Amid the Ruins

When Murtagh awoke, Celestine wasn’t in the cave, but her armor was. He walked outside. Thorn, where’s Celestine?

She went to the lake to bathe.

I see.

You want to keep an eye on her.

I already made that mistake once. Still, Leona Lake isn’t quite as safe as Galbatorix’s bath. Perhaps you should keep watch on her. I don’t think she would mind that.

Thorn turned to comply. Before he could take to the air, however, Celestine approached. “Welcome back,” Murtagh called out.

“Thank you. The lake was lovely in the sunrise.”

“Any troubles?”

She shook her head, her wet hair tossing water droplets about. “None at all. Just a very good morning.”

Thorn told them both, I don’t know how long it will remain good. There’s the smell of smoke in the air this morning. We should be able to see more from the sky.

Murtagh saddled Thorn while Celestine put her armor on. They ate a quick breakfast and soon took off. When they gained altitude, Murtagh saw a column of smoke rising near Belatona and pointed it out to Celestine.

“Is the city on fire?” she asked.

“I’m fairly certain it’s coming from outside the city,” Murtagh said. “Galbatorix said he’d handle the siege. I suppose he did.”

Looking forward, however, Murtagh saw something much more concerning. Large plumes of smoke were billowing from Dras-Leona. “I doubt he did that, though.”

Celestine looked where he was looking and gasped. “Is that where we’re going?”


“Eragon and Saphira?”

“Probably. It would take the Varden more than a day to move an army here, but Eragon could’ve made it here before us.”

“Is there any chance it could be the green dragon?”

“There’s no way it could be grown enough to fly or breathe fire. Do dragons grow so quickly where you come from?”

“No, I just thought I’d ask.”

“Let’s find out what he’s done,” Murtagh said.

They landed amidst utter devastation. Though many buildings were ruined, the bulk of the destruction centered around what must have been a very tall black building. Even the rubble piled up more than thirty meters. There was a man nearby, wearing ornamental robes, wailing.

Celestine ran to him. His head was bleeding and his body badly burned. As she continued checking for injuries, she noticed that his right arm terminated in a fleshy stump at the wrist. It wasn’t bleeding, though—he must have lost it sometime before the attack on the city. He continued wailing as she began healing him. “Gone! Gone! He’s stolen them! Oh, they’ve been taken from us!”

“Who’s taken what from you?” Celestine asked as the bleeding stopped.

Before he could answer, another richly robed man crawled towards them. Similar to the first man, this one had also lost important body parts well before the city was torched—in this case, his right arm up to the elbow and his legs up to the knees. He shouted, “Hush, you fool! The boy with her is Murtagh—he reports to the king!”

“What does it matter anymore?” the other wept. “He’s stolen our gods! How can you tell me to hush? What else do we have?”

Celestine paused. “Idolaters?”

Murtagh looked in the distance. “What do you mean your gods are stolen? The mountains are still there.”

“We don’t worship the mountains. That’s only what we let outsiders believe,” said the man with the fewest limbs, apparently persuaded by his friend’s words. “We worship the Ra’zac.”

Murtagh looked at him. “The Ra’zac are dead. Eragon killed the last of them.”

The first one said through his sobs, “We had two eggs left, but he’s taken them.”

“Celestine, are you going to keep healing him?” Murtagh asked.

Celestine looked at him. “Yes, of course,” she said, returning to the task. “Who has taken the Ra’zac eggs?”

“I heard him say his name was Durza.”

“Impossible,” said a familiar voice behind them. “Durza is dead. I killed him myself.”

Murtagh turned to see Eragon approaching from a ruined alleyway. He drew his sword and asked, “Brother. Where is Saphira?”

Eragon displayed his empty hands—his own sword still in its sheath. “Out of range of the words this sorceress gave you,” Eragon said. “Or did you not think I would figure out where you’d gotten them?”

Celestine ignored him. “Are you sure the man said he was Durza?”

“Yes, he said he was Durza and then Dorias… I think. It was hard to hear over the roaring fire.”

Celestine stood. “Dorias is also no more. I exorcised his spirits myself, leaving the man alive,” she said with a reproachful glance at Eragon.

“That’s what I heard!” the one-handed man insisted. “I had hidden myself, and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard our High Priest ask, ‘Who are you?’ To which a sinister voice replied, “Me? I was Durza. I was Dorias. And now, I’m the one to kill you.’”

“He said his name twice?” Celestine asked.

“Yes. I’m sure he said Durza first and Dorias second, but maybe he said the same name twice.”

“What could it mean?” Celestine asked.

Murtagh kept a wary eye on Eragon as he replied, “If Kaelin was a powerful enough sorcerer, he could’ve called the spirits back to him, I suppose, but I don’t know about Durza. Dorias and Durza were different men, had different spirits. That makes no sense.”

“Did you see the man?” Celestine asked.

“No. He and his dragon killed everyone that saw him. The only ones who survived were those that took to hiding.”

“This man had a dragon?” Eragon asked. “You saw it?”

“I saw nothing!” he repeated. “I heard it! I know what a dragon sounds like.”

“No eyewitnesses at all…” Celestine said. “I don’t like this. If Eragon didn’t do this, then who?”

“If Galbatorix had learned of the Ra’zac eggs, I might suspect him, but announcing himself as Durza or Dorias? There’s no reason,” Murtagh said. “Celestine, is there any way in your world to accelerate a dragon’s growth?”

“Dragons in my world are cast creatures. If you were far more talented at magic than I, you could do it,” Celestine answered. “What about here? Wouldn’t saying so in the original language make it grow?”

“I suppose, but the amount of energy… That would be a formidable spellcaster indeed,” Murtagh replied.

“You’re from another world,” Eragon said. “I think I’m beginning to understand.”

“Good. So, are you going to help us save the world?” Celestine asked.

Eragon shook his head. “I’m going elsewhere. Maybe later.”

“If there is a later.”

“There will be, sorceress. Count on it.”

Celestine looked around. “Where are your cousin and his men?”

“I sent them back to the Varden,” Eragon said. “Were you expecting a surprise attack?”

Celestine nodded. “I still am. After all, I’m a danger, right? That’s all the reason you need to kill someone.”

“You’re wasting my time. I’m leaving.”

As Eragon walked away, Celestine called out, “I do hope you’ll change your mind. We may need your help. I forgive you for trying to kill me.”

Eragon paused but only for a moment before he continued wordlessly on his way.
Murtagh put his sword away and said, “We shouldn’t tarry here long. Let’s get our supplies and move along.”

“Murtagh!” Celestine said. “These people have just had their city destroyed. They need their food much more than we do.”

“We have a long way to travel and not much left in the way of rations. What do you propose?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. What’s the closest town on our way?”


“Could we make it there on what we’ve got?”

Murtagh looked at Thorn. “No, but if we did some hunting around the lakeshore before we get to the mountains, we could make it. That would add some time to our journey.”

“Dayus punishes those who snatch bread from the hungry, but rewards those who give even when it hurts.”

“Very well,” Murtagh said. “Let’s set off. All this smoke in the air is starting to bother Thorn anyway.”

Before getting up in the saddle, Celestine turned once more to the wailing priest and said, “You shouldn’t worship something that can be carried off in a man’s hand. It leads to disappointment.”

* * *

Outside the city, Eragon watched as Thorn flew off to the northwest. Grimrr licked his whiskers and said, “They are going in the same direction we need to go.”

“Are they?” Eragon asked.

Would that I still had jaws so I could wrap them around that miserable whelp.

Before Eragon could respond to Glaedr, Roran asked, “Why did you call off the attack?”

“They suspected it,” Eragon said. “I don’t think it would’ve gone well.”

“Gone well?” Roran shouted. “It was probably our best chance!”

“Cousin, I want you and your men to go to Urû’baen with the rest of the Varden. I’ll need you there when I get back.”

“What of Celestine? And who burned the city anyway?”

“I don’t know who burned it. A witness said the man identified himself as Durza and Dorias—worse than nonsense, I fear it keeps us from knowing who really did this,” Eragon replied. “As for Celestine, I’ll handle her and my half-brother when the time comes.”

Roran looked doubtful, but he led Carn and the rest of his group away as Eragon requested. Once they were gone, Eragon asked Grimrr, “What do you think of this Durza/Dorias man that has the green dragon? Is he the one forcing your people to take him to the Vault? And what of Murtagh and Celestine? They seem to be going where we’re going, talking of imminent destruction.”

Grimrr shrugged. “The questions you ask are all answered in the same place. I suggest we move quickly.”

* * *

In the late afternoon, Murtagh and Celestine landed to let Thorn hunt for food. They were near the end of their own rations and resolved to kill a deer. Once the meal was taken care of, Celestine said, “I want to talk to Galbatorix now.”

Murtagh scuffed the ground with his foot. “That’s not a good idea, Celestine.”

“Please just do this for me.”

“You can’t do it for yourself,” Murtagh said. “That’s why you need me to do it. Maybe you could call him, but without your kind of magic, he’d be unable to answer, right?”

Celestine nodded. “Don’t be afraid of him. We’re safe together.”

Murtagh thought in silence for a long time. Finally, he said, “Very well. I only hope this turns out as well as you hope.”

He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. Then he cast the spell.

Murtagh? You have a report for me?

Actually, he called you at my behest.

Ah, Celestine. I want to thank you for your information. It’s proven quite useful in my studies. Why have you called?

I called to tell you that I don’t appreciate being lied to.

There was a considerable pause. What have I lied about?

I know you can’t send me home.

Yet. I can’t send you home yet.

I know how much power is needed for the spell. I know it’s an impossible amount of power.

Have you already forgotten what I told you? Power is not an issue for a learned magician. I can get you home, and I will.

I would have more confidence if I had learned about this directly from you. Even so, I want you to know I’ll still get your dragon back. It was partly my responsibility to keep the egg safe, so it is my responsibility to get it back to you.

I thank you. I also assume Murtagh must have changed his true name in order to tell you about the spell. I thank you for that, too.

Murtagh interrupted, What do you mean by that?

I told Celestine before you left that I hoped she could change you for the better. That’s all the oath ever was—to get you to become a better man than you were.

You lie.

You can ask her if you don’t believe me.

“He did tell me that,” Celestine said aloud.

And I certainly do hope, Galbatorix added, that you have indeed changed for the better instead of for the worse. Now, anything else?

Are you at Belatona? Celestine asked.

No, I left last night. I recently returned to the capital. Why?

There was a column of smoke outside the city this morning. I wondered what happened.

Simple. I told Bradburn I would handle the siege, and I did. I gave the Varden an ultimatum—leave by sunset or be caught in the fires when I burned their camp. They scattered quite quickly. Truthfully, I think many had left even before my ultimatum.

Do you know what’s happened to Dras-Leona?

No. What?

It’s been destroyed by the green dragon’s Rider. Someone calling himself Durza and Dorias. Also, they were harboring Ra’zac eggs, which the Rider took.

There was another considerable pause. None of that makes any sense or portends anything good. I fear you may have too much to handle in Vroengard. I will meet you there.

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  1. Brendan Rizzo on 27 January 2013, 18:39 said:

    And the plot thickens.

    I do hope that Eragon gets some character development. You appear to be leading up to such.

  2. Finn on 29 January 2013, 20:28 said:

    I cannot tell you how much I enjoy this story. I’m always so happy every time I see the next chapter up :)

  3. Asahel on 7 February 2013, 22:36 said:

    Thanks both for the comments. Glad you’re enjoying the story. The next chapter should be up pretty soon for increased happiness!