“And I wonder why I haven’t been contacted about this,” said Jeod.
“Maybe they tried. But if there’s a traitor . . .” Brom paused. “I have to send word to Ajihad. Do you have a messenger you can trust?”
“I think so,” said Jeod. “It depends on where he would have to go.”
“I don’t know,” said Brom. “I’ve been isolated so long, my contacts have probably died or forgotten me. Could you send him to whoever receives your shipments?”
“Yes, but it’ll be risky.”
“What isn’t these days? How soon can he leave?”
“He can go in the morning. I’ll send him to Gil’ead. It will be faster,” said Jeod. “What can he take to convince Ajihad the message comes from you?”
“Here, give your man my ring. And tell him that if he loses it, I’ll personally tear his liver out. It was given to me by the queen.”
“Aren’t you cheery,” commented Jeod.
Brom grunted. After a long silence he said, “We’d better go out and join Eragon. I get worried when he’s alone. That boy has an unnatural propensity for being wherever there’s trouble.”
“Are you surprised?”
Eragon heard chairs being pushed back. He quickly pulled his mind away and opened his eyes. “What’s going on?” he muttered to himself. Jeod and other traders are in trouble for helping people the Empire doesn’t favor. Brom found something in Gil’ead and went to Carvahall to hide. What could be so important that he would let his own friend think he was dead for nearly twenty years? He mentioned a queen—when there aren’t any queens in the known kingdoms—and dwarves, who, as he himself told me, disappeared underground long ago.
He wanted answers! But he would not confront Brom now and risk jeopardizing their mission. No, he would wait until they left Teirm, and then he would persist until the old man explained his secrets. Eragon’s thoughts were still whirling when the door opened.
“Were the horses all right?” asked Brom.
“Fine,” said Eragon. They untied the horses and left the castle.
As they reentered the main body of Teirm, Brom said, “So, Jeod, you finally got married. And,” he winked slyly, “to a lovely young woman. Congratulations.”
Jeod did not seem happy with the compliment. He hunched his shoulders and stared down at the street. “Whether congratulations are in order is debatable right now. Helen isn’t very happy.”
“Why? What does she want?” asked Brom.
“The usual,” said Jeod with a resigned shrug. “A good home, happy children, food on the table, and pleasant company. The problem is that she comes from a wealthy family; her father has invested heavily in my business. If I keep suffering these losses, there won’t be enough money for her to live the way she’s used to.”
Jeod continued, “But please, my troubles are not your troubles. A host should never bother his guests with his own concerns. While you are in my house, I will let nothing more than an over-full stomach disturb you.”
“Thank you,” said Brom. “We appreciate the hospitality. Our travels have long been without comforts of any kind. Do you happen to know where we could find an inexpensive shop? All this riding has worn out our clothes.”
“Of course. That’s my job,” said Jeod, lightening up. He talked eagerly about prices and stores until his house was in sight. Then he asked, “Would you mind if we went somewhere else to eat? It might be awkward if you came in right now.”
“Whatever makes you feel comfortable,” said Brom.
Jeod looked relieved. “Thanks. Let’s leave your horses in my stable.”
They did as he suggested, then followed him to a large tavern. Unlike the Green Chestnut, this one was loud, clean, and full of boisterous people. When the main course arrived—a stuffed suckling pig—Eragon eagerly dug into the meat, but he especially savored the potatoes, carrots, turnips, and sweet apples that accompanied it. It had been a long time since he had eaten much more than wild game.
They lingered over the meal for hours as Brom and Jeod swapped stories. Eragon did not mind. He was warm, a lively tune jangled in the background, and there was more than enough food. The spirited tavern babble fell pleasantly on his ears.
When they finally exited the tavern, the sun was nearing the horizon. “You two go ahead; I have to check on something,” Eragon said. He wanted to see Saphira and make sure that she was safely hidden.
Brom agreed absently. “Be careful. Don’t take too long.”
“Wait,” said Jeod. “Are you going outside Teirm?” Eragon hesitated, then reluctantly nodded. “Make sure you’re inside the walls before dark. The gates close then, and the guards won’t let you back in until morning.”
“I won’t be late,” promised Eragon. He turned around and loped down a side street, toward Teirm’s outer wall. Once out of the city, he breathed deeply, enjoying the fresh air. Saphira! he called. Where are you? She guided him off the road, to the base of a mossy cliff surrounded by maples. He saw her head poke out of the trees on the top and waved. How am I supposed to get up there?
If you find a clearing, I’ll come down and get you.
No, he said, eyeing the cliff, that won’t be necessary. I’ll just climb up.
It’s too dangerous.
And you worry too much. Let me have some fun.
Eragon pulled off his gloves and started climbing. He relished the physical challenge. There were plenty of handholds, so the ascent was easy. He was soon high above the trees. Halfway up, he stopped on a ledge to catch his breath.
Once his strength returned, he stretched up for the next handhold, but his arm was not long enough. Stymied, he searched for another crevice or ridge to grasp. There was none. He tried backing down, but his legs could not reach his last foothold. Saphira watched with unblinking eyes. He gave up and said, I could use some help.
This is your own fault.
Yes! I know. Are you going to get me down or not?
If I weren’t around, you would be in a very bad situation.
Eragon rolled his eyes. You don’t have to tell me.
You’re right. After all, how can a mere dragon expect to tell a man like yourself what to do? In fact, everyone should stand in awe of your brilliance of finding the only dead end. Why, if you had started a few feet in either direction, the path to the top would have been clear. She cocked her head at him, eyes bright.
All right! I made a mistake. Now can you please get me out of here? he pleaded. She pulled her head back from the edge of the cliff. After a moment he called, “Saphira?” Above him were only swaying trees. “Saphira! Come back!” he roared.
With a loud crash Saphira barreled off the top of the cliff, flipping around in midair. She floated down to Eragon like a huge bat and grabbed his shirt with her claws, scratching his back. He let go of the rocks as she yanked him up in the air. After a brief flight, she set him down gently on the top of the cliff and tugged her claws out of his shirt.
Foolishness, said Saphira gently.
Eragon looked away, studying the landscape. The cliff provided a wonderful view of their surroundings, especially the foaming sea, as well as protection against unwelcome eyes. Only birds would see Saphira here. It was an ideal location.
Is Brom’s friend trustworthy? she asked.
I don’t know. Eragon proceeded to recount the day’s events. There are forces circling us that we aren’t aware of. Sometimes I wonder if we can ever understand the true motives of the people around us. They all seem to have secrets.
It is the way of the world. Ignore all the schemes and trust in the nature of each person. Brom is good. He means us no harm. We don’t have to fear his plans.
I hope so, he said, looking down at his hands.
This finding of the Ra’zac through writing is a strange way of tracking, she remarked. Would there be a way to use magic to see the records without being inside the room?
I’m not sure. You would have to combine the wor
d for seeing with distance . . . or maybe light and distance. Either way, it seems rather difficult. I’ll ask Brom.
That would be wise. They lapsed into tranquil silence.
You know, we may have to stay here awhile.
Saphira’s answer held a hard edge. And as always, I will be left to wait outside.
That is not how I want it. Soon enough we will travel together again.
May that day come quickly.
Eragon smiled and hugged her. He noticed then how rapidly the light was fading. I have to go now, before I’m locked out of Teirm. Hunt tomorrow, and I will see you in the evening.
She spread her wings. Come, I will take you down. He got onto her scaly back and held on tightly as she launched off the cliff, glided over the trees, then landed on a knoll. Eragon thanked her and ran back to Teirm.
He came into sight of the portcullis just as it was beginning to lower. Calling for them to wait, he put on a burst of speed and slipped inside seconds before the gateway slammed closed. “Ya cut that a little close,” observed one of the guards.
“It won’t happen again,” assured Eragon, bending over to catch his breath. He wound his way through the darkened city to Jeod’s house. A lantern hung outside like a beacon.
A plump butler answered his knock and ushered him inside without a word. Tapestries covered the stone walls. Elaborate rugs dotted the polished wood floor, which glowed with the light from three gold candelabra hanging from the ceiling. Smoke drifted through the air and collected above.
“This way, sir. Your friend is in the study.”
They passed scores of doorways until the butler opened one to reveal a study. Books covered the room’s walls. But unlike those in Jeod’s office, these came in every size and shape. A fireplace filled with blazing logs warmed the room. Brom and Jeod sat before an oval writing desk, talking amiably. Brom raised his pipe and said in a jovial voice, “Ah, here you are. We were getting worried about you. How was your walk?”
I wonder what put him in such a good mood? Why doesn’t he just come out and ask how Saphira is? “Pleasant, but the guards almost locked me outside the city. And Teirm is big. I had trouble finding this house.”
Jeod chuckled. “When you have seen Dras-Leona, Gil’ead, or even Kuasta, you won’t be so easily impressed by this small ocean city. I like it here, though. When it’s not raining, Teirm is really quite beautiful.”
Eragon turned to Brom. “Do you have any idea how long we’ll be here?”
Brom spread his palms upward. “That’s hard to tell. It depends on whether we can get to the records and how long it will take us to find what we need. We’ll all have to help; it will be a huge job. I’ll talk with Brand tomorrow and see if he’ll let us examine the records.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to help,” Eragon said, shifting uneasily.
“Why not?” asked Brom. “There will be plenty of work for you.”
Eragon lowered his head. “I can’t read.”
Brom straightened with disbelief. “You mean Garrow never taught you?”
“He knew how to read?” asked Eragon, puzzled. Jeod watched them with interest.
“Of course he did,” snorted Brom. “The proud fool—what was he thinking? I should have realized that he wouldn’t have taught you. He probably considered it an unnecessary luxury.” Brom scowled and pulled at his beard angrily. “This sets my plans back, but not irreparably. I’ll just have to teach you how to read. It won’t take long if you put your mind to it.”
Eragon winced. Brom’s lessons were usually intense and brutally direct. How much more can I learn at one time? “I suppose it’s necessary,” he said ruefully.
“You’ll enjoy it. There is much you can learn from books and scrolls,” said Jeod. He gestured at the walls. “These books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.”
“It sounds intriguing,” admitted Eragon.
“Always the scholar, aren’t you?” asked Brom.
Jeod shrugged. “Not anymore. I’m afraid I’ve degenerated into a bibliophile.”
“A what?” asked Eragon.
“One who loves books,” explained Jeod, and resumed conversing with Brom. Bored, Eragon scanned the shelves. An elegant book set with gold studs caught his attention. He pulled it off the shelf and stared at it curiously.
It was bound in black leather carved with mysterious runes. Eragon ran his fingers over the cover and savored its cool smoothness. The letters inside were printed with a reddish glossy ink. He let the pages slip past his fingers. A column of script, set off from the regular lettering, caught his eye. The words were long and flowing, full of graceful lines and sharp points.
Eragon took the book to Brom. “What is this?” he asked, pointing to the strange writing.
Brom looked at the page closely and raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Jeod, you’ve expanded your collection. Where did you get this? I haven’t seen one in ages.”
Jeod strained his neck to see the book. “Ah yes, the Domia abr Wyrda. A man came through here a few years ago and tried to sell it to a trader down by the wharves. Fortunately, I happened to be there and was able to save the book, along with his neck. He didn’t have a clue what it was.”
“It’s odd, Eragon, that you should pick up this book, the Dominance of Fate,” said Brom. “Of all the items in this house, it’s probably worth the most. It details a complete history of Alagaësia—starting long before the elves landed here and ending a few decades ago. The book is very rare and is the best of its kind. When it was written, the Empire decried it as blasphemy and burned the author, Heslant the Monk. I didn’t think any copies still existed. The lettering you asked about is from the ancient language.”
“What does it say?” asked Eragon.
It took Brom a moment to read the writing. “It’s part of an elven poem that tells of the years they fought the dragons. This excerpt describes one of their kings, Ceranthor, as he rides into battle. The elves love this poem and tell it regularly—though you need three days to do it properly—so that they won’t repeat the mistakes of the past. At times they sing it so beautifully it seems the very rocks will cry.”
Eragon returned to his chair, holding the book gently. It’s amazing that a man who is dead can talk to people through these pages. As long as this book survives, his ideas live. I wonder if it contains any information about the Ra’zac?
He browsed through the book while Brom and Jeod spoke. Hours passed, and Eragon began to drowse. Out of pity for his exhaustion, Jeod bid them good night. “The butler will show you to your rooms.”
On the way upstairs, the servant said, “If you need assistance, use the bellpull next to the bed.” He stopped before a cluster of three doors, bowed, then backed away.
As Brom entered the room on the right, Eragon asked, “Can I talk to you?”
“You just did, but come in anyway.”
Eragon closed the door behind himself. “Saphira and I had an idea. Is there—”
Brom stopped him with a raised hand and pulled the curtains shut over the window. “When you talk of such things, you would do well to make sure that no unwelcome ears are present.”
“Sorry,” said Eragon, berating himself for the slip. “Anyway, is it possible to conjure up an image of something that you can’t see?”
Brom sat on the edge of his bed. “What you are talking about is called scrying. It is quite possible and extremely helpful in some situations, but it has a major drawback. You can only observe people, places, and things that you’ve already seen. If you were to scry the Ra’zac, you’d see them all right, but not their surroundings. There are other problems as well. Let’s say that you wanted to view a page in a book, one that you’d already seen. You could only see the page if the book were open to it. If the book were closed when you tried this, the page would appear completely black.”
“Why can’t you view objects that you haven’t seen?” asked Eragon. Even with those limitation
s, he realized, scrying could be very useful. I wonder if I could view something leagues away and use magic to affect what was happening there?
“Because,” said Brom patiently, “to scry, you have to know what you’re looking at and where to direct your power. Even if a stranger was described to you, it would still be nigh impossible to view him, not to mention the ground and whatever else might be around him. You have to know what you’re going to scry before you can scry it. Does that answer your question?”
Eragon thought for a moment. “But how is it done? Do you conjure up the image in thin air?”
“Not usually,” said Brom, shaking his white head. “That takes more energy than projecting it onto a reflective surface like a pool of water or a mirror. Some Riders used to travel everywhere they could, trying to see as much as possible. Then, whenever war or some other calamity occurred, they would be able to view events throughout Alagaësia.”
“May I try it?” asked Eragon.
Brom looked at him carefully. “No, not now. You’re tired, and scrying takes lots of strength. I will tell you the words, but you must promise not to attempt it tonight. And I’d rather you wait until we leave Teirm; I have more to teach you.”
Eragon smiled. “I promise.”
“Very well.” Brom bent over and very quietly whispered, “Draumr kópa” into Eragon’s ear.
Eragon took a moment to memorize the words. “Maybe after we’ve left Teirm, I can scry Roran. I would like to know how he’s doing. I’m afraid that the Ra’zac might go after him.”
“I don’t mean to frighten you, but that’s a distinct possibility,” said Brom. “Although Roran was gone most of the time the Ra’zac were in Carvahall, I’m sure that they asked questions about him. Who knows, they may have even met him while they were in Therinsford. Either way, I doubt their curiosity is sated. You’re on the loose, after all, and the king is probably threatening them with terrible punishment if you aren’t found. If they get frustrated enough, they’ll go back and interrogate Roran. It’s only a matter of time.”