Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle 4) - Page 27

Eragon shuddered inwardly as he realized just how angry Arya must have been with the Twins to summon the true form of the ring they held. Then he said, I would like to try it now.

Eragon felt the full force of Glaedr’s attention focused on him. Why?

I need to know if I have that level of understanding, even if only for one small thing.

Again: why?

Unable to explain with words, Eragon poured his jumble of thoughts and feelings into Glaedr’s consciousness. When he finished, Glaedr was silent for a while, digesting the flow of information. Am I right to say, began the dragon, that you equate this with defeating Galbatorix? You believe that if you can do this and live, then you might be able to defeat the king?

Yes, said Eragon, relieved. He had been unable to articulate his motivation as clearly as the dragon, but that was exactly it.

And are you determined to try this?

Yes, Master.

It may kill you, Glaedr reminded him.

I know.

Eragon! exclaimed Saphira, her thoughts faint in his mind. She was flying high above the camp, watching for possible danger while he studied with Glaedr. It’s far too dangerous. I won’t allow it.

I have to do this, he replied quietly.

To Saphira, but also to Eragon, Glaedr said, If he insists, then it is best he tries where I can watch. If his knowledge fails him, I may be able to supply the needed information and save him.

Saphira growled—an angry, ripping sound that filled Eragon’s mind—and then, from outside the tent, Eragon heard a fearsome rush of air and startled cries from men and elves as she dove to the ground. She landed with such force, the tent and everything in it shook.

A few seconds later, she stuck her head into the tent and glared at Eragon. She was panting, and the wind from her nostrils ruffled his hair and made his eyes water from the odor of burnt meat. You’re as thick-headed as a Kull, she said.

No more than you.

Her lip curled in a hint of a snarl. Why are we waiting? If you must do this, let us be done with it!

What will you choose to summon? asked Glaedr. It must be something you are intimately familiar with.

Eragon let his gaze drift over the interior of the tent, then down to the sapphire ring he wore on his right hand. Aren …He had rarely taken the ring off since Ajihad had given it to him from Brom. It had become a part of his body as surely as his arms or legs. During the hours he had spent looking at it, he had memorized every curve and facet, and if he closed his eyes, he could call up an image that was a perfect reproduction of the actual object. But for all that, there was much he did not know about the ring—its history, how the elves had made it, and, ultimately, what spells might or might not be woven into its fabric.

No … not Aren.

Then his gaze slid from the ring to the pommel of Brisingr, where the sword stood leaning against the corner of his cot. “Brisingr,” he murmured.

A muffled whump emanated from the blade, and the sword rose a half inch out of its scabbard, as if pushed from beneath, and small tongues of flame leaped up from the mouth of the sheath, licking the underside of the hilt. The flames vanished and the sword slid back into the scabbard as Eragon quickly ended the unintentional spell.

Brisingr, he thought, utterly certain of his choice. It had been Rhunön’s skill that had crafted the sword, but it was he who had wielded the tools, and he had been joined with the elf smith’s mind throughout the process. If there was any one object in the world he understood through and through, it was his sword.

Are you sure? asked Glaedr.

Eragon nodded, then caught himself as he remembered the golden dragon could not see him. Yes, Master. … A question, though: is Brisingr the true name of the sword, and if not, do I need its true name for the spell to work?

Brisingr is the name of fire, as you well know. The true name of your sword is undoubtedly something far more complicated, although it might very well include brisingr within its description. If you wish, you could refer to the sword by its true name, but you could just as easily call it Sword and achieve the same result, so long as you maintain the proper knowledge at the forefront of your mind. The name is merely a label for the knowledge, and you do not need the label in order to make use of the knowledge. It is a subtle distinction, but an important one. Do you understand?

I do.

Then proceed as you will.

Eragon took a moment to collect himself. Then he found the nub in the back of his mind and reached through it to tap his body’s store of energy. Channeling that energy into the word he spoke, while also thinking about everything he knew of the sword, he said clearly and distinctly:


Eragon felt his strength ebb precipitously. Alarmed, he tried to speak, tried to move, but the spell bound him in place. He could not even blink or breathe.

Unlike before, the sheathed sword did not burst into flame; it wavered, like a reflection in water. Then, in the air next to the weapon, a transparent apparition appeared: a perfect, glowing likeness of Brisingr free of its sheath. As well made as was the sword itself—and Eragon had never found so much as a single flaw—the duplicate floating before him was even more refined. It was as if he was seeing the idea of the sword, an idea that not even Rhunön, with all her experience working metal, could hope to capture.

As soon as the manifestation became visible, Eragon was again able to breathe and move. He maintained the spell for several seconds, so he could marvel at the beauty of the summoning, and then he let the spell slip free of his grasp and the ghostly sword slowly faded into oblivion.

In its absence, the inside of the tent seemed unexpectedly dark.

Only then did Eragon again become aware of Saphira and Glaedr pressing against his consciousness, watching with steadfast attentiveness every thought that flickered through his mind. Both of the dragons were as tense as Eragon had ever felt them. If he were to poke Saphira, he guessed she would be so startled, she would twist herself in circles.

And if I were to poke you, nothing would be left but a smear, she commented.

Eragon smiled and lowered himself onto the cot, tired.

In his mind, Eragon heard a sound like wind rushing across a lonely plain as Glaedr relaxed. You did well, Shadeslayer. Glaedr’s praise surprised Eragon; the old dragon had given out few enough compliments since he had begun teaching Eragon. But let us not try it again.

Eragon shivered and rubbed his arms, trying to dispel the cold that had crept into his limbs. Agreed, Master. It was not an experience he was eager to replicate. Still, he felt a deep sense of satisfaction. He had proven without a doubt that there was at least one thing in Alagaësia that he could do as well as anyone possibly could.

And that gave him hope.

On the morning of the third day, Roran arrived back at the Varden, along with his companions: tired, wounded, and travel-worn. Roran’s return stirred the Varden from their torpor for a few hours—he and the others with him were given a hero’s welcome—but an air of boredom soon settled over the majority of the Varden again.

Eragon was relieved to see Roran. He had known his cousin was safe, as he had scryed him several times while he was gone. Nevertheless, seeing him in person freed Eragon of an anxiety that, until that very moment, he had not realized he was carrying. Roran was the only family he had left—Murtagh did not count, as far as Eragon was concerned—and Eragon could not bear the thought of losing him.

Now, seeing Roran up close, Eragon was shocked by his appearance. He had expected Roran and the others to be exhausted, but Roran seemed far more haggard than his companions; he looked as if he had aged five years over the course of the trip. His eyes were red and dark-ringed, his brow was lined, and he moved stiffly, as if every inch of his body was covered in bruises. And then there was his beard, which had been burned half off and which now had a mottled, mangy appearance.

The five men—one less than their original number—went first to visit

the healers of Du Vrangr Gata, where the spellcasters attended to their wounds. Then they presented themselves to Nasuada in her pavilion. After commending them for their bravery, Nasuada dismissed all of the men except Roran, whom she asked to deliver a detailed account of his journey to and from Aroughs, as well as the capture of the city itself. The telling took some time, but both Nasuada and Eragon—who was standing by her right hand—listened with rapt and sometimes horrified attention while Roran spoke. When he finished, Nasuada surprised both him and Eragon by announcing that she was placing Roran in charge of one of the Varden’s battalions.

Eragon expected the news to please Roran. Instead, he saw the lines in his cousin’s face deepen and his brows draw together in a frown. Roran made no objection or complaint, however, but bowed and said in his rough voice, “As you wish, Lady Nasuada.”

Later, Eragon walked Roran to his tent, where Katrina was waiting for them. She greeted Roran with such an obvious display of emotion that Eragon averted his eyes, embarrassed.

With Saphira, the three of them dined together, but Eragon and Saphira excused themselves as soon as they could, for it was obvious that Roran had no energy for company and Katrina wished to have him for herself.

As he and Saphira wandered through the camp in the deepening dusk, Eragon heard someone behind him shout, “Eragon! Eragon! Wait a moment!”

He turned to see the thin, gangly figure of the scholar Jeod running toward him, strands of hair flying around his lean face. In his left hand, Jeod clutched a ragged scrap of parchment.

“What is it?” Eragon asked, worried.

“This!” exclaimed Jeod, his eyes gleaming. He held up the parchment and shook it. “I’ve done it again, Eragon! I’ve found a way!” In the fading light, the scar on his scalp and temple appeared startlingly pale against his tanned skin.

“You’ve done what again? You’ve found what way? Slow down; you’re not making sense!”

Jeod glanced around furtively, then he leaned close to Eragon and whispered, “All my reading and searching has paid off. I’ve discovered a hidden tunnel that leads straight into Dras-Leona!”


“EXPLAIN IT TO me again,” said Nasuada.

Eragon shifted his weight, impatient, but he held his tongue.

From the piles of scrolls and books in front of him, Jeod picked up a slim volume bound in red leather and began his narrative for the third time: “Some five hundred years ago, as best I can tell—”

Jörmundur interrupted him with a motion of his hand. “Leave out your qualifiers. We know this is speculation.”

Jeod began again: “Some five hundred years ago, Queen Forna sent Erst Graybeard to Dras-Leona, or rather what was to become Dras-Leona.”

“And why did she send him?” asked Nasuada while she toyed with the fringe of her sleeve.

“The dwarves were in the midst of a clan war, and Forna hoped that she could secure the support of our race by helping King Radgar with the planning and construction of the fortifications for the city, even as the dwarves engineered the defenses for Aroughs.”

Nasuada rolled a strand of cloth between her fingers. “And then Dolgrath Halfstave killed Forna. …”

“Aye. And Erst Graybeard had no choice but to return to the Beor Mountains as fast as he could, to defend his clan from Halfstave’s predations. But”—Jeod held up a finger, then opened the red book—“before he left, it seems Erst did start on his work. King Radgar’s chief adviser, Lord Yardley, wrote in his memoirs that Erst had begun to draw up plans for the sewer system underneath the center of the city, since that would affect how the fortifications would be built.”

From his place at the far end of the table that filled the middle of Nasuada’s pavilion, Orik nodded and said, “That’s true enough. You have to work out where and how the weight is distributed and determine what’s appropriate for the kind of earth you’re dealing with. Otherwise, you’re liable to have cave-ins.”

Jeod continued: “Of course, Dras-Leona doesn’t have underground sewers, so I assumed that nothing like Erst’s plans were ever put into effect. However, a few pages later, Yardley says …” Peering down his nose at the book, Jeod read, “… and in a most lamentable turn of events, the reavers burned many a house and made off with many a family treasure. The soldiers were slow to respond, for they had been put to work underground, laboring like common peasants.”

Jeod lowered the book. “Now, what were they excavating? I was unable to find any further mention of subterranean activities in or around Dras-Leona, until—” Putting down the red volume, he selected another book, this one a massive, wood-paneled tome nearly a foot thick. “I happened to be perusing The Acts of Taradas and Other Mysteries of Occult Phenomena as Recorded Throughout the Ages of Men, Dwarves, and the Most Ancient Elves when—”

“It is a work filled with mistakes,” said Arya. She stood by the left side of the table, leaning on both hands over a map of the city. “The author knew little of my people, and what he did not know, he invented.”

“That may be,” said Jeod, “but he knew a great deal about humans, and it is humans we are interested in.” Jeod opened the book close to the middle and gently lowered the upper half to the table, so it lay flat. “During his investigations, Othman spent some time in this region. He mainly studied Helgrind and the strange happenings associated with it, but he also had this to say about Dras-Leona: The people of the city also often complain of peculiar sounds and odors wafting up from under their streets and floors, especially at night, which they attribute to ghosts and spirits and other uncanny creatures, but if they are spirits, they are unlike any I have heard of before, as spirits elsewhere seem to avoid enclosed spaces.”

Jeod closed the book. “Fortunately, Othman was nothing if not thorough, and he marked the locations of the sounds on a map of Dras-Leona, where, as you can see, they form a nearly straight line through the old part of the city.”

“And you think this indicates the presence of a tunnel,” said Nasuada. It was a statement, not a question.

“I do,” said Jeod, bobbing his head.

Sitting next to Nasuada, King Orrin, who had said little, spoke. “Nothing you have shown us so far, Goodman Jeod, has yet to prove that this is actually a tunnel. If there is a space under the city, it might very well be a cellar or a catacomb or some other chamber that only leads to the building above. Even if it is a tunnel, we do not know if it exits anywhere outside of Dras-Leona, nor, assuming its existence, where it would lead. To the heart of the palace, perhaps? What’s more, by your own account, it’s likely the construction of this hypothetical tunnel was never completed in the first place.”

“It seems unlikely it could be anything but a tunnel, given its shape, Your Majesty,” said Jeod. “No cellar or catacomb would be so narrow or long. As for whether it was completed … we know it was never used for its intended purpose, but we also know that it lasted at least up until Othman’s time, which means the tunnel or passageway or what-have-you must have been finished to some degree, otherwise the seep of water would have destroyed it long ago.”

“What of the exit, then—or the entrance, if you will?” asked the king.

Jeod scrabbled among the piles of scrolls for a few moments before pulling out another map of Dras-Leona, this one showing a portion of the surrounding landscape. “That I can’t be sure about, but if it does lead out of the city, then it would exit somewhere around here—” He placed his index finger on a spot close to the eastern side of the city. Most of the buildings outside the walls that protected the heart of Dras-Leona were located on the western side of the city, next to the lake. This meant that the location Jeod was pointing at, though empty land, was closer to the center of Dras-Leona than one could get from any other direction without encountering buildings. “But it’s impossible to tell without going there to look for it in person.”

Eragon frowned. He had thought Jeod’s discovery would be more certain.

“You are to be co

ngratulated on your research, Goodman Jeod,” said Nasuada. “You may have once again performed a great service for the Varden.” She rose from her high-backed chair and walked over to look at the map. The hem of her dress rustled as it dragged across the ground. “If we send a scout to investigate, we risk alerting the Empire to our interest in that area. Assuming the tunnel exists, it would be of little value to us then; Murtagh and Thorn would be expecting us on the other end.” She looked at Jeod. “How wide do you think this tunnel would be? How many men could fit in it?”

“I couldn’t say. It might be—”

Orik cleared his throat, then said, “The earth here is soft and claylike, with a fair bit of silt layered throughout it—horrible for tunneling. If Erst had any sense, he wouldn’t have planned to have one large channel carry away the city’s waste; he would have laid down several smaller passageways, to reduce the likelihood of a cave-in. I’d guess that none of them would be wider than a yard or so.”

“Too narrow for more than a single man to pass through at a time,” said Jeod.

“Too narrow for more than a single knurla,” added Orik.

Nasuada returned to her seat and stared at the map with unfocused eyes, as if she were gazing at something far away.

After a few moments of silence, Eragon said, “I could search for the tunnel. I know how to hide myself with magic; the sentries would never see me.”

“Perhaps,” murmured Nasuada. “But I still don’t like the idea of having you or anyone else running about. The likelihood of the Empire noticing is too high. What if Murtagh is watching? Could you fool him? Do you even know what he is capable of now?” She shook her head. “No, we must act as if the tunnel exists and make our decisions accordingly. If events prove otherwise, it won’t have cost us anything, but if the tunnel is there … it should allow us to capture Dras-Leona once and for all.”

Tags: Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Fantasy
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