Chapter no 8 – Barrow-Wights

Murtagh (The Inheritance Cycle, #5)

It was late afternoon when Murtagh exited the secret tunnel underneath Gil’ead’s fortress. Shadows had filled the streets, and only the rooftops remained bathed in light warm and gold.

The stone door closed behind him with a grinding sound as Bertolf, the sleeveless servant, pulled it shut.

Cautious, Murtagh climbed the stairs from the hidden entrance, half expecting a band of soldiers to jump him at any moment. At the top, he paused long enough to make sure no one was watching, and then he slipped through the garden, through the front gate, and into the street.

He had to force himself to pay attention to his surroundings as he hurried back toward Gil’ead’s southern entrance, but his mind kept returning to his encounter with Carabel. A wry chuckle escaped him. Quests from a werecat. It was the sort of thing one heard about in stories, where the earnest young hero proved his doughtiness and won the hand of a princess.

Only Murtagh knew the world didn’t work like that. More often than not, the hero ended up dead in a ditch, or else forced to carry out orders from the king he hated….

His mood soured as he arrived at the edge of Gil’ead. With long strides, he hurried away from the buildings until he felt himself a safe distance. Then he moved off the road, to the top of a small hummock, and focused his mind in the direction of the hollow where Thorn lay hiding.

Can you hear me? he asked.

Thorn’s response was immediate: a rush of concern and aggravation. Of course. Are you safe?

Safe enoughWhere are you?

Murtagh impressed an image of his surroundings onto Thorn. The dragon huffed, and Murtagh heard the sound in his mind. Were you able to speak with Ilenna?

Not quite. Opening his memories, Murtagh shared his recollection of his conversation with Carabel. It was faster than using words to explain every little detail.

Afterward, Thorn snorted. The cat got the best of you, I thinkI know, he agreed mildly. There wasn’t much I could do about itStill, it will be good if you can help the hatchling.

I’ll do my best. You don’t mind about Glaedr’s scale, do you?

Why should I? His scale is not my scale. Besides, Glaedr’s body is dead. Why should a dragon care what happens to them when they are gone?

Many people do.

Thorn made the equivalent of a mental shrug. If I am not here to know or feel, what does it matter? It is fear that drives such care, and I do not fear the worms.

No. There are far worse things than death.

Murtagh could almost feel Thorn staring at him. You are part dragon, I sometimes think.

Of course. We are joined, you and I, aren’t we? He looked at the sky, gauged how much time until nightfall. I’m going to get the scale, and then I might need your help with the fish.

Rainbow flecks of excitement colored Thorn’s thoughts. We will hunt together?


The flecks brightened, variegated lights sparking as Thorn imagined the successful conclusion of the chase, of teeth sinking into fishy flesh.

Soon, Murtagh promised.



With a purposeful stride, Murtagh headed west, toward the oak tree grown atop the mound where Oromis and Glaedr’s remains were buried. As it grew near, he saw numerous people gathered about the oak, some kneeling, others standing, and he heard distant singing.

Among the people, he saw what looked to be a white-robed elf next to the twisted tree trunk.

“Barzûl,” Murtagh swore, and turned aside. There was no sure way to conceal himself or what he was doing from elven eyes, which were the keenest and most perceptive of all the races’.

He hated to delay—every hour that passed lessened the chances that he could rescue Silna—but there was no help for it. He would have to wait.

Frustrated, Murtagh studied the fields around him. There. A small stand of willows near a bowl-like depression filled with lush grass, cattails, and a few crabapple trees heavy with their sour fruit.

He glanced at the road to make sure it was clear, and then trotted over to the stand of willows. There were midges and biting flies flitting about the grass, and his boots sank into marshy ground, but Murtagh was willing to put up with the annoyance in order to have some cover.

A fly bit his neck, and he slapped it away.

He wedged himself into the willows in an angled position that would keep him from falling onto the wet ground. Then, from the purse on his belt, he took some dried apple and a piece of cold bacon and chewed them slowly, savoring every bite. It was all the food he was going to get for a while.

He was thirsty too, but he didn’t want to drink whatever stagnant water he could find in the depression. That was a good way to end up bent over sick for the next few days.

There has to be a way to make water safe with a spell. He remembered something of the like from Yngmar’s memories, but the details had been vague.

Still thinking on it, he crossed his arms over the staff, pulled his hood over his face, and closed his eyes.

The hum of busy insects soon lulled him to sleep.



Soft flesh fumbling at his skin, teeth scraping, unwelcome wetness along his hand, then a flare of yellow pain bright enough to make him yelp.

Murtagh jolted awake, shouting, wild-eyed. He thrashed with the staff, hoping to knock back whatever was hurting him.

A bony, dolorous face hung before him. Sideways pupils rimmed with dirty gold, cruel, inhuman; a profusion of black and white bristles; grasping lips searching like blind worms for food; splayed, flat-topped teeth yellowed around the bases, grinding, gnashing, snapping only inches from his cheek; breath like a putrid pond.

Murtagh recoiled. The face was a terrifying, uncaring hunger set to devour the world.

The yellowed teeth closed on his hand again, hard and painful. Repulsed, Murtagh reacted without thinking and shouted, “Thrysta!” while funneling his strength into the spell.

A full-body blow knocked him against a willow trunk as the creature in front of him went tumbling through the air with an outraged bray.

The animal landed several paces away and scrambled to its feet. A goat. It was nothing more than a goat.

Murtagh blinked, still disoriented. He worked his mouth, tongue thick and dry, and looked around. No one else was in sight. He and the goat were alone in the shadowed depression.

The goat shook itself and gave Murtagh an angry, disapproving look. It lowered its head and scraped the marshy ground with a front hoof, as if preparing to charge.

“Letta,” Murtagh said with a note of finality. The word wasn’t a spell as such, but it contained the authority of the ancient language, and the goat— like all animals—understood the intent behind the command and stopped.

The goat pulled back its neck and shook its head as if a wasp had stung its nose, upper lip curled with unmistakable anger. Then it went “Maaah” in a disgusted tone and trotted away, flicking its tail.

Murtagh slumped against the willow. The image of the goat’s open-mouthed face still filled him with revulsion. If he hadn’t woken, he felt sure the beast would have kept eating and eating and eating until it consumed him alive.

Fresh alarm flooded his mind; his fear had woken Thorn from the dragon’s own nap. For a few seconds, confusion reigned as their emotions overlapped and Murtagh attempted to calm Thorn.

It was just a goat, Murtagh said, extricating himself from the willow. Just a goat.

You scared me, said Thorn. Not an accusation, more of a plaintive statement.

I scared myself. I’m sorry. Everything is all rightDo you want me to eat the goat?

For a moment, Murtagh seriously considered accepting. No, but I appreciate the offer.

Be careful. Even four-legs-no-fangs can be dangerousI know. I will.

Making a face, Murtagh brushed off his clothes. His back was sore from where the spell had slammed him into the willow tree. He berated himself for not setting a ward to wake him if someone or something came near…and for overreacting so strongly. Too many dangerous encounters had left him more twitchy than was good.

And yet his reactions had kept him alive.

He rubbed his hand where the goat had bitten him. The skin was red and bruised but unbroken.

The wards he had placed around himself only went so far. Too much protection and he wouldn’t be able to interact with the world in a normal fashion—touching a sharpened edge or an overly hot pot, for example—and powering wards all the time would exhaust him, as they fed off the strength of his body. Which meant he’d never set a ward to specifically prevent an animal from biting him. Nor had the goat’s teeth met any of the conditions he’d built into his wards.

I’ll have to fix that, he thought. It would be a tricky bit of spellcraft, but he wasn’t about to let some thrice-cursed goat eat him either.

The horizon was a hazy line bisecting the gold half dome of the setting sun. Purple shadows streaked the land, and nightjars darted overhead, chasing insects as the first stars appeared in the sky beyond.

At Glaedr’s burial mound, orange lights bobbed and flickered around the base of the rise. Murtagh cursed. Have you nothing better to do? he wondered, eyeing the distant mourners. They showed no signs of leaving; if anything, their numbers had grown. He had a horrible suspicion that some of them intended to hold vigil at the tomb throughout the whole night.

Hopefully the elf had departed. Either way, Murtagh dared not wait any longer. Time was tight, and he feared that catching Muckmaw might be a more involved process than Carabel had made it seem. If the fish slept, as most animals did, he would not show himself until the following day.

“Let’s get this over with,” Murtagh muttered, and set out for the barrow.

He wished he’d brought a waterskin. He was even more thirsty now.

The walk allowed him to plan. The elves were sure to have placed spells on the location to prevent anyone from desecrating Oromis and Glaedr’s remains. That was the first difficulty. The second was finding a scale. If the farmer he’d spoken to was right and the elves had burned Glaedr’s body, there wouldn’t be many scales left—and the barrow made for a decently sized hill, so actually locating a scale amid all the dirt would be tricky even with magic. Third was the need to do so without attracting attention.

At least the dusk would help hide his actions.

The fourth and final difficulty was Murtagh’s own reluctance. He didn’t want to visit the barrow, and he didn’t want to dig up anything of Glaedr’s body, and he worried about why a dragon scale was needed to lure in Muckmaw. Why not something else equally large and shiny? Was there some quality to dragon scales that he was ignorant of? Or was Muckmaw drawn to arcane objects specifically? Either possibility was concerning.

He slowed as he came onto the path leading to the barrow. From there, he moved at a measured pace, another travel-weary pilgrim at the end of a long day of walking.

It wasn’t so far from the truth.

Around the barrow, he counted twelve people: all humans, five women, seven men. They were commoners, dressed in rough smocks, caps, and loosely gathered trousers. Most appeared to be farmers from the countryside or laborers from the city. Two of the women smelled of Gil’ead’s dock, and one of the men, a thin, bristle-haired fellow, wore a blacksmith’s leather apron.

Some knelt, some stood—lanterns in hand—and a low murmur of sad voices floated through the evening air. They were praying for the dead, Murtagh realized. Praying, pleading, or simply remembering.

The path continued up the side of the grass-draped barrow to the oak tree at its crest. Flagstones had been set into the soil to make the climb easier. By the tree, two more people knelt: women in shawls of black lace. From them came a soft keening.

Murtagh felt deeply uncomfortable. Merely being there seemed like an intrusion and an insult to their grief.

As he edged around the barrow to the shadow side, he came upon a standing stone planted by the base of the mound. It was as high as his waist, and two more of similar height stood in line. Rows of chiseled runes covered all three stones, along with patterns of decorative knots.

Curious, he paused and read.

His blood chilled. The first stone told the whole sorry story of the Dragon Riders, starting with their formation as a means to keep the peace between the different races of Alagaësia—which they had succeeded at for centuries—and following through to their destruction at the hands of Galbatorix, then a young, untested Rider who had turned against his order after losing his dragon and going mad with grief.

Murtagh’s stomach cramped as he scanned the lines. The Forsworn were mentioned, of course, and Morzan specifically.

The second stone recounted how Galbatorix had established the Empire following the defeat of the Riders and, with the Forsworn by his side, ruled as sovereign absolute over the greater part of humanity. Galbatorix the

Deathless, the runes called him, as the king indeed had aged but little over the hundred years since, a remnant of his bond as Rider.

Murtagh wondered who had carved and placed the stones. Not the elves, for it was not their writing, but someone who knew of the true history of the land. That which Galbatorix had forbidden the common folks to share.

The third and final stone told of Oromis and Glaedr. How they had taught among the Riders. How they had been last surviving of all their order, hidden for the past century among the elves in Du Weldenvarden. And how they had died during the Varden’s rebellious war against the Empire, cut down at Gil’ead by the son of Morzan. Cut down by the betrayer, Murtagh.

He stood for a time, feeling as if he’d taken a blow to the chest. Then a nightjar swooped past with a soft brush of wings and a trill, and he started, as if waking from a reverie.

With slow steps, Murtagh moved past the stones and leaned on his staff. He stared at the ground, hood over his face, and did his best to look like the other mourners. In a way, it was the truth.

Forgive me, he thought. At the back of his mind, he could feel Thorn watching, and the dragon’s regret added to his own.

The ground beneath his boots was soft with scythed clover. He closed his eyes and let himself sway back and forth to match the keening from above.

If he tried to use magic to pull a scale straight out of the barrow, he’d be sure to trigger whatever protective magic lay within. The key, as ever, would be to accomplish what he wanted in an indirect, sideways manner. Such was the way to defeat wards. As Eragon had with Galbatorix…

He thought about it for some minutes. In the end, it was his thirst that gave him the answer. He looked for flaws in his logic and, finding no obvious ones, assembled the words he needed and murmured, “Reisa adurna fra undir, un ílf f ïthren skul skulblaka flutningr skul eom edtha.”

And he fed a thin thread of energy into the ground beneath the barrow, searching for whatever water there was to find.

The idea was relatively simple. Instead of casting a spell directly on the barrow, he would use magic to push water up through the soil, and if the water touched a scale, it would carry the scale through the dirt to his hand. However, he would confine the motive energy for the water to an area deep underground so that no part of the strength he spent would directly affect the scale or anything else within the mound.

Whether that would be enough to circumvent whatever wards the elves had placed upon the tomb, he didn’t know.

We might have to make a hasty retreat, he thought.

As he stood there, concentrating on the trickle of his own strength draining into the depths of the earth, a shuffling footstep sounded nearby.

He glanced over. The bristle-haired blacksmith had for some forsaken reason moved over to join him.

Worse yet, the man began to talk. “I haven’t seen you here before, stranger. You’re not from thesewise parts, I take it?”

Murtagh struggled to split his attention between his spell and the blacksmith. For a moment, he nearly ended the magic, but he didn’t. Every attempt would increase the risk of discovery.

“No,” he said, keeping his face down.

“Ayuh. I thought as much,” said the man, satisfied. He rubbed his corded arms against the evening chill. “Iverston is m’ name. Iverston Varisson. Although everyone round th’ lake calls me Mallet, on account of, well, that’s a story that’d take a jug of cider to tell, if y’ follow. Were I to start, I’d be talking from now to sunup.”

Murtagh knew what was expected of him. “Tornac son of Tereth.”

Mallet peered at him with a somewhat concerned look. “You’re not an elf, are you? No…I see not. There’s someth’n elfish ’bout your face, though, if ’n you don’t mind me saying.”

Murtagh did mind, but he held his tongue. The barrow was too large for him to bring up water underneath the whole thing; he had to start in one quarter and slowly work his way across.

Another pause, and Mallet rubbed his arms again while looking at the women at the crest of the mound. He gestured at them. “They’re always up

there, y’ know? Sisters, come from the city. Lost their father during th’ battle. Their brother too, I think. Everyone here lost someone. Most of ’em, leastwise. Couple folks are just enamored with th’ idea of dragons.” He tapped his temple. “Something a bit crooked in their heads, I reckon. No offense intended, if ’n that applies.”

“It doesn’t,” said Murtagh, keeping his voice low.

Mallet nodded wisely. “That’s good. Ain’t right t’ be worshipping a dragon, if ’n you ask me…. I don’t come most nights, y’ know. Only when work at th’ forge is low. It’s been a few weeks since m’ last visit. Harvest time’s full up w’ pitchforks an’ shoeing an’ scythes an’ chains needin’ mending, an’ then there’s always nails t’ be making. Never enough nails in th’ world, you know?”

Murtagh nodded and made a noise as if he did. Still nothing from his spell, but he could feel the cold water oozing through the dark soil.

“Why…,” he said, and then stopped. Mallet stooped slightly, as if to look under the edge of Murtagh’s hood. “Why do they grieve here, if…if…” He wasn’t sure how to phrase the question in a diplomatic way.

He was relieved when Mallet picked up the thread. “If it were th’ dragon and th’ elves that killed those as they cared f ’r?” His knobby shoulders lifted under his shift. “I couldn’t rightwise tell you f ’r most. Might be they hated th’ Empire, and th’ death of th’ dragon and his Rider makes ’em feel right bad. ’Course might also be th’ Rider helped ’em during the battle. I know it to be th’ case with Neldrick over there. Buncha soldiers set fire to his farmhouse on their way t’ flank the elves. Th’ dragon came down and put out th’ fire with his wings, something like a storm or a force of nature is what I heard.”

The blacksmith crossed his arms and buried his chin in his chest. “Me? I ain’t got no story as epic as that. Nothing th’ bards would sing about, nothing like that. My son, y’ see, Ervos—we named him after his mother’s father—my eldest, my only son, he got it in his head a few summers back t’ join the Varden. Always was a headstrong boy, that one. Thought he’d do well ’cause of it, but…he ran off without telling us, and we didn’t hear nothing of him till the war was over. Couple of the Varden came by t’ tell us

they’d fought with him on th’ Burning Plains. Th’ Burning Plains! Can you imagine?” Mallet shook his head. “Ain’t never seen anything like that, I can tell you. Whole wide swath of land that burns and burns forever. Crazy t’ think of…. Anyways, the men who came by were footsore and battle-weary. They’d been at Feinster and Ilirea after. Saw Roran Stronghammer fight, they said. And anyways, they said, well, they said Ervos had been with ’em when th’ Empire charged ’em, and, well…”

Mallet’s chest rose and fell several times. Then he stared up at the stars, and though Murtagh didn’t want to see, he looked over, and he caught the silvered glimmer of tears in the man’s eyes.

“It’s funny, y’ know,” said the blacksmith. “Y’ take all that time t’ feed and clothe a child. Take care of ’em. Keep ’em from killing themselves on every such thing. But y’ can’t protect ’em from themselves. Ervos…he wanted to belong t’ something bigger than himself, I think. He wanted a cause t’ believe in, t’ fight for, and there was no giving him that in a forge, y’ see…. He always was a headstrong boy.”

He shook his head. “Never even got t’ see his body. That’s the hardest part, would y’ believe. Can’t say goodbye proper without a body.” He gestured at the barrow. “So this’ll have to serve till a body shows, if ever it does.”

Murtagh’s mouth and throat were so dry, it was difficult to talk. He thought he knew the charge Mallet spoke of; he’d been the one to lead it. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s the way of the world, and no sorrow will fix it, but thank y’ all the same, stranger.” Keeping his eyes fixed on the stars, the bristle-haired man said, “If ’n you want, it can help t’ talk about such things. And if ’n you’re not so inclined, that’s fine too, y’see.”

The shadowed privacy of the gloaming loosened Murtagh’s tongue, made him feel as if he could speak of subjects that normally were too painful to give voice. But he knew it was a false sense of anonymity, so he chose his words with care.

“I lost…I lost a friend. More like a father. Killed by Galbatorix’s men.” “Ah now, that’s hard, and there’s no denying it.”

“Not as hard as others have it.”

Mallet looked down from the sky. “Well, far as I see it, there’s no putting a price on pain, if ’n you follow. Everyone’s entitled to their own. Would be a strange thing t’ say that some pain is easier ’an others without knowin’ what it’s like in another’s shoes, if ’n that makes sense.”

“It does.”

Mallet harrumphed and nodded, and then surprised Murtagh by patting him on the shoulder. “Y’ seem like a man who wants his space, so I’ll leave y’ to it, but if y’ change your mind, I’ll be over thatwise.”

And the blacksmith moved off around the base of the mound until he was a dark outline at the far side, leaving Murtagh standing alone in the shadow of the barrow.

Murtagh let out a small, choked laugh that was nearly a cry. Faint from distance, Thorn said in a carefully neutral tone, What a strange man.

Not really, said Murtagh.

He concentrated on his spell then, working the water through the ground with greater speed. So far, it didn’t seem to have triggered any protective spells.

Foot by careful foot, he pressed the water past stone and pebble, worked it into interstitial spaces, penetrated mud and clay and packed layers of ash— the mortal remains of the great dragon Glaedr. The dragon had been enormous by most standards. Smaller than Shruikan but still several times the size of Thorn or Saphira. And his pyre had left a thick stratum of incinerated muscle, organs, bones, and scales.

Murtagh wasn’t sure if any scales had survived. The fires elves made with their magic burned hotter than those of a forge.

But he kept searching. Every inch of progress felt like a transgression. He was not by nature weak of stomach—blood did not sicken him, nor did the gore and viscera of battle—but knowing that the tendrils of water were passing through what had once been the innards of a creature such as Thorn made Murtagh increasingly queasy.

He fervently wished to be quit of the task, and he cursed the werecat with what energy he could afford.

Then, just as he began to despair…there! A shift in the flow of water as it touched an object near the center of the barrow. A scale, he hoped. The water caressed the object, formed a pocket around it, and, gentle as a mother’s touch, drew it forth from the womb of the earth.

It was hardly an unlabored process. Rocks and bones blocked the way, and every few inches, an obstacle forced the water to divert. Each time, he struggled to return the scale to its intended course, and each time, he succeeded. That was, until the scale met an enormous stone that defied his every effort to bypass.

“Barzûl,” he swore. He couldn’t seem to find the edges of the stone; the scale kept getting caught on unseen ridges.

With no other option, he increased the flow of water, pushed more and more into the barrow until it softened the soil beneath the stone, turned it into a pool of mud.

Thin rivulets of water seeped out by his feet, and the belly of the barrow sagged slightly, as if to collapse.

“Hold,” he muttered, willing the mound to stand.

Within the ground, he felt the stone sink into the morass he’d created. The scale slid forward in a rush of pressure released, and he quickly reduced the amount of water to the bare minimum needed to keep the scale moving. Like a mountain spring burst to life, a patch of dew welled from the surface of the grassy barrow, and then the soil parted. From within the dark interior a gleaming, golden scale emerged, bright as a faceted gem of topaz.

In the dusk, the scale was a shield-shaped piece of evening sunlight, a condensed pool of illumination, still possessed of a sense of life and motion.

Wonderstruck, he ended his spell and took the palm-sized scale from the ground.

The instant his hand touched the scale, a foreign mind touched his, and a mental attack struck him with such strength, he staggered and clung to the staff in order to remain standing.

Murtagh reacted without thinking, old reflexes taking charge. He recoiled deep within himself, armoring his mind and focusing on the phrase

he used to block out any other thoughts. “You shall not have me. You shall not have me. You shall not have me,” he muttered, over and over.

Despite his speed, he wasn’t fast enough. The other mind bore down upon him with implacable force. Whoever it was possessed incredible mental discipline and, it seemed, complete mastery of their emotions, for Murtagh felt nothing but fiercely controlled intent.

He tried to move, tried to drop the scale, but the invading consciousness held him in place through sheer overwhelming strength.

Murtagh assumed his assailant was an elf, one from Gil’ead set to guard the barrow. Normally a mental projection of such intensity required the magician to be relatively close. At least within half a mile. However, Murtagh guessed that the scale was somehow enchanted to act as a scrying mirror or a magnifier—a conduit between whoever touched it and the ones protecting the barrow.

Even so, time was short. It wouldn’t take an elf long to ride from Gil’ead to the barrow. Minutes, if that.

If Thorn were trying to help, Murtagh couldn’t tell. He hoped the dragon wouldn’t leave the hollow.

Between the words of his defensive chant, he again tried to move the hand touching the scale. Nothing.

“You shall not have me. You shall not have me.”

As determined and disciplined as the other mind was, Murtagh knew he was stronger. When it came to resolve, he could hold his own with the largest, oldest, and wisest creatures in Alagaësia. Galbatorix may have been able to break Murtagh’s defenses, but he had never broken his will—and that gave Murtagh courage that, no matter how dire the situation, his self would prevail.

Then from the intruding mind came a questing thought, in both the human tongue and in the ancient language: Who are you?

Alarm threatened to disrupt Murtagh’s focus. He couldn’t wait any

longer. If his attacker learned his name…He had to find a way to disrupt the elf ’s attention and slip away.

With his off hand, he fumbled at his belt until he found the hilt of his dagger. He drew it, and then—with grim-minded determination—stabbed his right forearm.

Not deeply. Not enough to cause major damage but enough to cause pain, and it was pain he wanted.

His face contorted with agony, and the dagger fell from his fingers. The unexpected spike of pain passed through his mind into the elf ’s, and as Murtagh had hoped, it broke his attacker’s focus.

Freed from the immobilizing influence, Murtagh dropped the scale. As it left his hand, the mental contact vanished, and with it a sense of oppressive weight.

The reprieve would be short-lived.

Using the corner of his cloak as a protective mitten, he again picked up the scale. The layer of cloth was enough to avoid triggering whatever spell had been placed on it. He dropped the scale into the purse on his belt and then went to retrieve the dagger.

A few paces away, Mallet was watching, a look of horror on his face. The smith sputtered and pointed and said, “That’s…you’re…You’re no friend. Graverobber! Desecrator!” His voice rang out in the evening air, cutting through the lamentations of those around the barrow. The men and women turned, their expressions alarmed and hostile. Mallet was still shouting. “He took a scale of th’ dragon! I saw it! Thief! Graverobber!”

The smith swiped at him, trying to grab Murtagh with his long, hooked arms.

Murtagh spun and ran. He ran like a common thief, and he hated himself for it with every step.

I shouldn’t have told him my name was Tornac, he thought. The elves might know enough to realize who he was. And if not they, then perhaps the magician from Du Vrangr Gata.

A pulse of pain from his forearm caused him to look down as he sprinted across the landscape. A blot of blood had soaked through his sleeve, and his whole forearm was hard, knotted, as if cramped.

He pressed his left hand over the wound. “Waíse heill,” he growled. Be healed. It was a risky spell to cast without knowing the exact nature of the damage he was attempting to repair, but he trusted it wasn’t too much, and his guess proved correct. His arm burned and stung, and he felt lightheaded for a moment, enough to make him stumble a few steps. But the pain vanished and his muscles relaxed, and he was able to open and close his hand as before.

Losing the dagger hurt nearly as much as stabbing himself. He’d had the weapon since Galbatorix had armed him in Urû’baen, and it had served him well in the years after. Moreover, Murtagh had set spells on it—spells to strengthen it, to protect the sharpness of the edge, and to help it pierce the wards of other magicians.

I’ll have to get another one and start all over. It was a matter of practicality, if nothing else. He needed a knife for many of the tasks around camp.

He threw back his hood, slung his cloak over the crook of his left arm, and concentrated on running. Behind him, the angry shouts of the mourners faded into the night.

A bad start, Murtagh thought. But he couldn’t stop. Silna was still in danger, and there were answers to be had from Carabel.

Grim, he quickened his pace.

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