Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle 2) - Page 68

Os il dom qirânû carn dûr thargen, zeitmen, oen grimst vor formv edaris rak skilfz. Narho is belgond…—Let our flesh, honor, and hall be made as one by this blood of mine. I do pledge…


Ragni Hefthyn—River Guard

Shrrg—giant wolf, native to the Beor Mountains

Smer voth.—Serve the food.

Tronjheim—Helm of Giants

Urzhad—cave bear

vanyali—elf (The dwarves borrowed this word from the ancient language, wherein it means magic.)

Vor Hrothgarz korda!—By Hrothgar’s hammer!


werg—an exclamation of disgust (the dwarves’ equivalent of ugh)


Ahgrat ukmar.—It is done.

drajl—spawn of maggots

nar—a gender-neutral title of great respect


Kvetha Fricaya.

As with many authors who undertake an epic the length of the Inheritance trilogy, I have found that the creation of Eragon, and now Eldest, has become my own personal quest, one that has proven every bit as transforming as Eragon’s.

When first I conceived Eragon, I was fifteen—not quite a boy and not yet a man—just out of high school, unsure of what path to take in life, and addicted to the potent magic of the fantasy literature that adorned my shelves. The process of writing Eragon, marketing it across the world, and now finally completing Eldest has swept me into adulthood. I am twenty-one now and, to my continual astonishment, have already published two novels. Stranger things have occurred, I’m sure, but never to me.

Eragon’s journey has been my own: plucked from a sheltered rural upbringing and forced to rove the land in a desperate race against time; enduring intense and arduous training; achieving success against all expectations; dealing with the consequences of fame; and eventually finding a measure of peace.

Just as in fiction when the determined and well-meaning protagonist—who really isn’t all that bright, now is he?—is helped along his way by a host of wiser characters, so too have I been guided by a number of stupendously talented people. They are:

At home: Mom, for listening whenever I need to talk about a problem with the story or characters and for giving me the courage to throw out twelve pages and rewrite Eragon’s entrance into Ellesméra (painful); Dad, as always, for his incisive editing; and my dear sister, Angela, for deigning to reprise her role as a witch and for her contributions to her doppelgänger’s dialogue.

At Writers House: my agent, the great and mighty Comma Master, Simon Lipskar, who makes all things possible (Mervyn Peake!); and his brave assistant Daniel Lazar, who keeps the Comma Master from being buried alive underneath a pile of unsolicited manuscripts, many of which I fear are the result of Eragon.

At Knopf: my editor, Michelle Frey, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in performing her job and has made Eldest so much better than it would have been otherwise; publicity director Judith Haut, for once again proving that no feat of promotion is beyond her reach (hear her roar!); Isabel Warren-Lynch, art director nonpareil who, with Eldest, has exceeded her previous accomplishments; John Jude Palencar, for a cover painting that I like even better than the one for Eragon; copy chief Artie Bennett, who has done a splendiferous job of checking all the obscure words in this trilogy and probably knows more than I do about the ancient language, although his Urgal is a mite weak; Chip Gibson, grand master of the children’s division at Random House; Nancy Hinkel, publishing director extraordinaire; Joan DeMayo, director of sales (much applause, cheers, and bowing!) and her team; Daisy Kline, who with her team designed the wonderful and eye-catching marketing materials; Linda Palladino, Rebecca Price, and Timothy Terhune, production; a bow of thanks to Pam White and her team, who have helped to spread Eragon to the four corners of the world; Melissa Nelson, design; Alison Kolani, copy editing; Michele Burke, Michelle Frey’s dedicated, hardworking assistant; and everyone else at Knopf who has supported me.

At Listening Library: Gerard Doyle, who brings the world of Alagaësia to life; Taro Meyer for getting the pronunciation of my languages just right; Jacob Bronstein for pulling all the threads together; and Tim Ditlow, publisher of Listening Library.

Thank you all.

One more volume to go and we shall reach the end of this tale. One more manuscript of heartache, ecstasy, and perseverance…. One more codex of dreams.

Stay with me, if it please you, and let us see where this winding path will carry us, both in this world and in Alagaësia.

Sé onr sverdar sitja hvass!

Christopher Paolini

August 23, 2005


(An Excerpt from the Preface of Domia Abr Wyrdaby Heslant the Monk)

…and I suppose that I should provide a summary of the following content before plunging into its depths, so that the unsuspecting literary enthusiast may decide beforehand whether this is the type of composition he enjoys perusing, lest he find himself suddenly engulfed in the dark and convoluted byways of dwarven politics and only then realize that, no, he would rather read a ballad or a collection of poetry to soothe his stomach after an especially heavy supper in his dining hall.

Domia Abr Wyrda is my life’s work: a complete history of the land of Alagaësia, beginning with its earliest myths and legends and proceeding through the intervening millennia to the present. Herein I detail the origins and cultures of each of the known races, including the dwarves and the elves, whom I sought out in their secret places. It is my hope that this book will serve as a bridge between the past and the future, preserving a true account of events that would otherwise be lost in the confusion following the Riders’ fall and the darkness of Galbatorix’s reign.

Before I proceed even with this summary, it seems wise to pause and explain what is meant by alagaësia, and thus define the exact nature of my subject and hopefully avoid unnecessary confusion in later chapters. The word itself is one of Elvish extraction that means “fertile land.” The dwarves and Urgals possess their own appellations for this region, of course, but we humans chose to adopt the elves’ title, and with good reason. The gods have blessed our home with vast amounts of arable soil, timber, iron, gold, gems, and all else a prosperous kingdom needs to thrive. As for the physical boundaries of Alagaësia, they are commonly identified as follows: beginning at the shore of the Western Sea and extending east to the far side of both Du Weldenvarden and the Beor Mountains, and spanning the territory between the southernmost point of Surda and the north shore of Vroengard Island.

Little is known of what lies beyond these varied and far-flung locations. During my decades of research, I learned that the Riders had instituted an extensive program of exploration, flying to the farthest reaches of land and water. Some of their discoveries were already familiar to the elves—who have preserved both maps and lore describing the continent from which they emigrated across the ocean—but the rest was as yet uncharted territory.

Unfortunately, Galbatorix burned the great libraries in Doru Araeba and Ilirea, although not before pillaging them for his own personal collection. This act must count as one of the most heinous crimes of history; it is impossible to calculate the size of our loss. Overnight Galbatorix consigned almost every piece of writing produced by humans either to the flames or to the impenetrable void of his hoard. He destroyed the only existing copies of innumerable plays, histories, mathematical treatises, ancient spell books, and other unique documents, and we must regard what was contained within their pages as forever beyond recovery. Our race is diminished as a result.

Of the Riders’ collected wisdom, only fragments remain, cryptic references scattered like chaff before the wind throughout dwarf scrolls and the elves’ ancient stores of knowledge. These often impenetrable shards of truth provide, for the most part, nothing but frustration to one who studies them and is unfamiliar with the source manuscripts, but what can be gleaned seems to indicate

that while humans may also dwell somewhere outside of Alagaësia—and Urgals as well, for they are hardy creatures—the elves and dwarves exist nowhere else.

And what, an educated reader might ask, about dragons? Despite the romantic fantasies propagated throughout the Empire at regular intervals by individuals bold enough to beard our dark king—a perilous endeavor at best—I do not believe that any skulblaka escaped Galbatorix and the Forsworn. Dragons spoke to each other through their minds, and when Galbatorix began to kill them, every dragon from around the world would have rushed to defeat him and, in doing so, ensured their doom.

While it is a popular pastime among learned minds to imagine sending expeditions to search for friends and allies in unknown lands, such ventures are currently impracticable and will remain so into the foreseeable future. Since Galbatorix assumed his station, every kingdom has devoted its resources to war. They cannot spare men and ships for voyages of indeterminate length aimed south, past the daunting Beor Mountains; north, where it grows ever colder, until the ocean and land become entombed underneath a crushing shell of ice that does not melt even in summer; or east and west, across near-endless tracts of salty waves and empty grass-bound plains.

So. Domia Abr Wyrda begins with an account of the dwarves, who—along with the dragons—are the original inhabitants of Alagaësia. (For the sake of simplicity, dates are given in the dwarf calendar, as it is the only accurate record of years that encompasses all of known history.) Thus nearly eight millennia ago, or 0 A.C. (After Creation), the dwarves believe that their god Helzvog breathed life into the first members of their race.

Within a generation after 0 A.C., the climate in the plains where the dwarves lived underwent an abrupt change, transforming the plains into what we now know as the Hadarac Desert, and forcing the dwarves to migrate into the Beor Mountains so as to fend off starvation. Soon afterward, their first king, Korgan, discovered the hollow mountain Farthen Dûr, which has housed Tronjheim, their capital, ever since.

From then until 5217 A.C., the dwarves occupied themselves with tunneling and mining; waging periodic wars among their clans; building their monumental cities, which are the embodiment of architectural perfection; and amassing an impressive body of mathematics, astronomy, astrology, metallurgy, chemistry, botany, and other branches of natural philosophy of which we in the west are now mostly ignorant. Though the dwarves possessed a rough acquaintance with the workings of magic, it was not until the elves introduced them to the ancient language that they truly began to master it.

During this first age, dragons did little more than eat and breed. The Chronicles of Ingothold say that the great fire-worms congregated in the heart of the Hadarac Desert, as the heat was to their liking, but that they also nested in the Spine and the Beor Mountains, where they seemed to have taken a special delight in persecuting the dwarves. No one has unearthed evidence to suggest that the dragons ever developed a culture or language of their own, notwithstanding their manifest intelligence. It is possible that they only acquired these attributes after becoming linked with elves and humans.

This state of affairs persisted until 5217 A.C., when elves arrived in Alagaësia at the place where Teirm now stands. From whence did the elves come and why? They will only say that their homeland was called Alalëa—a very rare word in the ancient language that has multiple meanings, the most likely in this case being “a melancholy dream of great beauty”—and that they left to escape the consequences of some terrible mistake.

Whatever the reason may be, the elves soon committed another mistake when, in 5291 A.C.—having established themselves across Alagaësia—they slew a dragon for sport, thinking them naught but beasts. (Elves still ate meat then.) The war that followed was so ferocious, it threatened to drive both races to extinction. The fighting ceased in 5296 A.C. only after a certain elf, Eragön, chanced upon an abandoned dragon egg—if indeed it was actually abandoned—raised the subsequent hatchling, and then traveled among the dragons and convinced them to end their hostilities. Then did the älfakyn and skulblaka join together and form the Dragon Riders, to bind one to another and make certain that the newly formed peace would endure forevermore, which was perhaps the most significant occasion in all of history.

Only two events worth noting occurred during the next three centuries. The first was the appearance of Urgals in Alagaësia, who, like the elves, sailed east from across the sea. That they could build vessels capable of traversing such distances, and were able to navigate them accurately, indicates that the Urgals of that era had achieved a level of sophistication far greater than the brutes we encounter in our own age.

Upon disembarking, the Urgals signed treaties with the dwarves and elves, and for two decades, they refrained from provoking their allies. Ultimately, it proved impossible for the Urgals to maintain their oaths, for they are a bellicose race, and they choose their leaders and determine their social order based upon feats of combat. Without battles in which to prove themselves, their young rams, as they are called, had no opportunity to win the status necessary to acquire mates or to supplant their elders. These and other pressures drove the Urgals to raid the dwarves and elves and to challenge them in feats of arms. The Riders quickly intervened, razing the Urgals’ villages and banishing their tribes to the fringes of Alagaësia, where they no longer posed a significant threat.

The Urgals settled throughout the Spine—especially in the north, to which they are partial—and also in the wilder reaches of the Beor Mountains. They still occasionally attacked the dwarves and the elves, but since they proved to be no more of a nuisance than, say, the internal strife among the dwarf clans, the other races tended to ignore them. From then unto the fall of the Riders, the Urgals’ fortunes declined as humans multiplied and expanded their holdings, thereby reducing the Urgals’ remaining territory. With Galbatorix’s ascendancy, however, and the loss of the Riders, Urgals have been freed to return to haunts that they have not occupied for centuries, and even millennia in some instances. Throughout the Empire, they now bedevil many towns that were once safe.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed by now that, unlike many authors, I do not refer to Urgals as monsters. This was a deliberate attempt on my part to avoid perpetuating certain preconceived notions that do nothing but impede our understanding. Urgals are no more monsters than dwarves or elves. It is merely due to an unfortunate flaw in their culture and temperament that we have not yet joined forces with them. “But,” many people will protest, “they are animals! They hate us, and they love naught but slaughter and bloodshed!” Nonsense. They only hate us insomuch as we, and the dwarves and elves, represent the other to them, a status that centuries of antagonism have reinforced. It is true they have a predilection for battle, but I have also seen their cunningly wrought carvings and the savage beauty of their woven straps, with which they record the crests of their clans. And I once had the opportunity to watch from hiding an Urgal dam caring for her young, and I have yet to encounter a human woman who displayed more solicitude toward her brood than did that bull-necked matron. If we could but temper the Urgals’ warlike habits with more civilized behavior, then we might find that our races have a large measure in common. Moreover, I believe that much of the hostility that festers between Urgals and humans is the result of our almost universal revulsion toward their grotesque appearance, a trait that is certainly no fault of their own.

The second of the two noteworthy events I mentioned was the brief visit to Alagaësia in 5596 A.C. of some twenty human warriors, who sailed up from the south and landed in the vicinity of Surda. They and the dwarves met and exchanged gifts, and then the humans departed soon afterward.

Thereafter, until 7203 A.C., little happened among the dwarves, elves, and dragons, except for the usual succession of kings, queens, poets, playwrights, births, deaths, and other historical minutiae. Though I examine this age in some detail, I must admit that I found it monotonous to research, much less to write about. Happiness, as a philosopher once said, is a b

oring activity to watch others engage in.

Both the dwarves and the elves consider this era, and even extending back to the creation of the Riders in 5296 A.C., the golden age of their civilizations, when they reached the pinnacle of their knowledge and power. I should point out that the remarkable stability both races achieved was not solely the result of the Riders’ influence—as Eddison tried to prove in his Dialogues—but was also a product of the dwarves’ and elves’ impressive longevity. When each generation lives for a century or more, it takes much longer for a culture to change or to assimilate new information.

In 7203 A.C., King Palancar landed near Teirm with a fleet of ships carrying his entire nation. He and his people, the Broddrings, had sailed east and north from some unknown coast, intending to colonize Surda, but just as they were about to reach their destination, an unexpected squall blew them back out to the open sea. When Palancar managed to regain sight of land, he found himself confronted by the inhospitable wall of mountains that is the Spine, which prevents ingress to the main body of Alagaësia. He forged onward, searching for an estuary or pass that would grant the Broddrings entry—along the way establishing a settlement that became the town of Kuasta—and eventually discovered Teirm, though the city was not called such by the elves who then occupied it.

Unlike the dwarves and elves, we know little of our own history before this point. All I can say with authority is that the Broddrings fled both famine and war in their land of birth, bringing as many landholders and slaves with them as they could. No one followed them except for a single ship that arrived six years later, bearing a tribe of men with coal-black skin who spread across Surda and formed the basis of the current nomad tribes, as well as the famed artisans of Aroughs, Dauth, and Aberon. It has also been whispered that something foul and evil pursued humans to Alagaësia, a dark race that travels in shadows and preys off the flesh of our kind, a fear known only by the name that the elves bestowed upon it: the Ra’zac. This I cannot confirm or deny, but the rumors seem too abundant not to have some basis in fact.

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