but the flaxen-haired woman avoided his gaze and quickly scurried away.

The Draumar were still preparing for the fast-approaching festival, and all the village was ahum with activity. Dark banners were hung among the patterned buildings, and carved frames placed about the dragon-like sculptures, while food and drink—much of which Murtagh recognized as spoils from the cultists’ blood-soaked raid—were readied in enormous quantities.

Twice Bachel let Murtagh sit with Thorn in the courtyard, which was a comfort for both Rider and dragon. Since communicating with their minds was so difficult, Murtagh had to resort to speech, slow and clumsy and wholly inadequate to his depth of feeling. “…how are…you?” he whispered.

The dragon placed his head alongside Murtagh’s thigh, and he rested his hand on Thorn’s scaled forehead.

As the Draumar moved about the courtyard, Murtagh saw Thorn watching them, and in Thorn’s gaze, he descried a newly found yet deeply

set hate. The dragon’s anger emanated from his body like heat from a forge. Once that would have worried Murtagh. Now he welcomed the feeling. He shared the sentiment, and a part of him thought there was a chance that if Thorn’s emotions were strong enough, they might allow him to dispel the witch’s evil influence. With dragons, you never knew just what they were capable of.

But Thorn made no unexpected use of magic. The two of them sat there by the side of the courtyard, often glanced at but generally ignored, and Murtagh stared at the scraps of blue sky overhead and wished…wished he and Thorn were far from Nal Gorgoth.



That night, the cultists had barely deposited him in the cell and then departed when Alín came creeping down the hall. Her face was terribly red, the skin under her eyes was swollen, and her hair hung in a tangled mess.

She stood for a time, staring at Murtagh. Remembering Uvek’s advice, he returned her gaze with an open expression and waited for her to speak.

Alín hugged herself. Then she said, “You don’t understand…. How could you? But you don’t. You can’t.” Her countenance grew pleading. “I believed in Bachel. I believe. She is no false prophet. She speaks with the authority of Azlagûr, and how can any question Azlagûr when we live with His dreams? We all share in the dream of Nal Gorgoth and the vision of what may come. And when that vision becomes manifest…” She shivered violently. “The world will be remade according to Azlagûr’s will.” She rubbed her arms as if cold. “Always I wondered at what lay beyond this valley. Always Bachel has told us of the evils that inhabit Alagaësia, of the war and injustices.” She shook her head. “But you are not evil, Kingkiller. Nor is Thorn. And the way in which Bachel has treated Thorn…It goes against everything I know. Every tenet I believe. Everything she has preached to us over the years!”

She turned and paced between the cells, distraught. Still, Murtagh held his tongue. With a wild look, she spun back to him, her small teeth bared

like those of a cornered animal. “Dragons are the lifeblood of the land, Kingkiller! They are the source of all that is good, the font of life and magic and…and…They are to be worshipped. Revered. Honored. Served. And yet Bachel says this mistreatment of Thorn is necessary. Needed. According to Azlagûr’s will! I…I—” She broke off and shivered again as if with fever.

Murtagh rose on unsteady legs and went to the door of his cell. Soft and slow, he said, “What…do…you…want?”

A film of tears silvered Alín’s eyes. “I want to help Thorn. And— No, it is too selfish of me.”


“I want to see the truth of the world before Azlagûr washes it clean.” “Then…help us.”

“It is not that simple, Kingkiller. Bachel is the Speaker. She is our mehtra! I have sworn oaths to her and to Azlagûr. I cannot break them, and if I did, oh! If I did, my soul would be forever forsaken.” Her skin glistened with a sheen of sweat, and he could smell the sour stench of her fear. “You ask me to cast away my life and condemn my eternal future for this.”

“…for what is right.” The words struck home. He could see it in the misery of her expression. He struggled to order his thoughts. “…oaths bind, but you…can change…free yourself…. I…know. I did.”

Alín looked at him with anguish. “How?”

He did not want to say, but he had no other resort but the deepest reservoir of truth. “…for the sake…of another.”

Alín’s eyes widened, and he felt as if she were seeing his innermost self. Then her shoulders caved in, and she shook her head and uttered a soft sob. “I can’t. I haven’t the strength.”

The floor seemed to tilt underneath him and the cell spin. He staggered and grasped the iron bars for support. He took a steadying breath, trying to maintain a semblance of clarity. “…family?”

Alín shook her head. “No. I was found as a child. As many Draumar are.”

Blood on the ground. Orthroc fallen in mangled heaps. Bodies large and small. A chill gripped Murtagh. He could guess how the children had come

to Nal Gorgoth. Orphans. Innocents.

Sorrow overcame him, and he reached toward Alín’s cheek, wanting only to comfort her.

She flinched but did not retreat.

Her skin was feverishly hot against his palm. She let out a small cry as he touched her, and he felt a tremor pass through her, but still she did not pull away. Somehow he knew that was significant. A line had been crossed that could never be uncrossed.

Tears rolled down her face. In a whisper, she said, “I want…I want a better dream, one of cheer and hope and love.”

“…then help us.”

She stared at him with a hope as desperate as his own, and he sensed no guile in her heart. “If you leave, will you take me with you, Kingkiller?”

“…yes…I swear it.”

A moment, and then she withdrew from his hand and rubbed her arms again. Her lips parted, as if she meant to speak, but instead, she hurried away before he could do anything to keep her.

He turned a helpless gaze to Uvek, who was watching as always. “…did I scare…her?”

The Urgal grunted and scratched at his neck. “Hrmm. Maybe yes, but


More footsteps sounded, and Alín reappeared carrying a bowl and

pitcher. She avoided Murtagh’s eyes as she knelt and placed the dishes just outside his cell. Then she bobbed a quick curtsy, as she might have to Bachel, and rushed off again.

“Is always rushing, that one,” said Uvek.

Murtagh didn’t answer as he pulled the dishes into his cell. He cautiously tasted the watered wine in the pitcher and then the bread and soup in the bowl. None of them burned like brandy as he swallowed.

He looked to Uvek and nodded.

The Urgal grew very still, as if readying himself for action. “How long, you think, Murtagh-man?”

“I don’t…know. A day?…maybe more…depends…how much…gave me.”

“The black smoke time is only day or two away. I think it bad if we still here when it happens.”

“…that soon?” He hadn’t realized the festival was so close. “Hrmm. Heal faster, Murtagh-man.”



Every meal thereafter, Alín brought Murtagh food free of vorgethan. He had hoped that his body might purge the drug within a few hours, but to his aggravation and disappointment, the process was far slower.

Other cultists continued to feed Uvek, and the Urgal remained under the effects of the vorgethan. Murtagh asked Alín if she could help Uvek as well, but she shook her head and explained that a man by the name of Isvar prepared Uvek’s food, and that Isvar had been specially appointed by Bachel and would not surrender the honor.

So they waited, and every few minutes that Murtagh was awake, he tried to access the energy in the yellow diamond, that he might transfer it into the blackstone charm. At some point, he had to succeed. The question was whether that would happen before the time of the black smoke.

He was growing increasingly concerned about the festival. From certain fragments he overheard, it seemed to him that Bachel was planning something particularly dramatic, and he worried that her plan would involve him and Thorn.

Even though Murtagh was no longer receiving the vorgethan, his mind felt as clouded as ever. The witch continued to use the Breath on him whenever they met, and the stench of the swirling miasma never seemed to leave his nostrils.

The following morning, Murtagh noticed that a goodly portion of Bachel’s guests were departing. They gathered in the courtyard on their fine horses, carrying their colorful pennants, and they saluted Bachel. The man

Murtagh felt he ought to recognize said, “Fare thee well, Bachel. We shall send you tidings of our plans ere long.”

The witch picked at the rim of her dented goblet. “ ’Twere best if you stayed for the time of the black smoke.”

The grim-faced man inclined his head. “We’ll leave such things to you and your followers.” He looked at Murtagh with an expression of mild disgust. “And to whatever you have made of him.”

“Ah, but I and my companions shall stay and keep you company, most honorable Bachel,” said Lyreth. He stood at one corner of the courtyard along with four other men. They all had ruddy cheeks, as if from drink.

Bachel did not seem impressed. To the first man, she smiled and gestured, as if giving permission. “Go, then, and safe sailing upon your journey. Let the culmination of our plans arrive most swiftly.”

“My Lady.”

And with that, the group trotted out of Nal Gorgoth, heading for the Bay of Fundor and the ship Murtagh knew was docked thereat.



With every hour that passed, Murtagh felt as if his body were becoming lighter, more responsive. Unfortunately, his mind failed to follow suit. Every thought took work, and it was difficult to hold on to one for any length of time. And yet he could tell that the drug vorgethan was slowly working its way out of his limbs.

But not fast enough for his liking. The villagers were growing more excited by the prospect of their festival; even the heavy-browed Grieve seemed enlivened.

Bachel dismissed Murtagh early that day, as she was preoccupied with preparations for the festival. He didn’t mind. The less he saw of the witch, the better.

Once back in his cell, he did not sit or lie down. Despite his sluggish mind, he forced himself to stand and pace. Movement, as Tornac had told

him, always cleared the blood. So he moved, with the hope of speeding the passage of the vorgethan from his veins.

Uvek watched with impassive patience. Only once did he ask if Murtagh had succeeded with the diamond. Aside from that, the Urgal seemed content to wait. Seeing him squatting in his cell, the flickering light casting deep shadows from Uvek’s horns, Murtagh could imagine the Urgal situated in a high mountain cave, as still and silent as a statue, an oracle waiting for the faithful to flock to his feet.

And still, Murtagh paced.

He was getting close to being able to access the energy in the diamond.

He could feel it: a delicate tickle, like an itch high in his nose. If only…

A noise at the head of the hallway. Alín, bringing him his evening meal.

Bread, a soup of boar meat, and watered wine.

Before she left, he said, “…wait…can you bring me…my sword, Zar’roc?”

She shook her head, hair hiding her face. “I can’t,” she whispered. “…where?”

“Bachel keeps your sword and armor in the temple, in her presence chamber.”

That made sense. He nodded slowly. “I’m nearly…free. Can you…help ready Thorn?…water…food…saddle…shackles?”

She hesitated. The hair still covered her face, and she made no move to brush it aside. Soft as a falling petal, she said, “I will try, Kingkiller.”

“…thank…you…. We could use…supplies of…our…own…as well.” Again a pause, and then she turned away and departed.

Murtagh remained where he was, watching.

“She still uncertain, Murtagh-man.” It was the first thing the Urgal had said in hours.

Murtagh grunted as he lowered himself onto the stones. “She’ll do… what’s right.”

Uvek’s head swung from side to side. “Depends on what she thinks is right.”

“…always…does.” Murtagh looked over at the Urgal. He felt inexpressibly tired. Worry, guilt, and the constant fight to think had consumed his limited strength. Just for a moment, he wanted to forget Bachel and everything about Nal Gorgoth. “…tell me a…story, Uvek.”

The Urgal’s heavy forehead wrinkled as he lifted his brow. “What sort of story?”

“…of your people.”

Hrmm. I have many peoples. My family. My clan that I left. My fellow Urgralgra.”

Murtagh waved a hand. He was too tired to bother with details. “… you…pick.”

For a minute more, Uvek was silent, ruminating. Then his brow cleared. “I know. I will tell you of son of Svarvok, Ahno the Trickster. This was in time of red clover, when rivers tasted of iron. Ahno had changed himself into deer, and Svarvok sent wolves to chase him, nip at his heels, but Ahno laughed at father and changed himself into wolf instead. Seven winters Ahno ran with wolves, lived as wolf, ate as wolf. Was part of pack. Led pack. You hear, Murtagh-man?”

“…I hear.”

“Good. Hrr. Problem was, wolves did not choose Ahno. Did not want him. But could not drive him from the pack. Ahno was too strong, even in shape of wolf. But—” Uvek’s eyes gleamed with sly delight, and the tips of his fangs showed between his lips. “Wolves are cunning. A black-skin she-wolf known as Sharptooth went one night to gathering of wolves beneath full moon. Was bright as day with light from moon on snow. Wolves howl and growl and Sharptooth convinces pack to help her. Next day, Ahno’s pack goes hunt red deer. They run deep in forest, where shadows and big antlers live. Then Sharptooth came to Ahno and lured him away from pack.” Uvek’s expression grew rather goatish. “He liked her shape, her fur, and her teeth. You understand, Murtagh-man?”


Hrr-hrr. Sharptooth ran and ran, and Ahno followed, until they arrive at cliff. All packs wait there, hidden in bush. On cliff, Sharptooth let Ahno

approach. Then she bite Ahno, and other packs come and snap and growl and run at Ahno, and they drive him”—Uvek made a diving swoop with his hand—“over edge of cliff. Fall not kill him, Murtagh-man. Wolves know this. Ahno son of Svarvok very hard to kill. At bottom of cliff was cave, and in cave lived ûhldmaq. You know?”

Murtagh shook his head. “…no.”

“Is Urgralgra who became bear. Very dangerous. Is told of in the stories of before times. This ûhldmaq was named Zhargog, and he was very old, very hungry. He came at wounded Ahno and fought with him, and ground shook and rocks fell, and at last, Ahno had to give up wolf form and return to being Horned. Then he fled, and Svarvok spoke to him, say, ‘Ho! now, Ahno! You have given up your teeth and paws and fur. What have you learned from this, my son?’ And Ahno laugh despite hurts and say, ‘It not good to run with pack that does not want me. I will find pack that does want.’ Then he change into eagle and fly away. And how Svarvok dealt with son then is another story entirely. Hrmm.”

Murtagh returned his gaze to the ceiling. “…are there…many…stories of Ahno?”

“Oh yes, Murtagh-man. Entire winter’s worth. Ahno was very clever, got into much trouble. In end, gods put him on mountaintop, tie him to stone so they not have to listen to his constant talk.”

“Did he ever…find his pack?”

“For a time, Murtagh-man. For a time.”



That night, the dreams that came to Murtagh exceeded all bounds of normal constraint. They possessed such vivid, horrific immediacy that reality itself seemed to have broken into blazing fragments: each an image that contained an epic’s worth of meaning—meaning that was understood perfectly and utterly and without words.

He careened through hallucinations of the highest order, where the air seemed to twist and bend, and every emotion, every fear and hope and joy,

was given its shining instant beneath the black-sun sky.

The night felt endless, but even eternity itself could not endure, and at last the visions grounded themselves in something Murtagh knew far, far too well and that—given the choice—he would have rather forgotten.

The air was cold with winter’s last breath, and steam rose from the droppings in the stable. He was trying to be quiet as he and Tornac hurried to saddle their horses. The animals nickered and pawed impatiently, eager to be gone. They hadn’t been ridden for over a week and were excited for release from the city.

“Easy there,” said Murtagh, petting his charger.

His sword kept getting in the way, tangling with his legs, as he wrestled the saddle onto the charger’s back. Both he and Tornac were armed, and under his cloak, Murtagh wore a coat of fine mail.

They moved with hurried fear. Blankets, saddles, harnesses, bags laden with the supplies they’d need to get far from Urû’baen.

“What if he comes looking for us?” Murtagh whispered. He still couldn’t believe they were leaving the capital once and for all, leaving behind everything he’d known for the last fifteen years.

Tornac looked over the back of his horse, a roan mare with a white star on her breast. The swordmaster’s lean, tanned face was deadly serious, but there was a light to his expression that bespoke anticipation and, perhaps, a portion of excitement. Danger always quickened the blood. “Then we hide. Dragon eyes are keen, but even they can’t see through leaves or branches, and the king can’t take the time to search every copse and grove in the Empire. As long as we get enough of a head start, he’ll never find us.”

Murtagh was still troubled. “What if he uses magic? He must have spells to search. And I’ve heard he can reach out with his thoughts and find a person, even if they’re on the other side of Urû’baen.”

Then Tornac gripped Murtagh’s shoulder and fixed him with a firm gaze. “The charms I had off the hedge-witch will protect us from any sort of spying. The king is not all-powerful, Murtagh. No one is. Were every whisper about Galbatorix true, the Varden would have long since fallen to his might. As would the elves and dwarves.”

Murtagh pulled on the charger’s girth, tightening it the appropriate amount. “You shouldn’t have said his name,” he muttered.

Tornac paused in his own work. “Do you not want to leave?” “…I do.”

A nod from Tornac as he returned to adjusting the roan’s saddlebags. “Then enough of this. We need to be well gone before dawn breaks.” Murtagh grunted, and Tornac gave him a considering look. “We agreed. You can’t stay. If you do, the king


“If I do, the king will turn me into my father. He’ll make me into another one of his bloody-minded lackeys, same as Barst or Yarek,” said Murtagh, with no attempt to hide his bitterness.

“It’s not just that,” said Tornac. “Even if you weren’t Morzan’s son, this isn’t a good place for you, Murtagh. Those leeches at court will ruin you if you stay.”

Pride made him reply, “I’d never let them.”

Tornac stopped and stared at him over the back of the roan. “You say that now, but they’ll keep grinding you down, year after year. That sort of attention cripples a man’s soul. I’ve seen it happen.” He returned to working on the horse’s tack. “You need to be free. Free of Galbatorix. Free of court. Free to make your own choices. Only then will you become the man I know you can be.” The care in his voice surprised Murtagh, but Tornac’s face was hidden behind the horse’s side. “You deserve a chance to find your way, and blast it if I’ll stand by and let them make you into something resembling Lyreth or his like. Trust me. Leaving is for the best.”

Only then had Murtagh realized that Tornac’s true motivation had nothing to do with opposing the king, and he felt a sudden sense of gratitude. “I trust you.”

Once their steeds were ready—their hooves muffled with rags—they departed. The boy who slept in the stables was still asleep, and the watchman whose duty it was to walk rounds through that part of the citadel was at the far end of his route. Tornac and Murtagh had planned their escape most carefully.

Out they went through the side gate of the citadel keep, open and unguarded during festival week, and headed toward Urû’baen’s outer curtain wall. The clopping of the horses’ hooves was a soft accompaniment as they made their way between the rows of sleeping houses. The sky was nearly black, and the great shelf of stone that hung over the eastern half of the city blocked any view of dawn’s first light.

The relatively short distance to the wall seemed at least a league, for their nerves were stretched to the point of breaking, and at every slight breath of wind, Murtagh

expected Shruikan’s black form to burst from the citadel as the king came to accost them.

They soon arrived at the postern gate set within the back portion of the city’s defenses. Murtagh had bribed a watchman to leave it open, and so it was. He held the reins while Tornac unbarred the door, and then, together, they hurried through the dark, tunnel-like exit that led through the enormous curtain wall.

Then dismay. Fear. Hopelessness. Waiting for them in the field outside was a group of soldiers. Twelve spearmen, with a proud captain at the fore, his white-plumed helmet catching the last remnants of starlight.

At first Murtagh had a wild, horrible thought that Tornac had betrayed him. But then he saw the swordmaster’s face; Tornac was as distressed as he. Perhaps more so.

“So, the wayward sheep have been found,” said the captain with entirely too much glee. “The king will be pleased. Release your steeds, Murtagh son of Morzan, Tornac son of Tereth, and drop your weapons, and you shall not be harmed. This you have on my word, and as royal decree.”

There was no choice. Murtagh let go of the reins, as did Tornac, and reached for the buckle of his sword belt.

If he had not known Tornac so well, he would have missed the man’s intention. The slight shift of the swordmaster’s stance as he grounded his feet, balanced his weight—it was all the warning Murtagh got.

Tornac feinted with his hand, first appearing to grasp his own belt, but then, with deadly speed, diverting to grasp the hilt of his sword and draw the blade.

The captain barely managed the first note of a high-pitched screech before Tornac caught him in the throat with a perfectly placed lunge.

The soldiers yelled and scattered while Murtagh scrabbled to draw his own sword.

It snagged in the sheath, and freeing it took precious seconds.

In that time, Tornac wounded two more soldiers and had begun advancing on a third. The men found their courage then and closed in around the swordmaster with their spears a ringed thicket of stabbing points.

Then the sheath released Murtagh’s sword, and he fell upon the soldiers from the side, and for the second time in two days, he fought, and he killed.

Never before had Murtagh let loose with such a combination of cold-minded ruthlessness and desperate savagery. But he was not only fighting for himself—he was

fighting to help Tornac, and he would have sooner taken a blow than see the swordmaster harmed.

The soldiers were veterans all: trained fighting men who had been rewarded for their loyalty and doughtiness with a post guarding the citadel of Urû’baen. But they had been surprised, and the quick felling of several of their number confused them, caused them to fall back, and every time they faltered, Tornac or Murtagh extracted another life in exchange.

For the most part, they fought in silence, save for grunts and clashes of metal and the occasional quick cry. No one had the wind to speak. They were panting and fearfully focused, and sweat dripped into their eyes.

And yet…for all of Tornac’s skill, and Murtagh’s too, the numbers were badly against them. Twelve against two. Even with surprise on their side, it was hardly a fair fight. Murtagh glimpsed a blot of blood on Tornac’s right shoulder and more streaming from a cut on his scalp, and he felt a burning line somewhere on his own hip.

The swordmaster fought like a cornered cat, twisting and bounding and lashing out with blinding speed. Gone were the stylized forms used at court duels. Gone were the perfect angles and distances of sparring. And yet it was a dazzling, daring, dashing display that would have won applause from even the most jaded audience. At that moment, Murtagh truly believed that no man could have stood before Tornac.

But like all perfect moments, even in dreams, it could not last.

Murtagh tripped, and he felt the point of a spear jar his ribs as a soldier rushed him. He fell. Before he could make sense of what was happening, Tornac was standing over him, sword buried in the soldier’s side.

Then another soldier came at Tornac from behind and, with a long-bladed knife, stabbed him between the shoulder blades and bore him to the ground.

Murtagh scrambled free and slew the soldier before he could pull the knife out of Tornac’s back. Then another minute of desperate fighting followed as he contended with the last four soldiers.

The men were no match for Murtagh, but he knew they were sworn to Galbatorix with the most solemn of oaths. They could no more retreat than he would surrender.

In the end, in the grey predawn light, only he remained standing amid the scattered bodies. The roan mare had run from the field, but his charger stood by the gate, snorting and pawing.

Anguished, Murtagh staggered over to Tornac and turned him on his side. Frothed blood dripped from the swordmaster’s lips, but his eyes were still open, and he smiled as he saw Murtagh. “Did you end them rightly?” he asked.

Murtagh nodded, struggling to find enough breath to speak. “All dead.” He grasped the swordmaster’s hands. They were startlingly cold.

Tornac smiled again. “I taught you well, Murtagh.” Then his expression caught, and his grip weakened. “Tell…tell Ola I’m sorry…. If you get the chance.”

“Of course,” said Murtagh. He couldn’t bear to think how the pleasant, round-cheeked woman would take the news.

“She’s going to hate me for this.” Tornac’s eyes wandered, and then his gaze sharpened again, and for a moment, he was as lucid as Murtagh ever remembered. “Go. You have to go, blast you. Take my charm and leave me. I’m done. Go and be free and forget…me….” A harsh rattle sounded in his chest, and his body went limp, and the gleam faded from his eyes.

Then Murtagh wept, and he was not ashamed.

A disjunction, and Murtagh once again found himself cowering on the desolate plain, at the end of all things, with the black sun rippling with tendrils of black flame while the monstrous, mountainous, humpbacked dragon rose wingless against the horizon, blotting out light and hope.

Another disjunction. A field of golden grass blanketed the gentle curve of a hill. Standing amid the grass was Nasuada clad in a dress of red velvet. She turned to look back at him, and she held out her hand toward him, but her expression was sorrowful, and no matter how he reached for her, he could not close the distance.

Then the sky darkened, and the sun lost its luster, and land and sky both became the color of tarnished pewter. Tears traced lines down Nasuada’s cheeks, but he felt them on his own, hot with regret and the pain of parting.

Stars pricked the blackened sky, and a sense of impending and unavoidable doom hollowed out his chest. And far in the distance, a humped mass stirred along the

horizon and began to ascend to eat the guttering sun….



Murtagh woke covered in cold sweat, disoriented, uncertain of what was real and what wasn’t, and yet consumed by a sudden conviction that time was desperately short.

The clash of chimes and bells and brazen cymbals sounded outside the temple, loud enough that the commotion filtered through the stones of the building. And wild, barbaric cries too, as if the entire village had gone mad.

Across the hall, half-shadowed Uvek looked out with a grim, heavy-lined expression. “Time of black smoke has arrived, Murtagh-man.”

Fear spurred Murtagh to action. He pawed through his cloak until he felt the yellow diamond hidden within the hem. Where was the charm Uvek had given him? Where? Where? Where? For a moment, he couldn’t remember. Then he recalled: tucked deep in his left boot.

He grasped the charm and reached for the energy stored in the diamond. The swirling vortex tickled his brain, tantalizingly close. He could almost touch it. The drug vorgethan must have been nearly purged from his body, but try though he might, he couldn’t quite unlock the flow of energy.


The unseen door at the end of the hall opened, and boots tromped toward the cells. Cultists come to fetch him.

Murtagh yanked his hand out of his boot and stood. He cursed to himself. He’d been too slow. Time had run out. Now he had to face whatever the Draumar had planned.

Black smoke. Black sun. Doom.

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