Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle 2) - Page 46

At the base of the basalt monolith—which ascended from the forest floor like a mottled green pillar and stood a good hundred feet higher than the trees—Eragon murmured, “Halt,” then slid to the ground. He looked at the distant top of the Stone of Broken Eggs. Saphira was up there.

He walked around the perimeter, searching for a means to achieve the pinnacle, but in vain, for the weathered formation was impregnable. It possessed no fissures, crevices, or other faults near enough to the ground that he could use to climb its sides.

This might hurt, he thought.

“Stay here,” he told Folkvír. The horse looked at him with intelligent eyes. “Graze if you want, but stay here, okay?” Folkvír nickered and, with his velvet muzzle, nudged Eragon’s arm. “Yes, good boy. You’ve done well.”

Fixing his gaze on the crest of the monolith, Eragon gathered his strength, then said in the ancient language, “Up!”

He realized later that if he had not been accustomed to flying with Saphira, the experience might have proved unsettling enough to cause him to lose control of the spell and plunge to his death. The ground dropped away beneath his feet at a swift clip, while the tree trunks narrowed as he floated toward the underside of the canopy and the fading evening sky beyond. Branches clung like grasping fingers to his face and shoulders as he pushed through into the open. Unlike during one of Saphira’s dives, he retained his sense of weight, as if he still stood upon the loam below.

Rising above the edge of the Stone of Broken Eggs, Eragon moved himself forward and released his grip on the magic, alighting upon a mossy patch. He sagged with exhaustion and waited to see if the exertion would pain his back, then sighed with relief when it did not.

The top of the monolith was composed of jagged towers divided by deep and wide gullies where naught but a few scattered wild-flowers grew. Black caves dotted the towers, some natural, others clawed out of the basalt by talons as thick as Eragon’s leg. Their floors were blanketed with a deep layer of lichen-ridden bones, remnants of the dragons’ ancient kills. Birds now nested where dragons once had—hawks and falcons and eagles, who watched him from their perches, ready to attack if he should threaten their eggs.

Eragon picked his way across the forbidding landscape, careful not to twist an ankle on the loose flakes of stone or to get too close to the occasional rifts that split the column. If he fell down one, it would send him tumbling out into empty space. Several times he had to climb over high ridges, and twice more he had to lift himself with magic.

Evidence of the dragons’ habitation was visible everywhere, from deep scratches in the basalt to puddles of melted rock to a number of dull, colorless scales caught in nooks, along with other detritus. He even stepped upon a sharp object that, when he bent to examine it, proved to be a fragment of a green dragon egg.

On the eastern face of the monolith stood the tallest tower, in the center of which, like a black pit turned on its side, was the largest cave. It was there that Eragon finally beheld Saphira, curled in a hollow against the far wall, her back to the opening. Tremors ran her length. The walls of the cave bore fresh scorch marks, and the piles of brittle bones were scattered about as if from a fight.

“Saphira,” said Eragon, speaking out loud since her mind was closed to him.

Her head whipped up, and she stared at him as if he were a stranger, her pupils contracting to thin black slits as her eyes adjusted to the light from the setting sun behind him. She snarled once, like a feral dog, and then twisted away. As she did, she lifted her left wing and exposed a long, ragged gash along her upper thigh. His heart caught at the sight.

Eragon knew that she would not let him approach, so he did as Oromis had with Glaedr; he knelt among the crushed bones and waited. He waited without word or motion until his legs were numb and his hands were stiff with cold. Yet he did not resent the discomfort. He paid the price gladly if it meant he could help Saphira.

After a time, she said, I have been a fool.

We are all fools sometimes.

That makes it no easier when it is your turn to play dunce.

I suppose not.

I have always known what to do. When Garrow died, I knew it was the right thing to pursue the Ra’zac. When Brom died, I knew that we should go to Gil’ead and thence to the Varden. And when Ajihad died, I knew that you should pledge yourself to Nasuada. The path has always been clear to me. Except now. In this issue alone, I am lost.

What is it, Saphira?

Instead of answering, she turned the subject and said, Do you know why this is called the Stone of Broken Eggs?


Because during the war between dragons and elves, the elves tracked us to this location and killed us while we slept. They tore apart our nests, then shattered our eggs with their magic. That day, it rained blood in the forest below. No dragon has lived here since.

Eragon remained silent. That was not why he was here. He would wait until she could bring herself to address the situation at hand.

Say something! demanded Saphira.

Will you let me heal your leg?

Leave well enough alone.

Then I shall remain as mute as a statue and sit here until I turn to dust, for I have the patience of a dragon from you.

When they came, her words were halting, bitter, and self-mocking: It shames me to admit it. When we first came here and I saw Glaedr, I felt such joy that another member of my race survived besides Shruikan. I had never even seen another dragon before, except in Brom’s memories. And I thought…I thought that Glaedr would be as pleased by my existence as I was by his.

But he was.

You don’t understand. I thought that he would be the mate I never expected to have and that together we could rebuild our race. She snorted, and a burst of flame escaped her nostrils. I was mistaken. He does not want me.

Eragon chose his response with care to avoid offending her and to provide a modicum of comfort. That’s because he knows you are destined for someone else: one of the two remaining eggs. Nor would it be proper for him to mate with you when he is your mentor.

Or perhaps he does not find me comely enough.

Saphira, no dragon is ugly, and you are the fairest of dragons.

I am a fool, she said. But she raised her left wing and kept it in the air as permission for him to tend to her injury.

Eragon limped to Saphira’s side, where he examined the crimson wound, glad that Oromis had given him so many scrolls on anatomy to read. The blow—by claw or tooth, he was not sure—had torn the quadriceps muscle beneath Saphira’s hide, but not so much as to bare the bone. Merely closing the surface of the wound, as Eragon had done so many times, would not be enough. The muscle had to be knitted back together.

The spell Eragon used was long and complex, and even he did not understand all its parts, for he had memorized it from an ancient text that offered little explanation beyond the statement that, given no bones were broken and the internal organs were whole, “this charm will heal any ailment of violent origins, excepting that of grim death.” Once he uttered it, Eragon watched with fascination as Saphira’s muscle writhed beneath his hand—veins, nerves, and fibers weaving together—and became whole once more. The wound was big enough that, in his weakened state, he dared not heal it with just the energy from his body, so he drew upon Saphira’s strength as well.

It itches, said Saphira when he finished.

Eragon sighed and leaned his back against the rough basalt, looking at the sunset through his eyelashes. I fear that you will have to carry me off this rock. I’m too tired to move.

With a dry rustle, she twisted in place and laid her head on the bones beside him. I have treated you poorly ever since we came to Ellesméra. I ignored your advice when I should have listened. You warned me about Glaedr, but I was too proud to see the truth in your words…. I have failed to be a good companion for you, betrayed what it means to be a dragon, and tarnished the honor of the Riders.

No, never that, he said ve

hemently. Saphira, you haven’t failed your duty. You may have made a mistake, but it was an honest one, and one that anyone might have committed in your position.

That does not excuse my behavior toward you.

He tried to meet her eye, but she avoided his gaze until he touched her upon the neck and said, Saphira, family members forgive one another, even if they don’t always understand why someone acts in a certain way…. You are as much my family as Roran—more. Nothing you can do will ever change that. Nothing. When she did not respond, he reached behind her jaw and tickled the patch of leathery skin below one of her ears. Do you hear me, eh? Nothing!

She coughed low in her throat with reluctant amusement, then arched her neck and lifted her head to escape his dancing fingers. How can I face Glaedr again? He was in a terrible rage…. The entire stone shook with the force of his anger.

At least you held your own when he attacked you.

It was the other way around.

Caught by surprise, Eragon raised his eyebrows. Well, in any case, the only thing to do is to apologize.


Aye. Go tell him that you are sorry, that this won’t happen again, and that you want to continue your training with him. I’m sure he will be sympathetic if you give him the chance.

Very well, she said in a low voice.

You’ll feel better once you do. He grinned. I know from experience.

She grunted and padded to the edge of the cave, where she crouched and surveyed the rolling forest. We should go. Soon it will be dark. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself upright—every movement costing him effort—and climbed onto her back, taking twice the time he usually did. Eragon?…Thank you for coming. I know what you risked with your back.

He patted her on the shoulder. Are we one again?

We are one.


The days leading up to the Agaetí Blödhren were the best and worst of times for Eragon. His back troubled him more than ever, battering down his health and endurance and destroying his calm of mind; he lived in constant fear of triggering an episode. Yet, in contrast, he and Saphira had never been so close. They lived as much in each other’s minds as in their own. And every now and then Arya would visit the tree house and walk through Ellesméra with Eragon and Saphira. She never came alone, though, always bringing either Orik or Maud the werecat.

Over the course of their wanderings, Arya introduced Eragon and Saphira to elves of distinction: great warriors, poets, and artists. She took them to concerts held under the thatched pines. And she showed them many hidden wonders of Ellesméra.

Eragon seized every opportunity to talk with her. He told her about his upbringing in Palancar Valley, about Roran, Garrow, and his aunt Marian, stories of Sloan, Ethlbert, and the other villagers, and his love of the mountains surrounding Carvahall and the flaming sheets of light that adorned the winter sky at night. He told her about the time a vixen fell into Gedric’s tanning vats and had to be fished out with a net. He told her about the joy he found in planting a crop, weeding and nurturing it, and watching the tender green shoots grow under his care—a joy that he knew she, of all people, could appreciate.

In turn, Eragon gleaned occasional insights into her own life. He heard mentions of her childhood, her friends and family, and her experiences among the Varden, which she spoke about most freely, describing raids and battles she participated in, treaties she helped to negotiate, her disputes with the dwarves, and the momentous events she witnessed during her tenure as ambassador.

Between her and Saphira, a measure of peace entered Eragon’s heart, but it was a precarious balance that the slightest influence might disrupt. Time itself was an enemy, for Arya was destined to leave Du Weldenvarden after the Agaetí Blödhren. Thus, Eragon treasured his moments with her and dreaded the arrival of the forthcoming celebration.

The entire city bustled with activity as the elves prepared for the Agaetí Blödhren. Eragon had never seen them so excited before. They decorated the forest with colored bunting and lanterns, especially around the Menoa tree, while the tree itself was adorned with a lantern upon the tip of each branch, where they hung like glowing teardrops. Even the plants, Eragon noticed, took on a festive appearance with a collection of bright new flowers. He often heard the elves singing to them late at night.

Each day hundreds of elves arrived in Ellesméra from their cities scattered throughout the woods, for no elf would willingly miss the centennial observance of their treaty with the dragons. Eragon guessed that many of them also came to meet Saphira. It seems as if I do nothing but repeat their greeting, he thought. The elves who were absent because of their responsibilities would hold their own festivities simultaneously and would participate in the ceremonies at Ellesméra by scrying through enchanted mirrors that displayed the likeness of those watching, so that no one felt as if they were being spied upon.

A week before the Agaetí Blödhren, when Eragon and Saphira were about to return to their quarters from the Crags of Tel’naeír, Oromis said, “You should both think about what you can bring to the Blood-oath Celebration. Unless your creations require magic to make or to function, I suggest that you avoid using gramarye. No one will respect your work if it’s the product of a spell and not of your own hands. I also suggest you each make a separate piece. That too is custom.”

In the air, Eragon asked Saphira, Do you have any ideas?

I might have one. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to see if it works before I tell you. He caught part of an image from her of a bare knuckle of stone protruding from the forest floor before she concealed it from him.

He grinned. Won’t you give me a hint?

Fire. Lots of fire.

Back in their tree house, Eragon cataloged his skills and thought, I know more about farming than anything else, but I don’t see how I can turn that to my advantage. Nor can I hope to compete with the elves with magic or match their accomplishments with the crafts I am familiar with. Their talent exceeds that of the finest artisans in the Empire.

But you possess one quality that no one else does, said Saphira.


Your identity. Your history, deeds, and situation. Use those to shape your creation and you will produce something unique. Whatever you make, base it upon that which is most important to you. Only then will it have depth and meaning, and only then will it resonate with others.

He looked at her with surprise. I never realized that you knew so much about art.

I don’t, she said. You forget I spent an afternoon watching Oromis paint his scrolls while you flew with Glaedr. Oromis discussed the topic quite a bit.

Ah, yes. I had forgotten.

After Saphira left to pursue her project, Eragon paced along the edge of the open portal in the bedroom, pondering what she had said. What’s important to me? he asked himself. Saphira and Arya, of course, and being a good Rider, but what can I say about those subjects that isn’t blindingly obvious? I appreciate beauty in nature, but, again, the elves have already expressed everything possible on that topic. Ellesméra itself is a monument to their devotion. He turned his gaze inward and scrutinized himself to determine what struck the deepest, darkest chords within him. What stirred him with enough passion—of either love or hate—that he burned to share it with others?

Three things presented themselves to him: his injury at the hands of Durza, his fear of one day fighting Galbatorix, and the elves’ epics that so engrossed him.

A rush of excitement flared within Eragon as a story combining those elements took form in his mind. Light on his feet, he ran up the twisting stairs—two at a time—to the study, where he sat before the writing desk, dipped quill in ink, and held it trembling over a pale sheet of paper.

The nib rasped as he made the first stroke:

In the kingdom by the sea,

In the mountains mantled blue…

The words flowed from his pen seemingly of their own accord. He felt as if he were not inventing his tal

e, but merely acting as a conduit to transport it fully formed into the world. Having never composed a work of his own before, Eragon was gripped by the thrill of discovery that accompanies new ventures—especially since, previously, he had not suspected that he might enjoy being a bard.

He labored in a frenzy, not stopping for bread or drink, his tunic sleeves rolled past his elbows to protect them from the ink flicked from his quill by the wild force of his writing. So intense was his concentration, he heard nothing but the beat of his poem, saw nothing but the empty paper, and thought of nothing but the phrases etched in lines of fire behind his eyes.

An hour and a half later, he dropped the quill from his cramped hand, pushed his chair away from the desk, and stood. Fourteen pages lay before him. It was the most he had ever written at one time. Eragon knew that his poem could not match those of the elves’ and dwarves’ great authors, but he hoped it was honest enough that the elves would not laugh at his effort.

He recited the poem to Saphira when she returned. Afterward, she said, Ah, Eragon, you have changed much since we left Palancar Valley. You would not recognize the untested boy who first set out for vengeance, I think. That Eragon could not have written a lay after the style of the elves. I look forward to seeing who you become in the next fifty or a hundred years.

He smiled. If I live that long.

“Rough but true,” was what Oromis said when Eragon read him the poem.

“Then you like it?”

“’Tis a good portrait of your mental state at the present and an engaging read, but no masterpiece. Did you expect it to be?”

“I suppose not.”

“However, I am surprised that you can give voice to it in this tongue. No barrier exists to writing fiction in the ancient language. The difficulty arises when one attempts to speak it, for that would require you to tell untruths, which the magic will not allow.”

“I can say it,” replied Eragon, “because I believe it’s true.”

“And that gives your writing far more power…. I am impressed, Eragon-finiarel. Your poem will be a worthy addition to the Blood-oath Celebration.” Raising a finger, Oromis reached within his robe and gave Eragon a scroll tied shut with ribbon. “Inscribed on that paper are nine wards I want you to place about yourself and the dwarf Orik. As you discovered at Sílthrim, our festivities are potent and not for those with constitutions weaker than ours. Unprotected, you risk losing yourself in the web of our magic. I have seen it happen. Even with these precautions, you must take care you are not swayed by fancies wafted on the breeze. Be on your guard, for during this time, we elves are apt to go mad—wonderfully, gloriously mad, but mad all the same.”

Tags: Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Fantasy
Source: readsnovelonline.net
readsnovelonline.net Copyright 2016 - 2023