Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle 3) - Page 66


Anyone who holds one of our hearts, said Glaedr, may communicate with the dragon from which it came without regard for distance. The whole of Alagaësia might separate a Rider and dragon, and yet if the Rider had with him his dragon’s Eldunarí, they could share thoughts as easily as you and Saphira do now.

“In addition,” said Oromis, “a magician who possesses an Eldunarí can draw upon the dragon’s strength to bolster his spells, again without regard for where the dragon might be. When—”

A brilliantly colored hummingbird interrupted their conversation by darting across the table. Its wings a throbbing blur, the bird hovered over the bowls of fruit and lapped at the liquid oozing from a crushed blackberry, then flitted up and away, vanishing among the trunks of the forest.

Oromis resumed speaking: “When Galbatorix killed his first Rider, he also stole the heart of the Rider’s dragon. During the years Galbatorix spent hiding in the wilderness thereafter, he broke the dragon’s mind and bent it to his will, likely with the help of Durza. And when Galbatorix began his insurrection in earnest, with Morzan by his side, he was already stronger than most every other Rider. His strength was not merely magical but mental, for the force of the Eldunarí’s consciousness augmented his own.

“Galbatorix did not just try to kill the Riders and dragons. He made it his goal to acquire as many of the Eldunarí as he could, either by seizing them from Riders or by torturing a Rider until his dragon disgorged its heart of hearts. By the time we realized what Galbatorix was doing, he was already too powerful to stop. It helped Galbatorix that many Riders traveled not only with the Eldunarí of their own dragon but also with Eldunarí of dragons whose bodies were no more, for such dragons often became bored with sitting in an alcove and yearned for adventure. And of course, once Galbatorix and the Forsworn sacked the city of Doru Araeba on the island of Vroengard, he gained possession of the entire hoard of Eldunarí stored therein.

“Galbatorix engineered his success by using the might and wisdom of the dragons against all of Alagaësia. At first he was unable to control more than a handful of the Eldunarí he had captured. It is no easy thing to force a dragon to submit to you, no matter how powerful you might be. As soon as Galbatorix crushed the Riders and had installed himself as king in Urû’baen, he dedicated himself to subduing the rest of the hearts, one by one.

“We believe the task preoccupied him for the main part of the next forty years, during which time he paid little attention to the affairs of Alagaësia—which is why the people of Surda were able to secede from the Empire. When he finished, Galbatorix emerged from seclusion and began to reassert his control over the Empire and the lands beyond. For some reason, after two and a half years of additional slaughter and sorrow, he withdrew to Urû’baen again, and there he has dwelt ever since, not so solitary as before, but obviously focused upon some project known only to him. His vices are many, but he has not abandoned himself to debauchery; that much the Varden’s spies have determined. More than that, though, we have not been able to discover.”

Lost deep in thought, Eragon stared off into the distance. For the first time, all of the stories he had heard about Galbatorix’s unnatural power made sense. A faint feeling of optimism welled up within Eragon as he said to himself, I’m not sure how, but if we could release the Eldunarí from Galbatorix’s control, he would be no more powerful than any normal Dragon Rider. Unlikely as the prospect seemed, it heartened Eragon to know that the king did have a vulnerability, no matter how slight.

As Eragon continued to muse upon the subject, another question occurred to him. “Why is it that I’ve never heard mention of the hearts of dragons in the stories of old? Surely if they are so important, the bards and scholars would speak of them.”

Oromis laid a hand flat on the table then and said, “Of all the secrets in Alagaësia, that of the Eldunarí is one of the most closely guarded, even among my own people. Throughout history, dragons have striven to hide their hearts from the rest of the world. They revealed their existence to us only after the magical pact between our races was established, and then only to a select few.”

“But why?”

Ah, said Glaedr, often we despised the need for secrecy, but if ever the Eldunarí had become common knowledge, every low-minded scoundrel in the land would have attempted to steal one, and eventually some would have achieved their goal. It was an outcome we went to great lengths to prevent.

“Is there no way for a dragon to defend themselves through their Eldunarí?” Eragon asked.

Glaedr’s eye seemed to twinkle brighter than ever. An apt question. A dragon who has disgorged their Eldunarí but who still enjoys the use of their flesh can, of course, defend their heart with their claws and their fangs and their tail and with the battering of their wings. A dragon whose body is dead, however, possesses none of those advantages. Their only weapon is the weapon of their mind and, perhaps, if the moment is right, the weapon of magic, which we cannot command at will. That is one reason why many dragons did not choose to prolong their existence beyond the demise of their flesh. To be unable to move of your own volition, to be unable to sense the world around you except through the minds of others, and to only be able to influence the course of events with your thoughts and with rare and unpredictable flashes of magic; it would be a difficult existence to embrace for most any creature, but especially dragons, who are the freest of all beings.

“Why would they, then?” asked Eragon.

Sometimes it happened by accident. As their body was failing, a dragon might panic and flee into their Eldunarí. Or if a dragon had disgorged their heart before their body died, they would have no choice but to continue to endure. But mostly, the dragons who chose to live on in their Eldunarí were those who were old beyond measure, older than Oromis and I are now, old enough that the concerns of the flesh had ceased to matter to them and they had turned in on themselves and wished to spend the rest of eternity pondering questions younger beings could not comprehend. We revered and treasured the hearts of such dragons on account of their vast wisdom and intelligence. It was common for wild dragons and paired dragons alike, as well as Riders, to seek advice from them on matters of importance. That Galbatorix enslaved them is a crime of almost unimaginable cruelty and evil.

Now I have a question, said Saphira, the rich thrum of her thoughts running through Eragon’s mind. Once one of our kind becomes confined to their Eldunarí, must they continue to exist, or is it possible for them, if they could no longer endure their condition, to release their hold on the world and pass into the darkness beyond?

“Not on their own,” said Oromis. “Not unless the inspiration to use magic should sweep over the dragon and allow them to break their Eldunarí from within, which to my knowledge has happened but rarely. The only other option would be for the dragon to convince someone else to smash the Eldunarí for them. That lack of control is another reason why dragons were extremely wary of transferring themselves into their heart of hearts, lest they trap themselves in a prison from which there was no escape.”

Eragon could feel Saphira’s loathing at the thought of that prospect. She did not speak of it, however, but asked, How many Eldunarí does Galbatorix hold in his thrall?

“We do not know the exact number,” said Oromis, “but we estimate that his hoard contains many hundreds.”

A wriggle shimmered down Saphira’s glittering length. So then, our race is not on the verge of extinction after all?

Oromis hesitated, and it was Glaedr who answered. Little one, he said, startling Eragon with the use of the epithet, even if the ground were covered with Eldunarí, our race would still be doomed. A dragon preserved within an Eldunarí is still a dragon, but they possess neither the urges of the flesh nor the organs with which to fulfill them. They cannot reproduce.

The base of Eragon’s skull began to throb, and he became increasingly aware of his weariness from the past four days of traveling. His exhaustion made it difficul

t to keep hold of thoughts for more than a few moments; at the slightest distraction, they slipped out of his grasp.

The tip of Saphira’s tail twitched. I am not so ignorant as to believe that Eldunarí could beget offspring. However, it comforts me to know I am not as alone as I once thought…. Our race may be doomed, but at least there are more than four dragons alive in the world, whether they be cloaked in their flesh or not.

“That is true,” said Oromis, “but they are as much Galbatorix’s captives as Murtagh and Thorn.”

Freeing them gives me something to strive for, though, along with rescuing the last egg, said Saphira.

“It is something for us both to strive for,” said Eragon. “We are their only hope.” He rubbed his brow with his right thumb, then said, “There is still something I don’t understand.”

“Oh?” asked Oromis. “Wherein lies your confusion?”

“If Galbatorix draws his power from these hearts, how do they produce the energy he uses?” Eragon paused, searching for a better way to phrase his question. He gestured at the swallows flitting about in the sky. “Every living thing eats and drinks to sustain itself, even plants. Food provides the energy our bodies need to function properly. It also provides the energy we need to work magic, whether we rely upon our own strength to cast a spell or make use of the strength of others. How can that be, though, with these Eldunarí? They don’t have bones and muscles and skin, do they? They don’t eat, do they? So then, how do they survive? Where does their energy come from?”

Oromis smiled, his longish teeth glossy as enameled porcelain. “From magic.”


“If one defines magic as the manipulation of energy, which properly it is, then yes, magic. Where exactly the Eldunarí acquire their energy is a mystery to both us and the dragons; no one has ever identified the source. It may be they absorb sunlight, as do plants, or that they feed off the life forces of the creatures closest to them. Whatever the answer, it has been proven that when a dragon undergoes body death and their consciousness takes up sole residence in their heart of hearts, they bring with them however much spare strength was available within their body when it ceased to function. Thereafter, their store of energy increases at a steady pace for the next five to seven years, until they attain the full height of their power, which is immense indeed. The total amount of energy an Eldunarí can hold depends upon the size of the heart; the older a dragon, the larger their Eldunarí and the more energy it can absorb before becoming saturated.”

Thinking back to when he and Saphira had battled Murtagh and Thorn, Eragon said, “Galbatorix must have given Murtagh several Eldunarí. That’s the only explanation for his increase in strength.”

Oromis nodded. “You are fortunate Galbatorix did not lend him any more hearts, else it would have been easy for Murtagh to overwhelm you, Arya, and all the other spellcasters with the Varden.”

Eragon remembered how, both times he and Saphira had encountered Murtagh and Thorn, Murtagh’s mind had felt as if it contained multiple beings. Eragon shared his recollection with Saphira and said, Those must have been the Eldunarí I sensed…. I wonder where Murtagh put them? Thorn carried no saddlebags, and I didn’t see any odd bulges in Murtagh’s clothing.

I don’t know, said Saphira. You do realize that Murtagh must have been referring to his Eldunarí when he said that instead of tearing out your own heart, it would be better to tear out his hearts. Hearts, not heart.

You’re right! Maybe he was trying to warn me. Inhaling, Eragon loosened the knot between his shoulder blades and leaned back in his chair. “Aside from Saphira’s heart of hearts, and Glaedr’s, are there any Eldunarí that Galbatorix hasn’t captured?”

Faint lines appeared around the corners of Oromis’s down-turned mouth. “None that we know of. After the fall of the Riders, Brom went searching for Eldunarí that Galbatorix might have overlooked, but without success. Nor, in all my years of scouring Alagaësia with my mind, have I detected so much as a whisper of a thought from an Eldunarí. Every Eldunarí was well accounted for when Galbatorix and Morzan initiated their attack on us, and none of them vanished without explanation. It is inconceivable that any great store of Eldunarí might be lying hidden somewhere, ready to help us if we could but locate them.”

Although Eragon had expected no other answer, he still found it disappointing. “One last question. When either a Rider or a Rider’s dragon dies, the surviving member of the pair would often waste away or commit suicide soon afterward. And those that didn’t usually went mad from the loss. Am I right?”

You are, said Glaedr.

“What would happen, though, if the dragon transferred their consciousness to their heart and then their body died?”

Through the soles of his boots, Eragon felt a faint tremor shake the ground as Glaedr shifted his position. The gold dragon said, If a dragon experienced body death and yet their Rider still lived, together they became known as Indlvarn. The transition would hardly be a pleasant one for the dragon, but many Riders and dragons successfully adapted to the change and continued to serve the Riders with distinction. If, however, it was a dragon’s Rider who died, then the dragon would often smash their Eldunarí, or arrange for another to smash it for them if their body was no more, thus killing themselves and following their Rider into the void. But not all. Some dragons were able to overcome their loss—as were some Riders, such as Brom—and continue to serve our order for many years afterward, either through their flesh or through their heart of hearts.

You have given us much to think about, Oromis-elda, said Saphira. Eragon nodded but stayed silent, for he was busy pondering all that had been said.


Eragon nibbled on a warm, sweet strawberry while he stared into the fathomless depths of the sky. When he finished eating the berry, he set the stem on the tray before him, pushing it into just the right spot with the tip of his forefinger, and then opened his mouth to speak.

Before he could, Oromis said, “What now, Eragon?”

“What now?”

“We have spoken at length on those subjects about which you were curious. What now do you and Saphira wish to accomplish? You cannot linger in Ellesméra, so I wonder what else you hope to achieve by your visit, or is it your intention to depart again tomorrow morning?”

“We had hoped,” Eragon said, “that, when we returned, we would be able to continue our training as before. Obviously, we haven’t time for that now, but there is something else I would like to do.”

“And that would be?”

“… Master, I have not told you everything that happened to me when Brom and I were in Teirm.” And then Eragon recounted how curiosity had lured him into Angela’s shop and how she had told him his fortune, and the advice Solembum had given him afterward.

Oromis drew a finger across his upper lip, his demeanor contemplative. “I have heard this fortuneteller mentioned with increasing frequency throughout this past year, both by you and in Arya’s reports from the Varden. This Angela seems to be most adept at turning up whenever and wherever events of significance are about to take place.”

That she is, confirmed Saphira.

Continuing, Oromis said, “Her behavior reminds me very much of a human spellcaster who once visited the halls of Ellesméra, although she did not go by the name of Angela. Is Angela a woman of short stature, with thick, curly brown hair, flashing eyes, and a wit that is as sharp as it is odd?”

“You have described her perfectly,” said Eragon. “Is she the same person?”

Oromis made a small flicking motion with his left hand. “If she is, she is an extraordinary person…. As for her prophecies, I would not devote much thought to them. Either they will come true or they will not, and without knowing more, none of us can influence the outcome.

“What the werecat said, though, is worthy of far more consideration. Unfortunately, I cannot elucidate either of his statements. I have never heard of any such place as the Vault of

Souls, and while the Rock of Kuthian strikes a familiar chord in my memory, I cannot recall where I have encountered the name. I will search my scrolls for it, but instinct tells me I will find no mention of it in elvish writings.”

“What of the weapon underneath the Menoa tree?”

“I know of no such weapon, Eragon, and I am well acquainted with the lore of this forest. In all of Du Weldenvarden, there are perhaps only two elves whose learning exceeds my own where the forest is concerned. I will inquire of them, but I suspect it will be a futile endeavor.” When Eragon expressed his disappointment, Oromis said, “I understand that you require a suitable replacement for Zar’roc, Eragon, and this I can help you with. Besides my own blade, Naegling, we elves have preserved two other swords of the Dragon Riders. They are Arvindr and Támerlein. Arvindr is currently held in the city of Nädindel, which you have not the time to visit. But Támerlein is here, in Ellesméra. It is a treasure of House Valtharos, and while the lord of their house, Lord Fiolr, would not part with it eagerly, I think he would give it to you if you asked him respectfully. I will arrange for you to meet with him tomorrow morning.”

“And what if the sword does not fit me?” asked Eragon.

“Let us hope it does. However, I shall also send word to the smith Rhunön that she may expect you later in the day.”

“But she swore she would never forge another sword.”

Oromis sighed. “She did, but her advice would still be worth seeking out. If anyone can recommend the proper weapon for you, it would be she. Besides, even if you like the feel of Támerlein, I am sure Rhunön would want to examine the sword before you left with it. Over a hundred years have elapsed since Támerlein was last used in battle, and it might need some slight refurbishing.”

“Could another elf forge me a blade?” asked Eragon.

“Nay,” said Oromis. “Not if it were to match the craftsmanship of Zar’roc or whichever stolen sword Galbatorix has chosen to wield. Rhunön is one of the very oldest of our race, and it is she alone who has made the swords for our order.”

Tags: Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Fantasy
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