Chapter no 50 – Acceptance

Murtagh (The Inheritance Cycle, #5)

He was warm, and a soft weight lay upon him, holding him down with comforting closeness. That much he knew.

A haze of milky brightness formed in front of him. He blinked, unable to make out any details within the smear of light.

It seemed important to rise, but his limbs refused to respond. He lay limp and slack, save for his breathing.

The flow of air into his lungs was smooth and unlabored.

Again he tried to move. His arms stirred slightly, and a small groan escaped him.

A hand—dark and smooth—descended to press against his chest.

“Stay. You were badly hurt. Rest while you can.” The voice was gentle, reserved, but still firm.

He knew the voice. How many times had he heard it in his dreams? How many times had he yearned (and feared) to hear it again?…Yet he wondered: Was he dreaming still?

Once more he struggled to sit, but the effort defeated him, and he sank back into softness. Despite his inner protest, his eyelids descended, and the waiting darkness embraced him.

And he knew no more.



The golden light of late afternoon fanned across the plaster ceiling. A sweet smell of flowers pervaded the air, and water—as of a small brook—trickled nearby, while soft coos of drowsy doves sounded among rustling leaves.

A gentle breeze stirred a pair of white muslin curtains.

Murtagh lay beneath a heavy blanket, on a large four-poster bed. He felt no desire to move. His whole body was relaxed to the point of immobility.

A frown formed as he continued to stare at the ceiling. He knew that ceiling. He had grown up looking at just such a ceiling, and seeing it again made him feel as if nothing of the past few years had really happened.

He almost believed it.

Ilirea. I’m in Ilirea. His stomach knotted at the thought of again facing… her. But how?

He started to rise and heard, “Ah, ah! Please take care, Kingkiller.”

His eyes widened, and he turned his head to see a young woman sitting next to the bed. Flaxen hair fixed in a neat braid, and a simple servant’s gown of green. Pale skin surrounding eyes the color of a summer sky. A ripening bruise and a pair of scabbed scratches marred her left cheek and temple, but otherwise she appeared fresh-faced and well fed, if somewhat worried.

“Alín,” he breathed.

Behind her, Thorn sat crouched by the sill of a great dormer window, large enough for the dragon to pass through. Even as Murtagh saw him, the dragon lifted himself off the floor and stalked over dwarven rugs to the end of the bed.

Alín stood and smoothed her dress. “You must be famished, Kingkiller.

Rest here, and I will fetch you something.”

Before Murtagh could object, she hurried from the room, her skirt swishing with each step. The chamber’s heavy oaken doors creaked as they opened and shut. In the hall outside, Murtagh glimpsed a pair of guards standing at attention.

Thorn extended his neck until his nose touched Murtagh’s outstretched hand. You live, the dragon said.

As do you…. You came for me. Into the cave.

Thorn hummed, and his eyes glittered with ruby light. Of course. You needed me.

Tears threatened to spill down Murtagh’s cheeks. Thank you.

Thorn dipped his head. You will never again have to crawl into a cave alone. Not so long as you are my Rider and I am your dragon. And then Thorn spoke his true name, and Murtagh heard and felt the difference in the dragon’s self. His heart near to broke with relief, and pride too, that after so very long, his closest friend and bonded partner had finally won out over his fear.

Then tears did fall from Murtagh’s eyes, and he wrapped his arms around Thorn’s head and held him tightly. Ah, that makes me happy. There is something you should know as well.


I am not who or what I was either. And Murtagh spoke his true name, in all its flawed extent, so his very essence was laid bare.

Thorn’s inner eyelids snicked closed, and he gently licked Murtagh’s arm.

You are free.

We both are…. I’m sorry. I should have been more careful in taking us to Nal Gorgoth.

A slight growl sounded in Thorn’s chest. The deed is done, the fight is ended, and we still have our freedom. It is not so bad.

Grateful, Murtagh laid his chest against Thorn’s scaled brow and savored their closeness. All felt right between them, and that, more than anything, mattered.

At last, he released his hold on Thorn and looked around the room.

It was one of the large chambers in the northern wing of the citadel, where the structure had been relatively undamaged by Galbatorix’s explosive self-immolation over a year ago. Murtagh vaguely remembered the room being used by the head of the royal mint, but he couldn’t recall for sure.

Then he looked down at himself. A white linen shirt hung upon him, smooth against his back. No bandages were wrapped about his chest, and although he felt sore and tired, he wasn’t in pain.

When did— he started to say.

The doors to the chamber swung open, and Alín entered, carrying a platter with bread, fruit, and cheese, as well as an earthen pitcher alongside a crystal chalice. She walked around Thorn, placed the platter on the small side table next to the bed, and again seated herself.

Then Alín took the pitcher and poured watered wine into the chalice, which she handed to him. “Here. A drink will do you some good, my Lord.”

Murtagh obeyed. She was right; his throat was painfully dry.

“Four days,” said Alín. “That is how long you have been in Ilirea, Kingkiller.” She smiled slightly. “I thought you might wish to know.”

He placed the empty chalice on the side table. “It would be best if you refrain from calling me Kingkiller here, Alín. As a title, it will earn me no favors.”

Her cheeks colored, and she ducked her head. “My apologies.”

“That’s not…How did we get here? How did you? I thought you were left behind in Oth Orum.”

“No, not quite,” said Alín. “Uvek found me and had me climb onto Thorn behind him. I was with you the entire time.”

“I didn’t see you.”

She shook her head. “You wouldn’t have, my Lord. You were delirious from your wound.”

Murtagh glanced around. He half expected to see the Urgal step out from behind a tapestry. “And Uvek? Is he here?”

No, said Thorn, and Murtagh could tell that the dragon was speaking to both of them. He went to help his people, but he bid us welcome to his hearth and home whenever we might so wish.

A pang of regret surprised Murtagh. He would have liked to thank the Urgal in person. “I see.”

From her skirt Alín produced a small length of knotted rope, rough, brown, and frayed, but formed with obvious deftness. She handed it to Murtagh. Puzzled, he turned it over.

She said, “Uvek gave this to me that I might keep it safe for you. He said that it means brother in his tongue.”

“Brother.” Murtagh glanced from the knotted rope to the inside of his left wrist. There, the cut that marked his blood oath with Uvek had been healed. But not entirely. A small white scar remained as a permanent reminder. A new scar to go with an old one. It was not an unpleasant thought.

With a sense of gratitude, he tucked the knotted rope into his shirt. He knew he would keep it safe for the rest of his life. Family, it seemed, came in many forms, and odd as it was, he thought of the Urgal as such. Then he returned his attention to Alín. “You were very brave in Oth Orum. And also before. If not for you, none of us would have escaped.”

“You’re too kind, my Lord.” She pressed her lips together. “Bachel betrayed our beliefs. Even if she was being true to Azlagûr, even if she was still serving His will, I wanted no part in it.”

“Still, what you did wasn’t easy. Thank you.”

Her cheeks colored again. “What you had to endure was far harder, my Lord.”

Uncomfortable, Murtagh changed tack. “Have you been well here? Have they treated you fairly?” Has she? But he did not voice the thought.

Alín nodded, serious. “Oh yes. Very well.”

“And is Alagaësia everything you hoped it would be?” “Everything and more. Only…”

“Only what?”

Her expression grew troubled. “I worry about the Draumar. I know Bachel is dead, but a new Speaker will be chosen, and…”

Murtagh thought he knew the true source of her unease. He shared it. “And what?”

She looked at him with open earnestness. “I fear…” She swallowed and lowered her voice to a whisper. “What if Azlagûr is truly risen?”

A chill crept into Murtagh’s bones. “Worry not. Thorn and I will see to it the Draumar are dealt with. As for Azlagûr—”

A creak of iron hinges interrupted him as the chamber’s doors swung open—pushed by a pair of handmaidens—and Nasuada strode into the room.

As always, the sight of her had a physical effect on Murtagh: his pulse quickened, and his muscles tensed, and he felt an apprehensive gladness. The light from the windows framed Nasuada’s face as she gazed at him with a serious, watchful expression. Her dress was red velvet with gold trim—as fine a garment as had ever graced Galbatorix’s court—with sleeves tailored short to show the ridged scars on her forearms. And unlike when he’d last seen her, in the courtyard before the half-destroyed citadel in Ilirea, a shining, beautifully crafted crown rested upon her brow.

Old habits made Murtagh pull back the blanket and descend from the bed to stand upon unsteady legs. He was, he was relieved to see, wearing soft trousers. He bowed as well as he could. “Your Majesty.” The words were an unsettling echo of the formalities he had observed with Galbatorix.

“Murtagh.” Her expression was impossible for him to read. Then she gestured at her servants. “Leave us now.”

The handmaidens curtsied and departed. Likewise, Alín rose from her chair and, with a slight apologetic glance at Murtagh, hurried from the room.

The doors closed with heavy finality.

You do not expect me to depart, hmm? said Thorn, sharing his thoughts with Nasuada.

The queen’s expression didn’t change. “Of course not. You are a welcome guest, Thorn.”

Murtagh wondered if the same were true of him.

A spate of lightheadedness caused him to sway, and Nasuada said, “Sit before you fall over.”

With some gratitude, he lowered himself onto the edge of the bed.

He watched, wary, as Nasuada approached with perfectly measured steps and settled into Alín’s recently vacated seat. “You should be careful. It was no sure thing that you would live. You were fever-blind and raving when Thorn brought you here. My spellcasters had to labor long and hard to save you.”

He winced. The attentions of Du Vrangr Gata were hardly what he would have wanted, but then, he was alive, and for that he was grateful.

“Then I am in their debt. And yours.” Later, he would have to use the Name of Names to remove whatever unwanted enchantments the queen’s pet magicians might have placed upon him. As well as Bachel, he thought with sudden alarm.

Nasuada inclined her head. “The work was not entirely theirs. I am told”—her eyes flickered toward Thorn—“that your companion, the Urgal Uvek, used a charm that was sufficient to keep you from dying on the spot.”

“He did a lot more than just that.” Murtagh spoke his next words with care. “Who else knows that Thorn and I are in Ilirea?”

She turned and plucked a dried apricot from the platter on the side table and took the smallest bite.

“If you are asking whether the people of the city are currently assembled outside these walls, clamoring for your head…you may rest assured, they are not. Thorn was careful in his approach. He found my mind, at night, and I saw to it that no one might hear his wings as he brought you to this very room.” She waited as he took another drink. “Only I, my handmaids, and a select few of my spellcasters know you are here, and they have all sworn to me oaths of utmost secrecy in the ancient language.”

That made Murtagh feel better. But only a bit. “And what of you?” he asked. “Do you wish to claim my head, Your Majesty?” He trembled slightly, and he was not sure why. He hoped it went unnoticed.

The queen took her time answering. “That depends.” Her bearing softened somewhat then, and for the first time, a deep well of concern appeared within her eyes. The sight of it left him unbalanced. He was not used to such consideration. “Murtagh…what happened? Thorn has given me some of it, but not all he said made sense, and Alín insisted it was not her place to say. I would have the rest from you. The truth.”

“The truth…” Murtagh reached over, took the platter of food from the side table, and placed it on his lap. “If I may.”

“As you will.”

He tore off a piece of bread and paired it with the hard sheep cheese. He chewed without thinking, without feeling, simply seeking the strength to say what was needed.

Nasuada waited without complaint. She contained a stillness not unlike Uvek’s: a patient, careful watchfulness, as of a hunter observing a dangerous animal.

Murtagh knew he was that animal.

He swallowed. “Did you receive my letter? I sent you one from Gil’ead.”

Nasuada nodded. “It arrived two days before you did. I must say, it raised more questions than it answered.”

“Ah. Well then…Where to start?” He started at the beginning, on the day they had parted—on the day Galbatorix had died—when Umaroth had warned him of brimstone and fire and not delving too deeply in the depths. He spoke slowly, haltingly, at first, finding it difficult to frame things with the proper words. Nasuada did not press him, and the words came more easily as he went. At least for a time. He told her of his suspicions and the reasons he’d pursued them, and how that pursuit had led him to Ceunon and thence to Gil’ead.

He told her of all that had occurred in Gil’ead, of Carabel and Muckmaw and Captain Wren and the traitors within Du Vrangr Gata—of Lyreth and the tangle box, and the destruction that had resulted thereof.

Nasuada listened without interruption, but he saw her expression alternately soften and harden, and often he could not tell why.

Then of his and Thorn’s great flight north, he spoke. Of the mountains and the herds of red deer and the villages of the Urgals. He drank and ate as he could, but his appetite deserted him when it came time to speak of Nal Gorgoth.

Murtagh faltered then, and the words again grew difficult. Yet he persisted. He spoke unsparingly of the village, and Bachel, and his mistakes that resulted in the witch ensnaring and imprisoning both him and Thorn.

He made no attempt to hide what had happened to them while in Bachel’s thrall. He told Nasuada every sordid detail, and as he spoke of their torture, she placed her hand on his, and the understanding in her eyes caused him even more pain than his recollection.

“You must hate me for what I did to you,” he said in a thick voice. “At first, but only at first. It wasn’t your choice.”

He squeezed her fingers, a silent thanks. Still, his guilt remained. “I don’t know how you endured. I…I couldn’t.”

“It helped to know you cared.”

Tears again filled his eyes, and he looked out the window, unable to bear Nasuada’s gaze. “She broke me. And there was nothing I could do about it. I…” His voice hitched, and his throat tightened like a clenched fist.

Then he spoke of the raid on the Orthroc. The images that filled his head were worse than any nightmare, and when he attempted to explain whom he had slain—attempted to describe the fallen bodies, large and small

—his emotions burst forth, and he wept openly, without shame.

Nasuada stirred, and he felt her hand upon the back of his head, and he bent toward her as his grief ran its course. She held him, and her presence was a balm for his soul.

In time, he found the strength to continue.



“Do you think that the creature you felt was Azlagûr?”

They were sitting by the dormer window, looking out over a small atrium with an ash tree growing in the center and an artful stream that wound among beds of perennials. Rock doves roosted among the branches of the ash, and a cheeky red-tailed squirrel ran up and down the trunk, chattering at every movement above and below.

After speaking for so long, Murtagh couldn’t bear to remain in the bed, so they had moved to the sill, next to Thorn. Murtagh’s legs had been stiff and weak, but Nasuada had helped him, without comment, by wrapping an arm tight around his waist.

Her scent was completely different from the stench of brimstone: sweet and clean and healthy. It made it hard for him to concentrate.

“I don’t know. If nothing else, I believe it was what the Draumar believe to be Azlagûr.”

Nasuada looked out over the walls of the atrium toward the western horizon. The sun was setting, and the buildings of Ilirea cast long shadows

back toward the citadel. The serenity of the city stood in stark contrast to how it had last appeared to him: covered in smoke, lit with fire, and echoing with the discordant clamor of battle. Not unlike his final visions of Nal Gorgoth….

“Do you think you killed it?” she asked. “I hope so, but…I fear not.”

She looked back at him, and he saw his concern mirrored in her eyes. “How could a creature so large go undiscovered for so long?”

“I’m not sure it has. The Draumar know of it, and the dragons too, it seems. Some of them, at least.” He scratched his beard. It was getting longer than he liked. “I need to talk with Eragon, to warn him. And I want to question Umaroth and find out exactly what he and the other Eldunarí know. I’d ask you to send a courier on my behalf, but I wouldn’t trust this to a scroll or to someone’s mind. Besides, a courier would be too slow, and— No, once I’m fit, Thorn and I will go to Mount Arngor.”

“That may not be necessary.” “Oh?”

Nasuada gestured toward the main part of the citadel. “Before he left, Eragon enchanted a scrying mirror, that I might communicate with him more easily than by courier. He did the same for all the kings and queens of the land.”

Murtagh allowed himself a rueful smile. “Of course he did. He’s getting clever, that one…. Have you spoken to him of me?”

“Not since you arrived.”

He nodded. “I see. Well, perhaps your mirror will suffice. I would prefer to avoid having to fly all the way out to Arngor. Not if this creature is loose in Alagaësia.”

Concern darkened her expression. “How great a threat do you really think it is?”

“I don’t know, but…” He shook his head. “If even half of what I saw is true, Azlagûr may be more dangerous than Galbatorix ever was.”

Nasuada pressed her lips together, and for a few minutes, they watched the sunset in silence. She, of all people, had a true understanding of

Galbatorix’s cruelty and depravity, and she had witnessed firsthand the staggering extent of his power. The king had humbled them all. It was only through the greatest of luck—and not a little skill—that they had overcome him.

She turned to Thorn. “What of you? Did you feel anything of this Azlagûr?”

No. I was too busy razing Nal Gorgoth, and by the time I found Murtagh, the caves were empty of all but vermin.

“The thing to do,” said Murtagh, “is to find El-harím and the barrows of Anghelm and wherever else black smoke might rise from the ground. Perhaps we will chance upon Azlagûr at one of them, or at least we may learn more of note.”

“El-harím,” mused Nasuada. “How strange.” “You know of it?”

“A name from an old rhyme.” She paused for a moment, considering, and then recited:

In El-harím, there lived a man, a man with yellow eyes.

To me, he said, Beware the whispers, for they whisper liesDo not wrestle with the demons of the dark,

Else upon your mind theyll place a mark; Do not listen to the shadows of the deepElse they haunt you even when you sleep.

The words struck Murtagh with unexpected familiarity. At first he could not place them, but then he remembered: the Hall of the Soothsayer, when Nasuada had allowed him to touch her mind, that he might prove his intentions. “Ah! You used that poem to shield your thoughts.”

Nasuada nodded, and he could see a shadow of the memory in her eyes. “I learned the rhyme as a child in Surda, but I cannot recall anything of its origin.”

He made a wry face. “I only caught snatches of it before. I’d forgotten until now.” He shook his head, grim. “Yet more proof that something of the

Draumar has been known for many a year. If we’d but had the eyes to see and the ears to listen, we could have discovered their existence long ago.”

“Your mention of eyes makes me wonder,” said Nasuada. “I don’t suppose Grieve’s were yellow?”

“No. That they were not. One thing is certain—the Draumar need rooting out, and the children they’ve stolen need rescuing. I also want to have a talk with Captain Wren and put a stop to the whole business with the werecat younglings, whatever that is. As soon as I’m able, we’ll set out.”

Nasuada lifted her chin. The diamond set in the center of her crown glinted in the sunset’s ruddy light. “You forget, I have not given you leave to depart Ilirea.”

Murtagh studied her, uncertain what game she was playing. In a casual-seeming way, he allowed his gaze to wander around the chamber. Were there soldiers or spellcasters hidden behind the walls? He nearly went searching with his mind, but then decided he didn’t want to know. If Nasuada were going to turn against him, he would rather leave that for the future. Even so…

Thorn, were you able to retrieve Ithring when you rescued me? I was.

Did you bring it here? I did.

Murtagh looked back at Nasuada and, in a bland tone, said, “I don’t happen to see my sword. Do you know where it is?”

A slight smile touched Nasuada’s lips. “I thought you might ask.” From within a fold of her dress, she produced a small silver bell that she rang twice before putting it away.

Once more the oak doors swung open, and Alín entered. Crosswise in her arms, she carried Ithring and Niernen. And not just them. Atop the weapons lay the cloth-wrapped bundle that Murtagh recognized as containing Glaedr’s scale, and beside it, a familiar dented brass goblet.

Alín brought the items to Murtagh. One by one, she handed them to him, and then curtsied to Nasuada and said, “Your Majesty.”

She started to depart, but Nasuada held out her hand in a commanding gesture. “A moment, Alín. Tell me, have you had any cause for complaint here in Ilirea?”

Alín made a slight curtsy. “Oh no, Your Majesty. Not at all.”

“And would you be willing to accept me as your queen and to serve as one of my faithful subjects?”

Murtagh caught a quick, uncertain glance from Alín, but then she said, “If you will have me, Your Majesty.”

“Excellent,” said Nasuada with aplomb. “Then it is settled. Tomorrow you may swear to me formally at court. However, there is another matter. Murtagh has told me much of your history, and it seems to me you are a person of uncommon spirit and fortitude. It would be foolish of me, as queen, to overlook such virtues. Thus, I ask: Would you also be willing to accept a position as one of my royal maids?”

Alín grew very still, and when she answered, her voice was small: “This is a great honor you offer me, Your Majesty.”

“It is.”

A faint tremble passed through Alín’s frame. “And what if I decline, Your Majesty?”

“Then I will bid you good fortune, and you may follow your heart’s desire wherever it leads.”

Alín lifted her head, her eyes shining. “In that case, I would be proud to accept.”

Nasuada nodded in acknowledgment. “The head of my retinue, Farica, will speak to you then about your roles and responsibilities.”

Again Alín curtsied. “Thank you, Your Majesty.” “You may go now.”

As she withdrew, Alín bobbed to Murtagh and murmured, seemingly out of habit, “Kingkiller.” Murtagh winced, and her cheeks paled as she realized what she’d said. She ducked her head and hurried away.

Once Alín was departed, and the doors closed, Nasuada turned her gaze on Murtagh. He found it difficult to meet her eyes, but meet them he did. “Was it well done?” she asked.

“It was,” he said. Of her own and with no standing to her name, Alín would have found it difficult to make her way outside Nal Gorgoth without patronage or protection of a sort Murtagh was in no position to supply. Elevating her to a royal maid was an act of charity on the part of Nasuada, but he knew there was more to it than that. Kings and queens could not afford to think of charity alone. Alín was their strongest link to the Draumar, and their best source of information on the cult. It was wise of Nasuada to keep her close, and to earn her loyalty that others might not turn Alín against them. Very well done indeed, he thought.

“She holds you in high regard,” said Nasuada, and there was no mistaking the slight edge to her voice.

In an unaffected manner, Murtagh replied, “And I hold her in high regard. If not for Alín, Thorn and I would still be at Bachel’s mercy.”


“And because of that, I thank you for the kindness you have shown her.” After a moment, Nasuada relented. “It was only right.”

“Alín was most devoted to Bachel, but Bachel betrayed her trust. She will not give her loyalty again so easily, I think, but once she sees your fairness and honor and goodness of character, I am confident she will be likewise devoted to you. She needs someone whom she can respect and believe in.”

“Are you that person?”

He turned to face her square on, his expression frank. “I have neither the reason nor the desire to command her or anyone else. Those days are long since behind me.”

“Is that so?” Nasuada picked up one of the chalices resting on the sill and sipped from it. “Kingkiller. I’ve not heard that title before.”

“I never aspired to be called so.”

“Didn’t you? You wished Galbatorix dead many a time. And you chose to kill Hrothgar.”

Before her bluntness, he had no defense. “I did. I was…angry.”

She nodded. “My father and Hrothgar were friends. Did you know that? Even when they were at odds, they respected each other, and they often

found time to talk on subjects unrelated to the responsibilities of rule. I knew Hrothgar nearly all my life. In many ways, he was the closest thing I had to an uncle.”

There was no accusation in her voice, only a straightforward statement of fact underlaid with sadness.

Murtagh looked down at Ithring and Niernen. “Do you blame me for killing Hrothgar?”

She was slow to answer, but her voice was firm when she spoke. “Yes. I do.” His heart sank, and he looked up to see her facing him with the same level of frankness he had displayed. “But I understand.”

He wasn’t sure how to respond.

To his relief, she shifted her attention to the sword and reached out to touch the crimson sheath. “The crest here is different than I remember.”

“It changed when I renamed it.”

Her eyebrows raised. “Zar’roc? You can do that?” “I can. I did.” And he told her the new name.

Her expression softened then, and she murmured: “Ithring. Freedom…It is a good name. Better than Zar’roc.”

Murtagh was surprised by how much her approval meant to him. Pensive, he slid a hand across the smooth coolness of the sheath, still unaccustomed to the new meaning associated with the weapon. Then he placed the sword, Glaedr’s scale, and the brass goblet on the floor next to his chair and held up Niernen, so the tip pointed toward the ceiling. “I fear we may need the Dauthdaert more than my sword.”

Nasuada gazed up at the lance’s glowing blade. “Will you carry it?” “I think so. Along with Ithring.”

“A Rider wielding a spear meant for killing a dragon. The elves will not approve, I think.”

“Why shouldn’t they? As long as it does not bother Thorn—” Carry as many teeth or claws as you need, the dragon said.

Murtagh tipped Niernen toward Thorn in acknowledgment. “Then so I shall.”

A frown drew together Nasuada’s brows. “You did not explain how this weapon ended up in the clutches of the Draumar.”

“If I knew, I would have— Ah!” Murtagh made a face as another memory rose to the front of his mind. “Wait.” He carefully placed the lance on the floor, next to Ithring. “I saw someone among the visitors who came to Nal Gorgoth. Someone I recognized from among the Varden. Someone in your circle of advisers.”

Nasuada’s frown deepened. “Who?”

“I don’t know. I don’t. I’ve tried to remember, but I can’t. The effects of the Breath were too strong. Thorn, do you—”

The dragon shook his long head. No. I know the one you speak of, but I can no more name him than can you.

“Barzûl,” said Nasuada. She stood and paced before the sill, forearms crossed, picking at the lace cuffs on her shortened sleeves.

“Has anyone in your court gone traveling in the past month?”

Nasuada stopped by her chair. “Far too many, I’m afraid. And I can hardly go around accusing my most trusted ministers without an ironclad reason. Are you sure you can’t remember?”

Murtagh spread his hands. “If I could, I would.”

She tapped the sill. “Were you to see this man again, do you think you could point him out?”

Murtagh considered. “I think I might.”

Nasuada nodded. “Then I will see about finding a place of concealment from which you can view my court.”

He stood as well and joined her at the window. His legs felt stronger than before. “There’s no telling who might be working against you.”

“Do you think I don’t know that?” said Nasuada. “These Draumar seem to have infiltrated my entire kingdom. Some number of Du Vrangr Gata have allied themselves with the cult, and now I do not even know if I can trust the captains of my army. At every turn, I see plots and schemes and knives lurking in shadows.”

She remained as controlled as ever, but her distress was palpable. Murtagh was not sure how to respond. Unable to think of anything to say, he dared to

put a hand on her shoulder.

A quick intake of breath from Nasuada, and she unfolded her arms and looked at him with such an expression, he was not sure whether she found the gesture comforting or whether she was about to call the guards to have him dragged away.

He dropped his hand.

“Stay,” she said in a calm, quiet voice. “What do you—”

“Don’t go searching for Azlagûr. Not for the time being. Let me send my men instead. Stay here, in Ilirea.”

His throat tightened. “As what?”

“Not as what. For what. For me.” Her gaze burrowed into him, as if searching for some hint of his reaction. “You are the only one I can rely on in these matters. The only person whom I don’t have to worry about being corrupted by gold or magic or promises of power.”

He found it as hard to breathe as in Oth Orum. “Nasuada…How would that work? Your people hate me, especially after what Thorn and I did in Gil’ead.”

“No one need know you are in Ilirea. There are ways. Trust me.”

A harsh laugh escaped him. “Shall I be your secret shame, then? Your pet spellcaster kept locked away in a tower, hidden from all? And what of Thorn? He can’t—”

She stopped him with a hand on the center of his chest. Her skin was warm through his shirt. “I have no desire to cage you, Murtagh. Neither you nor Thorn. I only suggested concealing your presence because I thought it was your desire. If you wish to make yourself known, I will vouch for you before the whole of Alagaësia.”

“Would you?” His question brought her up short. “Have you told your people how we helped kill Galbatorix?”

Speaking carefully, she said, “I have made it clear you are not our enemy, but it takes time for word to spread, and people tend to believe what is easiest. Stay in the shadows if you wish, but if, or when, you are comfortable

stepping into the light, you may, and no one—least of all I—will stop you. The choice is yours. Likewise, if you wish to leave, leave. But for now, stay.”

A moment’s pause, and then, in a softer voice still, she added, “I do not ask for reasons of state alone.”

The words were formal, but he recognized their intent, and his heart raced beneath her hand. He placed his own hand atop hers. “I will not swear fealty to Du Vrangr Gata.”

“I know.”

“Nor to the crown. Not yours, not anyone’s.” She stepped closer. “That too I know.”

He shook his head but did not push her away. “You ask me to trust you, but how can you trust me after what I did to you?” He made no attempt to hide his anguish.

She tipped her head back. Her eyes gleamed with tears. “Because I can. I do.”

He pressed his lips together, every muscle in his body tense, as if to flee. A slight tremor ran through him, and he felt a similar quiver through the back of Nasuada’s hand.

They stared into each other’s eyes, not speaking. A new understanding came to Murtagh then, unfolding within him layers of revelation.

He looked at Thorn, and in response to his questioning thought, the dragon hummed. Yes.

Trepidation gave Murtagh pause. He feared to speak, to step into the unknown. But it was necessary, so he put aside his concerns, though he felt raw and defenseless, vulnerable to the slightest scratch.

“What is it, Murtagh?” she asked in a gentle tone.

He nearly laughed, his pain was so great. “Murtagh. Son of Morzan. So the world knows me and curses me because of it.”

“That is because they do not know you as I do.”

“And yet it is who I am. That is who you want to st—”

Her fingers tightened against his chest. “It is not all you are.” “No.” He took a shuddering breath. “No, you are right.” She nodded. “It is a good name. Murtagh. I like it.”

Words failed him. For a timeless while, they stood as such, neither willing to part, and nothing else existed but the two of them. Then Thorn huffed, and Murtagh blinked. There was wetness at the corners of his eyes.

Nasuada lowered her hand. He felt the lack of her touch with almost physical force, a cold absence that sent a pang to his heart.

She turned and went to the window and looked out over the rooftops of Ilirea. Her neck and back were very straight, but the slightest waver colored her voice.

“How will you decide, then?”

Murtagh joined her. They stood looking out, side by side.

The city was nearly lost in shadow. The high outer walls blocked the evening light that straked westward, and candles and lanterns sparkled among the dusky streets, where bands of barefoot children played with dogs. Far beyond Ilirea’s outer bounds, the red-rimmed sun sat low upon the flat edge of the plains, and the land seemed strangely desolate, an uncomfortable reminder of his visions in Nal Gorgoth.

He had a premonition then of the danger gathering against them. Difficult times lay ahead. Of that much, he was certain. Yet, despite the prospect, he felt a sense of rebirth, there in the rebuilt ruins of his past. And a sense of comfort too, for those he cared about were close, and that was a new, and welcome, thing.

“I will stay.”



Names & Languages


To the casual observer, the various names an intrepid traveler will encounter throughout Alagaësia might seem but a random collection with no inherent integrity, culture, or history. However, as with any land that different groups

—and in this case, different species—have repeatedly colonized, Alagaësia acquired names from a wide array of unique sources, among them the languages of the dwarves, elves, humans, and even Urgals. Thus, we can have Palancar Valley (a human name), the Anora River and Ristvak’baen (elven names), and Utgard Mountain (a dwarven name) all within a few square miles of each other.

While this is of great historical interest, practically it often leads to confusion as to the correct pronunciation. Unfortunately, there are no set rules for the neophyte. You must learn each name upon its own terms unless you can immediately place its language of origin. The matter grows even more confusing when you realize that in many places the resident population altered the spelling and pronunciation of foreign words to conform to their own language. The Anora River is a prime example. Originally anora was spelled äenora, which means broad in the ancient language. In their writings, the humans simplified the word to anora, and this, combined with a vowel shift wherein äe (ay-eh) was said as the easier (uh), created the name as it appears in Eragon’s time.

To spare readers as much difficulty as possible, I have compiled the following list, with the understanding that these are only rough guidelines to

the actual pronunciation. The enthusiast is encouraged to study the source languages in order to master their true intricacies.


Alagaësia—al-uh-GAY-zee-uh Arya—AR-ee-uh Azlagûr—AZ-luh-goor Bachel—buh-SHELL Brisingr—BRISS-ing-gur Carvahall—CAR-vuh-hall Ceunon—SEE-oo-non

Dras-Leona—DRAHS-lee-OH-nuh Draumar—DROW-mar (drow rhymes with cowDu Weldenvarden—DOO WELL-den-VAR-den Eragon—EHR-uh-gone

Farthen Dûr—FAR-then DURE (dure rhymes with lureGalbatorix—gal-buh-TOR-icks

Gil’ead—GILL-ee-id Glaedr—GLAY-dur Hrothgar—HROTH-gar Ithring—ITH-ring Lyreth—LIE-reth

Murtagh—MUR-tag (mur rhymes with purrNal Gorgoth—NAL GOR-goth

Nasuada—nah-soo-AH-dah Niernen—nee-AIR-nin Oromis—OR-uh-miss

Oth Orum—OTH OR-um Ra’zac—RAA-zack Saphira—suh-FEAR-uh Shruikan—SHREW-kin Teirm—TEERM Tronjheim—TRONJ-heem Umaroth—oo-MAR-oth Urû’baen—OO-roo-bane Uvek—OO-veck Vrael—VRAIL Zar’roc—ZAR-rock



Adurna thrysta.—Thrust water.

Atra esterní ono thelduin.—May good fortune rule over you. brisingr—fire

deyja—die drahtr—pull

Du Eld Draumar—The Old Dreamers

Du Fells Nángoröth—The Blasted Mountains Du Vrangr Gata—The Wandering Path

Du Weldenvarden—The Guarding Forest eitha—go; leave

Eka fricai.—I am a friend.

Eldunarí—the heart of hearts: the gemlike stone wherein a dragon can store its consciousness

entha—still flauga—fly flautja—float flautr—floater

gedwëy ignasiashining palm

Halfa utan thornessa fra jierda.—Keep this fork from breaking. hvitra—whiten

Ílf adurna f ïthren, sving raehta.—If water touches, turn right.

Ílf kona thornessa thar f ïthrenar, thae stenr jierda.—If this woman touches there, then break stone.

islingr—light-bringer/illuminator ithring—freedom

jierda—break; hit kverst—cut

Kvetha Fricai.—Greetings, Friend. ládrin—open Lethrblaka—Leather-Flapper letta—stop

líjothsa—light lyftha—lift maela—quiet naina—make bright reisa—raise/lift

Reisa adurna fra undir, un ílf f ïthren skul skulblaka flutningr skul eom edtha.—Raise water from below, and if touch dragon scale, carry scale to me.

skölir—shield slytha—sleep sving—turn

Thrífa sem knífr un huildr sem konr.—Seize that knife and hold that man.


Thrysta vindr.—Thrust/compress the air. vindr—wind; air

Vindr thrysta un líjothsa athaerum.—Compress air and gather light. Waíse heill.—Be healed.

Wiol ono.—For you. zar’roc—misery


mehtra—mother sehtra—son


Arngor—White Mountain barzûl—curse someone with ill fate

Beor—giant cave bear (borrowed from the ancient language)

Fanghur—dragon-like creatures native to the Beor Mountains. Smaller and less intelligent than dragons; related to the Nïdhwal

Farthen Dûr—Our Father goroth—place

Môgren—black-needled pinetrees native to the Beor Mountains, noted for their hard, dense wood

Tronjheim—Helm of Giants


chukka—marmot-like creature native to the northern reaches of the Spine ghra—exclamation used to express doubt or a sense of mild disapproval gzja—exclamation used to express contempt

qazhqargla—rite that joins two Urgals as blood brothers; may also refer to blood brothers as such

shagvrek—ancient race of hornless shûkva—heal

ûhldmaq—Urgals who, according to legend, were transformed into giant cave bears


Urgralgra—Urgals’ name for themselves (literally, “those with horns”) zhar—randomness


Here set out you may see the system of runes as employed by the humans of Alagaësia during the time of this tale. There are exceptions to its use— notably among the wandering tribes of the southern reaches and the great grasslands to the east—but these are the runes one may expect to most commonly encounter throughout the lands of humankind.

The originating genius behind this system is unknown, and will likely remain forever lost to the depths of time. It is possible that no one individual is responsible and that this mode of writing emerged via an amalgam of accident and exigency—rather than being assembled by conscious design—as wrack and wreck may gather against a crag of stony strand.

The runes are referred to by many names, but their primary one is the Ullmark. Prior to humanity’s arrival upon the shores of Alagaësia, their race was far more savage and uneducated than in latter ages, and they employed an entirely different system for recording information, one that bears more resemblance to the knotted banners of the Urgals than to any mode of writing that is native to Alagaësia. Of this earlier system, few examples remain—scraps and fragments littered about the ruins of barrows and long-abandoned hill forts—for under the leadership of King Palancar and his many and divers successors, humans quickly adopted and adapted the dwarven runes, known as the Hruthmundvik.

Humans, being as they are, made no attempt at faithfulness to the Hruthmundvik and freely altered and rearranged the runes to suit the needs of their own tongue, even going so far as to invent wholly new ones. Still,

some similarities remain. The runes for g, k, m, n, and are the same in both the Ullmark and the Hruthmundvik, although the Ullmark contains several unique runes, as well as runes for sounds not found in Dwarvish, such as those for and x. Also—and here the guiding hand of one or more scribes seems apparent—runes of similar shapes were assigned to sounds that, likewise, share a close resemblance. Thus, the mirroring or echoing between and o; u and y; c, k, and q; s and z; b and d; f and v; and and n. From this and other pieces of intelligence, certain clues as to the pronunciation of the humans’ language in the time of King Palancar may be gleaned.

For the sake of general understanding, all of the words (and some of the names) on the maps in this volume have been translated into English and either written as such or transliterated into the Ullmark to help convey the proper look and feel of Murtagh’s world.

As for the actual language that the humans of Alagaësia use, that is a matter for examination elsewhere and elsewhen.

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