Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle 1) - Page 10

This time Eragon could hear Horst’s response. “Maybe . . .” There was a long pause. “I’ve been thinking about what Eragon said, and I’m not sure he told us everything.”

“What do you mean?” asked Elain. There was concern in her voice.

“When we started for their farm, the road was scraped smooth by the board he dragged Garrow on. Then we reached a place where the snow was all trampled and churned up. His footprints and signs of the board stopped there, but we also saw the same giant tracks from the farm. And what about his legs? I can’t believe he didn’t notice losing that much skin. I didn’t want to push him for answers earlier, but now I think I will.”

“Maybe what he saw scared him so much that he doesn’t want to talk about it,” suggested Elain. “You saw how distraught he was.”

“That still doesn’t explain how he managed to get Garrow nearly all the way here without leaving any tracks.”

Saphira was right, thought Eragon. It’s time to leave. Too many questions from too many people. Sooner or later they’ll find the answers. He continued through the house, tensing whenever the floor creaked.

The streets were clear; few people were up at this time of day. He stopped for a minute and forced himself to focus. I don’t need a horse. Saphira will be my steed, but she needs a saddle. She can hunt for both of us, so I don’t have to worry about food—though I should get some anyway. Whatever else I need I can find buried in our house.

He went to Gedric’s tanning vats on the outskirts of Carvahall. The vile smell made him cringe, but he kept moving, heading for a shack set into the side of a hill where the cured hides were stored. He cut down three large ox hides from the rows of skins hanging from the ceiling. The thievery made him feel guilty, but he reasoned, It’s not really stealing. I’ll pay Gedric back someday, along with Horst. He rolled up the thick leather and took it to a stand of trees away from the village. He wedged the hides between the branches of a tree, then returned to Carvahall.

Now for food. He went to the tavern, intending to get it there, but then smiled tightly and reversed direction. If he was going to steal, it might as well be from Sloan. He sneaked up to the butcher’s house. The front door was barred whenever Sloan was not there, but the side door was secured with only a thin chain, which he broke easily. The rooms inside were dark. He fumbled blindly until his hands came upon hard piles of meat wrapped in cloth. He stuffed as many of them as he could under his shirt, then hurried back to the street and furtively closed the door.

A woman shouted his name nearby. He clasped the bottom of his shirt to keep the meat from falling out and ducked behind a corner. He shivered as Horst walked between two houses not ten feet away.

Eragon ran as soon as Horst was out of sight. His legs burned as he pounded down an alley and back to the trees. He slipped between the tree trunks, then turned to see if he was being pursued. No one was there. Relieved, he let out his breath and reached into the tree for the leather. It was gone.

“Going somewhere?”

Eragon whirled around. Brom scowled angrily at him, an ugly wound on the side of his head. A short sword hung at his belt in a brown sheath. The hides were in his hands.

Eragon’s eyes narrowed in irritation. How had the old man managed to sneak up on him? Everything had been so quiet, he would have sworn that no one was around. “Give them back,” he snapped.

“Why? So you can run off before Garrow is even buried?” The accusation was sharp.

“It’s none of your business!” he barked, temper flashing. “Why did you follow me?”

“I didn’t,” grunted Brom. “I’ve been waiting for you here. Now where are you going?”

“Nowhere.” Eragon lunged for the skins and grabbed them from Brom’s hands. Brom did nothing to stop him.

“I hope you have enough meat to feed your dragon.”

Eragon froze. “What are you talking about?”

Brom crossed his arms. “Don’t fool with me. I know where that mark on your hand, the gedwëy ignasia, the shining palm, comes from: you have touched a dragon hatchling. I know why you came to me with those questions, and I know that once more the Riders live.”

Eragon dropped the leather and meat. It’s finally happened . . . I have to get away! I can’t run faster than him with my injured legs, but if . . . Saphira! he called.

For a few agonizing seconds she did not answer, but then, Yes.

We’ve been discovered! I need you! He sent her a picture of where he was, and she took off immediately. Now he just had to stall Brom. “How did you find out?” he asked in a hollow voice.

Brom stared into the distance and moved his lips soundlessly as if he were talking to someone else. Then he said, “There were clues and hints everywhere; I had only to pay attention. Anyone with the right knowledge could have done the same. Tell me, how is your dragon?”

“She,” said Eragon, “is fine. We weren’t at the farm when the strangers came.”

“Ah, your legs. You were flying?”

How did Brom figure that out? What if the strangers coerced him into doing this? Maybe they want him to discover where I’m going so they can ambush us. And where is Saphira? He reached out with his mind and found her circling far overhead. Come!

No, I will watch for a time.


Because of the slaughter at Dorú Areaba.


Brom leaned against a tree with a slight smile. “I have talked with her, and she has agreed to stay above us until we settle our differences. As you can see, you really don’t have any choice but to answer my questions. Now tell me, where are you going?”

Bewildered, Eragon put a hand to his temple. How could Brom speak to Saphira? The back of his head throbbed and ideas whirled through his mind, but he kept reaching the same conclusion: he had to tell the old man something. He said, “I was going to find a safe place to stay while I heal.”

“And after that?”

The question could not be ignored. The throbbing in his head grew worse. It was impossible to think; nothing seemed clear anymore. All he wanted to do was tell someone about the events of the past few months. It tore at him that his secret had caused Garrow’s death. He gave up and said tremulously, “I was going to hunt down the strangers and kill them.”

“A mighty task for one so young,” Brom said in a normal tone, as if Eragon had proposed the most obvious and suitable thing to do. “Certainly a worthy endeavor and one you are fit to carry out, yet it strikes me that help would not be unwelcome.” He reached behind a bush and pulled out a large pack. His tone became gruff. “Anyway, I’m not going to stay behind while some stripling gets to run around with a dragon.”

Is he really offering help, or is it a trap? Eragon was afraid of what his mysterious enemies could do. But Brom convinced Saphira to trust him, and they’ve talked through the mind touch. If she isn’t worried . . . He decided to put his suspicions aside for the present. “I don’t need help,” said Eragon, then grudgingly added, “but you can come.”

“Then we had best be going,” said Brom. His face blanked for a moment. “I think you’ll find that your dragon will listen to you again.”

Saphira? asked Eragon.


He resisted the urge to question her. Will you meet us at the farm?

Yes. So you reached an agreement?

I guess so. She broke contact and soared away. He glanced at Carvahall and saw people running from house to house. “I think they’re looking for me.”

Brom raised an eyebrow. “Probably. Shall we go?”

Eragon hesitated. “I’d like to leave a message for Roran. It doesn’t seem right to run off without telling him why.”

“It’s been taken care of,” assured Brom. “I left a letter for him with Gertrude, explaining a few things. I also cautioned him to be on guard for certain dangers. Is that satisfactory?”

Eragon nodded. He wrapped the leather around the meat and started off. They were careful to stay ou

t of sight until they reached the road, then quickened their pace, eager to distance themselves from Carvahall. Eragon plowed ahead determinedly, his legs burning. The mindless rhythm of walking freed his mind to think. Once we get home, I won’t travel any farther with Brom until I get some answers, he told himself firmly. I hope that he can tell me more about the Riders and whom I’m fighting.

As the wreckage of the farm came into view, Brom’s eyebrows beetled with anger. Eragon was dismayed to see how swiftly nature was reclaiming the farm. Snow and dirt were already piled inside the house, concealing the violence of the strangers’ attack. All that remained of the barn was a rapidly eroding rectangle of soot.

Brom’s head snapped up as the sound of Saphira’s wings drifted over the trees. She dived past them from behind, almost brushing their heads. They staggered as a wall of air buffeted them. Saphira’s scales glittered as she wheeled over the farm and landed gracefully.

Brom stepped forward with an expression both solemn and joyous. His eyes were shining, and a tear shone on his cheek before it disappeared into his beard. He stood there for a long while, breathing heavily as he watched Saphira, and she him. Eragon heard him muttering and edged closer to listen.

“So . . . it starts again. But how and where will it end? My sight is veiled; I cannot tell if this be tragedy or farce, for the elements of both are here. . . . However it may be, my station is unchanged, and I . . .”

Whatever else he might have said faded away as Saphira proudly approached them. Eragon passed Brom, pretended he had heard nothing, and greeted her. There was something different between them now, as if they knew each other even more intimately, yet were still strangers. He rubbed her neck, and his palm tingled as their minds touched. A strong curiosity came from her.

I’ve seen no humans except you and Garrow, and he was badly injured, she said.

You’ve viewed people through my eyes.

It’s not the same. She came closer and turned her long head so that she could inspect Brom with one large blue eye. You really are queer creatures, she said critically, and continued to stare at him. Brom held still as she sniffed the air, and then he extended a hand to her. Saphira slowly bowed her head and allowed him to touch her on the brow. With a snort, she jerked back and retreated behind Eragon. Her tail flicked over the ground.

What is it? he asked. She did not answer.

Brom turned to him and asked in an undertone, “What’s her name?”

“Saphira.” A peculiar expression crossed Brom’s face. He ground the butt of his staff into the earth with such force his knuckles turned white. “Of all the names you gave me, it was the only one she liked. I think it fits,” Eragon added quickly.

“Fit it does,” said Brom. There was something in his voice Eragon could not identify. Was it loss, wonder, fear, envy? He was not sure; it could have been none of them or all. Brom raised his voice and said, “Greetings, Saphira. I am honored to meet you.” He twisted his hand in a strange gesture and bowed.

I like him, said Saphira quietly.

Of course you do; everyone enjoys flattery. Eragon touched her on the shoulder and went to the ruined house. Saphira trailed behind with Brom. The old man looked vibrant and alive.

Eragon climbed into the house and crawled under a door into what was left of his room. He barely recognized it under the piles of shattered wood. Guided by memory, he searched where the inside wall had been and found his empty pack. Part of the frame was broken, but the damage could be easily repaired. He kept rummaging and eventually uncovered the end of his bow, which was still in its buckskin tube.

Though the leather was scratched and scuffed, he was pleased to see that the oiled wood was unharmed. Finally, some luck. He strung the bow and pulled on the sinew experimentally. It bent smoothly, without any snaps or creaks. Satisfied, he hunted for his quiver, which he found buried nearby. Many of the arrows were broken.

He unstrung the bow and handed it and the quiver to Brom, who said, “It takes a strong arm to pull that.” Eragon took the compliment silently. He picked through the rest of the house for other useful items and dumped the collection next to Brom. It was a meager pile. “What now?” asked Brom. His eyes were sharp and inquisitive. Eragon looked away.

“We find a place to hide.”

“Do you have somewhere in mind?”

“Yes.” He wrapped all the supplies, except for his bow, into a tight bundle and tied it shut. Hefting it onto his back, he said, “This way,” and headed into the forest. Saphira, follow us in the air. Your footprints are too easily found and tracked.

Very well. She took off behind them.

Their destination was nearby, but Eragon took a circuitous route in an effort to baffle any pursuers. It was well over an hour before he finally stopped in a well-concealed bramble.

The irregular clearing in the center was just large enough for a fire, two people, and a dragon. Red squirrels scampered into the trees, chattering in protest at their intrusion. Brom extricated himself from a vine and looked around with interest. “Does anyone else know of this?” he asked.

“No. I found it when we first moved here. It took me a week to dig into the center, and another week to clear out all the deadwood.” Saphira landed beside them and folded her wings, careful to avoid the thorns. She curled up, snapping twigs with her hard scales, and rested her head on the ground. Her unreadable eyes followed them closely.

Brom leaned against his staff and fixed his gaze on her. His scrutiny made Eragon nervous.

Eragon watched them until hunger forced him to action. He built a fire, filled a pot with snow, and then set it over the flames to melt. When the water was hot, he tore off chunks of meat and dropped them into the pot with a lump of salt. Not much of a meal, he thought grimly, but it’ll do. I’ll probably be eating this for some time to come, so I might as well get used to it.

The stew simmered quietly, spreading a rich aroma through the clearing. The tip of Saphira’s tongue snaked out and tasted the air. When the meat was tender, Brom came over and Eragon served the food. They ate silently, avoiding each other’s eyes. Afterward, Brom pulled out his pipe and lit it leisurely.

“Why do you want to travel with me?” asked Eragon.

A cloud of smoke left Brom’s lips and spiraled up through the trees until it disappeared. “I have a vested interest in keeping you alive,” he said.

“What do you mean?” demanded Eragon.

“To put it bluntly, I’m a storyteller and I happen to think that you will make a fine story. You’re the first Rider to exist outside of the king’s control for over a hundred years. What will happen? Will you perish as a martyr? Will you join the Varden? Or will you kill King Galbatorix? All fascinating questions. And I will be there to see every bit of it, no matter what I have to do.”

A knot formed in Eragon’s stomach. He could not see himself doing any of those things, least of all becoming a martyr. I want my vengeance, but for the rest . . . I have no ambition. “That may be, but tell me, how can you talk with Saphira?”

Brom took his time putting more tobacco in his pipe. Once it was relit and firmly in his mouth, he said, “Very well, if it’s answers you want, it’s answers you’ll get, but they may not be to your liking.” He got up, brought his pack over to the fire, and pulled out a long object wrapped in cloth. It was about five feet long and, from the way he handled it, rather heavy.

He peeled away the cloth, strip by strip, like a mummy being unswathed. Eragon gazed, transfixed, as a sword was revealed. The gold pommel was teardrop shaped with the sides cut away to reveal a ruby the size of a small egg. The hilt was wrapped in silver wire, burnished until it gleamed like starlight. The sheath was wine red and smooth as glass, adorned solely by a strange black symbol etched into it. Next to the sword was a leather belt with a heavy buckle. The last strip fell away, and Brom passed the weapon to Eragon.

The handle fit Eragon’s hand as if it had been made for him. He slowly drew the sword; it slid soundlessly from

the sheath. The flat blade was iridescent red and shimmered in the firelight. The keen edges curved gracefully to a sharp point. A duplicate of the black symbol was inscribed on the metal. The balance of the sword was perfect; it felt like an extension of his arm, unlike the rude farm tools he was used to. An air of power lay over it, as if an unstoppable force resided in its core. It had been created for the violent convulsions of battle, to end men’s lives, yet it held a terrible beauty.

“This was once a Rider’s blade,” said Brom gravely. “When a Rider finished his training, the elves would present him with a sword. Their methods of forging have always remained secret. However, their swords are eternally sharp and will never stain. The custom was to have the blade’s color match that of the Rider’s dragon, but I think we can make an exception in this case. This sword is named Zar’roc. I don’t know what it means, probably something personal to the Rider who owned it.” He watched Eragon swing the sword.

“Where did you get it?” asked Eragon. He reluctantly slipped the blade back into the sheath and attempted to hand the sword back, but Brom made no move to take it.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Brom. “I will only say that it took me a series of nasty and dangerous adventures to attain it. Consider it yours. You have more of a claim to it than I do, and before all is done, I think you will need it.”

The offer caught Eragon off guard. “It is a princely gift, thank you.” Unsure of what else to say, he slid his hand down the sheath. “What is this symbol?” he asked.

“That was the Rider’s personal crest.” Eragon tried to interrupt, but Brom glared at him until he was quiet. “Now, if you must know, anyone can learn how to speak to a dragon if they have the proper training. And,” he raised a finger for emphasis, “it doesn’t mean anything if they can. I know more about the dragons and their abilities than almost anyone else alive. On your own it might take years to learn what I can teach you. I’m offering my knowledge as a shortcut. As for how I know so much, I will keep that to myself.”

Tags: Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Fantasy
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