Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle 3) - Page 22

“Once, I had someone to talk to, someone who understood what I was and where I came from. Once … He was older than I, but we were kindred spirits, both curious about the world outside our forest, eager to explore and eager to strike against Galbatorix. Neither of us could bear to stay in Du Weldenvarden—studying, working magic, pursuing our own personal projects—when we knew the Dragon Killer, the bane of the Riders, was searching for a way to conquer our race. He came to that conclusion later than I—decades after I assumed my position as ambassador and a few years before Hefring stole Saphira’s egg—but the moment he did, he volunteered to accompany me wherever Islanzadí’s orders might take me.” She blinked, and her throat convulsed. “I wasn’t going to let him, but the queen liked the idea, and he was so very convincing….” She pursed her lips and blinked again, her eyes brighter than normal.

As gently as he could, Eragon asked, “Was it Fäolin?”

“Yes,” she said, releasing the confirmation almost as a gasp.

“Did you love him?”

Casting back her head, Arya gazed up at the twinkling sky, her long neck gold with firelight, her face pale with the radiance of the heavens. “Do you ask out of friendly concern or your own self-interest?” She gave an abrupt, choked laugh, the sound of water falling over cold rocks. “Never mind. The night air has addled me. It has undone my sense of courtesy and left me free to say the most spiteful things that occur to me.”

“No matter.”

“It does matter, because I regret it, and I shall not tolerate it. Did I love Fäolin? How would you define love? For over twenty years, we traveled together, the only immortals to walk among the short-lived races. We were companions… and friends.”

A pang of jealousy afflicted Eragon. He wrestled with it, subdued it, and tried to eliminate it but was not altogether successful. A slight remnant of the feeling continued to aggravate him, like a splinter burrowing underneath his skin.

“Over twenty years,” repeated Arya. Persisting in her survey of the constellations, she rocked back and forth, seemingly oblivious to Eragon. “And then in a single instant, Durza tore that away from me. Fäolin and Glenwing were the first elves to die in combat for nearly a century. When I saw Fäolin fall, I understood then that the true agony of war isn’t being wounded yourself, it’s having to watch those you care about being hurt. It was a lesson I thought I had already learned during my time with the Varden when, one after another, the men and women I had come to respect died from swords, arrows, poison, accidents, and old age. The loss had never been so personal, however, and when it happened, I thought, ‘Now I must surely die as well.’ For whatever danger we had encountered before, Fäolin and I had always survived it together, and if he could not escape, then why should I?”

Eragon realized she was crying, thick tears rolling from the outer corners of her eyes, down her temples, and into her hair. By the stars, her tears appeared like rivers of silvered glass. The intensity of her distress startled him. He had not thought it was possible to elicit such a reaction from her, nor had he intended to.

“Then Gil’ead,” she said. “Those days were the longest of my life. Fäolin was gone, I did not know whether Saphira’s egg was safe or if I had inadvertently returned her to Galbatorix, and Durza … Durza sated the bloodlust of the spirits that controlled him by doing the most horrible things he could imagine to me. Sometimes, if he went too far, he would heal me so he could begin anew the following morning. If he had given me a chance to collect my wits, I might have been able to fool my jailer, as you did, and avoid consuming the drug that kept me from using magic, but I never had more than a few hours’ respite.

“Durza needed sleep no more than you or I, and he kept at me whenever I was conscious and his other duties permitted. While he worked on me, every second was an hour, every hour a week, and every day an eternity. He was careful not to drive me mad—Galbatorix would have been displeased with that—but he came close. He came very, very close. I began to hear birdsong where no birds could fly and to see things that could not exist. Once, when I was in my cell, gold light flooded the room and I grew warm all over. When I looked up, I found myself lying on a branch high in a tree near the center of Ellesméra. The sun was about to set, and the whole city glowed as if it were on fire. The Äthalvard were chanting on the path below, and everything was so calm, so peaceful… so beautiful, I would have stayed there forever. But then the light faded, and I was again on my cot…. I had forgotten, but once there was a soldier who left a white rose in my cell. It was the only kindness anyone ever showed me in Gil’ead. That night, the flower took root and matured into a huge rosebush that climbed the wall, forced its way between the blocks of stone in the ceiling, breaking them, and pushed its way out of the dungeon and into the open. It continued to ascend until it touched the moon and stood as a great, twisting tower that promised escape if I could but lift myself off the floor. I tried with every ounce of my remaining strength, but it was beyond me, and when I glanced away, the rosebush vanished…. That was my state of mind when you dreamed of me and I felt your presence hovering over me. Small wonder I disregarded the sensation as another delusion.”

She gave him a wan smile. “And then you came, Eragon. You and Saphira. After hope had deserted me and I was about to be taken to Galbatorix in Urû’baen, a Rider appeared to rescue me. A Rider and dragon!”

“And Morzan’s son,” he said. “Both of Morzan’s sons.”

“Describe it how you will, it was such an improbable rescue, I occasionally think that I did go mad and that I’ve imagined everything since.”

“Would you have imagined me causing so much trouble by staying behind at Helgrind?”

“No,” she said. “I suppose not.” With the cuff of her left sleeve, she dabbed her eyes, drying them. “When I awoke in Farthen Dûr, there was too much that needed doing for me to dwell on the past. But events of late have been dark and bloody, and increasingly I have found myself remembering that which I should not. It makes me grim and out of sorts, without patience for the ordinary delays of life.” She shifted into a kneeling position and placed her hands on the ground on either side of her, as if to steady herself. “You say I walk alone. Elves do not incline toward the open displays of friendship humans and dwarves favor, and I have ever been of a solitary disposition. But if you had known me before Gil’ead, if you had known me as I was, you would not have considered me so aloof. Then I could sing and dance and not feel threatened by a sense of impending doom.”

Reaching out, Eragon placed his right hand over her left. “The stories about the heroes of old never mention that this is the price you pay when you grapple with the monsters of the dark and the monsters of the mind. Keep thinking about the gardens of Tialdarí Hall, and I’m sure you will be fine.”

Arya permitted the contact between them to endure for almost a minute, a time not of heat or passion for Eragon, but rather of quiet companionship. He made no attempt to press his suit with her, for he cherished her trust more than anything besides his bond with Saphira and he would sooner march into battle than endanger it. Then, with a slight lift of her arm, Arya let him know the moment had passed, and without complaint he withdrew his hand.

Eager to lighten her burden however he could, Eragon glanced about the ground nearest him and then murmured so softly as to be inaudible, “Loivissa.” Guided by the power of the true name, he sifted through the earth by his feet until his fingers closed upon what he sought: a thin, papery disk half the size of his smallest fingernail. Holding his breath, he deposited it in his right palm, centering it over his gedwëy ignasia with as much delicacy as he could muster. He reviewed what Oromis had taught him concerning the sort of spell he was about to cast to ensure he would not make a mistake, and then he began to sing after the fashion of the elves, smooth and flowing:

Eldhrimner O Loivissa nuanen, dautr abr deloi,

Eldhrimner nen ono weohnataí medh solus un thringa,

Eldhrimner un fortha onr fëon vara,

r />

Wiol allr sjon.

Eldhrimner O Loivissa nuanen …

Again and again, Eragon repeated the same four lines, directing them toward the brown flake in his hand. The flake trembled and then swelled and bulged, becoming spherical. White tendrils an inch or two long sprouted from the bottom of the peeling globe, tickling Eragon, while a thin green stem poked its way out of the tip and, at his urging, shot nearly a foot in the air. A single leaf, broad and flat, grew from the side of the stem. Then the tip of the stem thickened, drooped, and, after a moment of seeming inactivity, split into five segments that expanded outward to reveal the waxy petals of a deep-throated lily. The flower was pale blue and shaped like a bell.

When it reached its full size, Eragon released the magic and examined his handiwork. Singing plants into shape was a skill most every elf mastered at an early age, but it was one Eragon had practiced only a few times, and he had been uncertain whether his efforts would meet with success. The spell had exacted a heavy toll from him; the lily required a surprising amount of energy to feed what was the equivalent of a year and a half of growth.

Satisfied with what he had wrought, he handed the lily to Arya. “It’s not a white rose, but…” He smiled and shrugged.

“You should not have,” she said. “But I am glad you did.” She caressed the underside of the blossom and lifted it to smell. The lines on her face eased. For several minutes, she admired the lily. Then she scooped a hole in the soil next to her and planted the bulb, pressing down the soil with the flat of her hand. She touched the petals again and kept glancing at the lily as she said, “Thank you. Giving flowers is a custom both our races share, but we elves attach greater importance to the practice than do humans. It signifies all that is good: life, beauty, rebirth, friendship, and more. I explain so you understand how much this means to me. You did not know, but—”

“I knew.”

Arya regarded him with a solemn countenance, as if to decide what he was about. “Forgive me. That is twice now I have forgotten the extent of your education. I shall not make the mistake again.”

She repeated her thanks in the ancient language, and—joining her in her native tongue—Eragon replied that it was his pleasure and he was happy she enjoyed his gift. He shivered, hungry despite the meal they had just eaten. Noticing, Arya said, “You used too much of your strength. If you have any energy left in Aren, use it to steady yourself.”

It took Eragon a moment to remember that Aren was the name of Brom’s ring; he had heard it uttered only once before, from Islanzadí, on the day he arrived in Ellesméra. My ring now, he told himself. I have to stop thinking of it as Brom’s. He cast a critical gaze at the large sapphire that sparkled in its gold setting on his finger. “I don’t know if there is any energy in Aren. I’ve never stored any there myself, and I never checked if Brom had.” Even as he spoke, he extended his consciousness toward the sapphire. The instant his mind came into contact with the gem, he felt the presence of a vast, swirling pool of energy. To his inner eye, the sapphire thrummed with power. He wondered that it did not explode from the amount of force contained within the boundaries of its sharp-edged facets. After he used the energy to wash away his aches and pains and restore strength to his limbs, the treasure trove inside Aren was hardly diminished.

His skin tingling, Eragon severed his link with the gem. Delighted by his discovery and his sudden sense of well-being, he laughed out loud, then told Arya what he had found. “Brom must have squirreled away every bit of energy he could spare the whole time he was hiding in Carvahall.” He laughed again, marveling. “All those years… With what’s in Aren, I could tear apart an entire castle with a single spell.”

“He knew he would need it to keep the new Rider safe when Saphira hatched,” observed Arya. “Also, I am sure Aren was a way for him to protect himself if he had to fight a Shade or some other similarly powerful opponent. It was not by accident that he managed to frustrate his enemies for the better part of a century…. If I were you, I would save the energy he left you for your hour of greatest need, and I would add to it whenever I could. It is an incredibly valuable resource. You should not squander it.”

No, thought Eragon, that I will not. He twirled the ring around his finger, admiring how it gleamed in the firelight. Since Murtagh stole Zar’roc, this, Saphira’s saddle, and Snowfire are the only things I have of Brom, and even though the dwarves brought Snowfire from Farthen Dûr, I rarely ride him nowadays. Aren is really all I have to remember him by…. My only legacy of him. My only inheritance. I wish he were still alive! I never had a chance to talk with him about Oromis, Murtagh, my father…. Oh, the list is endless. What would he have said about my feelings for Arya? Eragon snorted to himself. I know what he would have said: he would have berated me for being a love-struck fool and for wasting my energy on a hopeless cause…. And he would have been right too, I suppose, but, ah, how can I help it? She is the only woman I wish to be with.

The fire cracked. A flurry of sparks flew upward. Eragon watched with half-closed eyes, contemplating Arya’s revelations. Then his mind returned to a question that had been bothering him ever since the battle on the Burning Plains. “Arya, do male dragons grow any faster than female dragons?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“Because of Thorn. He’s only a few months old, and yet he’s already nearly as big as Saphira. I don’t understand it.”

Picking a dry blade of grass, Arya began sketching in the loose soil, tracing the curved shapes of glyphs from the elves’ script, the Liduen Kvaedhí. “Most likely Galbatorix accelerated his growth so Thorn would be large enough to hold his own with Saphira.”

“Ah…. Isn’t that dangerous, though? Oromis told me that if he used magic to give me the strength, speed, endurance, and other skills I needed, I would not understand my new abilities as well as if I had gained them the ordinary way: by hard work. He was right too. Even now, the changes the dragons made to my body during the Agaetí Blödhren still sometimes catch me by surprise.”

Arya nodded and continued sketching glyphs in the dirt. “It is possible to reduce the undesirable side effects by certain spells, but it is a long and arduous process. If you wish to achieve true mastery of your body, it is still best to do so through normal means. The transformation Galbatorix has forced upon Thorn must be incredibly confusing for him. Thorn now has the body of a nearly grown dragon, and yet his mind is still that of a youngling.”

Eragon fingered the newly formed calluses on his knuckles. “Do you also know why Murtagh is so powerful… more powerful than I am?”

“If I did, no doubt I would also understand how Galbatorix has managed to increase his own strength to such unnatural heights, but alas, I do not.”

But Oromis does, Eragon thought. Or at least the elf had hinted as much. However, he had yet to share the information with Eragon and Saphira. As soon as they were able to return to Du Weldenvarden, Eragon intended to ask the elder Rider for the truth of the matter. He has to tell us now! Because of our ignorance, Murtagh defeated us, and he could have easily taken us to Galbatorix. Eragon almost mentioned Oromis’s comments to Arya but held his tongue, for he realized that Oromis would not have concealed such an important fact for over a hundred years unless secrecy was of the utmost importance.

Arya signed a stop to the sentence she had been writing on the ground. Bending over, Eragon read, Adrift upon the sea of time, the lonely god wanders from shore to distant shore, upholding the laws of the stars above.

“What does it mean?”

“I don’t know,” she said, and smoothed out the line with a sweep of her arm.

“Why is it,” he asked, speaking slowly as he organized his thoughts, “that no one ever refers to the dragons of the Forsworn by name? We say ‘Morzan’s dragon’ or ‘Kialandí’s dragon,’ but we never actually name the dragon. Surely they were as important as their Riders! I don’t even remember seeing their names in the scrolls Oromis gave me … although they must have been th

ere…. Yes, I’m certain they were, but for some reason, they don’t stick in my head. Isn’t that strange?” Arya started to answer, but before she could do more than open her mouth, he said, “For once I’m glad Saphira’s not here. I’m ashamed I haven’t noticed this before. Even you, Arya, and Oromis and every other elf I’ve met refuse to call them by name, as if they were dumb animals, undeserving of the honor. Do you do it on purpose? Is it because they were your enemies?”

“Did none of your lessons speak of this?” asked Arya. She seemed genuinely surprised.

“I think,” he said, “Glaedr mentioned something about it to Saphira, but I’m not exactly sure. I was in the middle of a backbend during the Dance of Snake and Crane, so I wasn’t really paying attention to what Saphira was doing.” He laughed a little, embarrassed by his lapse and feeling as if he had to explain himself. “It got confusing at times. Oromis would be talking to me while I was listening to Saphira’s thoughts while she and Glaedr communicated with their minds. What’s worse, Glaedr rarely uses a recognizable language with Saphira; he tends to use images, smells, and feelings, rather than words. Instead of names, he sends impressions of the people and objects he means.”

“Do you recall nothing of what he said, whether with words or not?”

Eragon hesitated. “Only that it concerned a name that was no name, or some such. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it.”

“What he spoke of,” said Arya, “was Du Namar Aurboda, The Banishing of the Names.”

“The Banishing of the Names?”

Touching her dry blade of grass to the ground, she resumed writing in the dirt. “It is one of the most significant events that happened during the fighting between the Riders and the Forsworn. When the dragons realized that thirteen of their own had betrayed them—that those thirteen were helping Galbatorix to eradicate the rest of their race and that it was unlikely anyone could stop their rampage—the dragons grew so angry, every dragon not of the Forsworn combined their strength and wrought one of their inexplicable pieces of magic. Together, they stripped the thirteen of their names.”

Tags: Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Fantasy
Source: Copyright 2016 - 2024