Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle 4) - Page 81

“They will always have need of you.”

“And I will always answer their call,” she replied. “Do not worry; Fírnen and I shall not ignore our duties as a dragon and Rider. We will help you to patrol the land and settle what disputes we can, and wherever it seems best to raise the dragons, we shall visit and lend our assistance as often as we can, even if it be at the far southern end of the Spine.”

Her words troubled Eragon, but he did his best to hide it. What she promised would not be possible if he and Saphira did as they had decided during the flight there. Although everything Arya had said helped confirm that the path they had chosen was the right one, he worried that it was a path that Arya and Fírnen would be unable to follow.

He bowed his head then, accepting Arya’s decision to become queen and her right to make it. “I know you won’t neglect your responsibilities,” he said. “You never do.” He did not mean the statement unkindly; it was merely a statement of fact, and one for which he respected her. “And I understand why you did not contact us for so long. I probably would have done the same in your place.”

She smiled again. “Thank you.”

He motioned toward her sword. “I take it Rhunön reworked Támerlein to better fit you?”

“She did, and she grumbled about it the whole while. She said the blade was perfect the way it was, but I am well pleased with the changes she made; the sword balances as it should in my hand now, and it feels no heavier than a switch.”

As they stood watching the dragons, Eragon tried to think of a way to tell Arya of their plans. Before he could, she said, “You and Saphira have been well?”

“We have.”

“What else of interest has occurred since you wrote?”

Eragon thought for a minute, then told her in brief about the attempts on Nasuada’s life, the uprisings in the north and the south, the birth of Roran and Katrina’s daughter, Roran’s ennoblement, and the list of treasures they had recovered from within the citadel. Lastly, he told of their return to Carvahall and their visit to Brom’s final resting place.

While he spoke, Saphira and Fírnen began to circle each other, the tips of their tails whipping back and forth faster than ever. They both had their jaws slightly open, baring their long white teeth, and they were breathing thickly through their mouths and uttering low, whining grunts, the likes of which Eragon had never heard before. It looked almost as if they were going to attack each other, which worried him, but the feeling from Saphira was not one of anger or fear. It was—

I want to test him, said Saphira. She slapped her tail against the ground, causing Fírnen to pause.

Test him? How? For what?

To find out if he has the iron in his bones and the fire in his belly to match me.

Are you sure? he asked, understanding her intent.

She again slapped her tail against the ground, and he felt her certainty and the strength of her desire. I know everything about him—everything but this. Besides—she displayed a flash of amusement—it’s not as if dragons mate for life.

Very well. … But be careful.

He had barely finished speaking when Saphira lunged forward and bit Fírnen on his left flank, drawing blood and causing Fírnen to snarl and spring backward. The green dragon growled, appearing uncertain of himself, and retreated before Saphira as she prowled toward him.

Saphira! Chagrined, Eragon turned to Arya, intending to apologize.

Arya did not seem upset. To Fírnen, and to Eragon as well, she said, If you want her to respect you, then you have to bite her in return.

She raised an eyebrow at Eragon, and he responded with a wry smile, understanding.

Fírnen glanced at Arya and hesitated. He jumped back as Saphira snapped at him again. Then he roared and lifted his wings, as if to make himself appear larger, and he charged Saphira—and nipped her on a hind leg, sinking his teeth into her hide.

The pain Saphira felt was not pain.

Saphira and Fírnen resumed circling, growling and yowling with increasing volume. Then Fírnen jumped at her again. He landed on Saphira’s neck and bore her head to the ground, where he held her pinned and gave her a pair of playful bites at the base of her skull.

Saphira did not struggle as fiercely as Eragon would have expected, and he guessed that she had allowed Fírnen to catch her, as it was not something even Thorn had managed to do.

“The courting of dragons is no gentle affair,” he said to Arya.

“Did you expect soft words and tender caresses?”

“I suppose not.”

With a heave of her neck, Saphira threw Fírnen off and scrambled backward. She roared and clawed at the ground with her forefeet, and then Fírnen lifted his head toward the sky and loosed a rippling pennant of green fire twice the length of his own body.

“Oh!” exclaimed Arya, sounding delighted.


“That’s the first time he has breathed fire!”

Saphira released a blast of fire herself—Eragon could feel the heat from over fifty feet away—and then she crouched and jumped into the sky, climbing straight upward. Fírnen followed an instant later.

Eragon stood with Arya as they watched the glittering dragons ascend into the heavens, spiraling around each other with flames streaming from their mouths. It was an awe-inspiring sight: savage and beautiful, and frightening. Eragon realized he was watching an ancient and elemental ritual, one that was part of the very fabric of nature itself and without which the land would wither and die.

His connection with Saphira grew tenuous as the distance between them increased, but he could still sense the heat of her passion, which darkened the edges of her vision and blotted out all thoughts save those driven by the instinctual need that all creatures, even the elves, are subject to.

The dragons shrank until at last they were no more than a pair of sparkling stars orbiting each other in the immensity of the sky. As far away as they were, Eragon still received a few flashes of thoughts and feelings from Saphira, and though he had experienced many such moments with the Eldunarí when they had shared their memories with him, his cheeks grew hot, as did the tips of his ears, and he found himself unable to look directly at Arya.

She too seemed affected by the dragons’ emotions, although differently than he; she stared after Saphira and Fírnen with a faint smile, and her eyes shone brighter than usual, as if the sight of the two dragons filled her with pride and happiness.

Eragon let out a sigh, and then squatted and began to draw in the dirt with a stalk of grass.

“Well, that didn’t take long,” he said.

“No,” said Arya.

They remained that way for a number of minutes: she standing, he squatting, and all silence around them, save for the sound of the lonely wind.

At last Eragon dared look up at Arya. She looked more beautiful than ever. But more than that, he saw his friend and ally; he saw the woman who had helped save him from Durza, who had fought alongside him against countless enemies, who had been imprisoned with him under Dras-Leona, and who, in the end, had killed Shruikan with the Dauthdaert. He remembered what she had told him about her life in Ellesméra when she was growing up, her difficult relationship with her mother, and the many reasons that had driven her to leave Du Weldenvarden and serve as an ambassador to the elves. He thought too of the hurts she had suffered: some from her mother, others from the isolation she had experienced among the humans and the dwarves, and still more when she had lost Faolin and then endured Durza’s tortures in Gil’ead.

All those things he thought of, and he felt a deep sense of connection with her, and a sadness too, and a sudden desire came upon him to capture what he saw.

While Arya meditated upon the sky, Eragon looked about until he found a piece of the slatelike rock projecting from the earth. Making as little noise as possible, he dug out a slab with his fingers and brushed off the dirt until the stone was clean.

It took him a moment to remember the spells

he had once used, and then to modify them so as to extract the colors needed from the earth around him. Speaking the words silently, he incanted the spell.

A stir of motion, like a swirl of muddy water, disturbed the surface of the tablet. Then colors—red, blue, green, yellow—bloomed on the slate and began to form lines and shapes even as they intermingled to form other, subtler shades. After a few seconds, an image of Arya appeared.

Once it was complete, he released the spell and studied the fairth. He was pleased with what he saw. The image seemed to be a true and honest representation of Arya, unlike the fairth he had made of her in Ellesméra. The one he held now had a depth that the other one had lacked. It was not a perfect image with regard to its composition, but he was proud that he had been able to capture so much of her character. In that one image, he had managed to sum up everything he knew about her, both the dark and the light.

He allowed himself to enjoy his sense of accomplishment for a moment more, then he threw the tablet off to the side, to break it against the ground.

“Kausta,” said Arya, and the tablet curved through the air and landed in her hand.

Eragon opened his mouth, intending to explain or to apologize, but then he thought better of it and said nothing.

Holding up the fairth, Arya stared at it with an intent gaze. Eragon watched her closely, wondering how she would react.

A long, tense minute passed.

Then Arya lowered the fairth.

Eragon stood and held out his hand for the tablet, but she made no move to return it. She appeared troubled, and his heart sank; the fairth had upset her.

Looking him straight in the eye, she said in the ancient language, “Eragon, if you are willing, I would like to tell you my true name.”

Her offer left him dumbstruck. He nodded, overwhelmed, and, with great difficulty, managed to say, “I would be honored to hear it.”

Arya stepped forward and placed her lips close to his ear, and in a barely audible whisper she told him her name. As she spoke, the name rang within his mind, and with it came a rush of understanding. Some of the name he knew already, but there were many parts that surprised him, parts that he realized must have been difficult for Arya to share.

Then Arya stepped back and waited for his response, her expression studiously blank.

Her name raised numerous questions for Eragon, but he knew that it was not the time to ask them. Rather, he needed to reassure Arya that he did not think any less highly of her because of what he had learned. Nor did he. If anything, her name had increased his regard, for it had shown him the true extent of her selflessness and her devotion to duty. He knew that if he reacted badly to her name—or even said the wrong thing without intending to—he could destroy their friendship.

He met Arya’s gaze full-on and said, also in the ancient language, “Your name … your name is a good name. You should be proud of who you are. Thank you for sharing it with me. I am glad to call you my friend, and I promise that I will always keep your name safe. … Will you, now, hear mine?”

She nodded. “I will. And I promise to remember and protect it for so long as it remains yours.”

A sense of import came over Eragon. He knew there was no going back from what he was about to do, which he found both frightening and exhilarating. He moved forward and did as Arya had done, placing his lips by her ear and whispering his name as softly as he could. His whole being vibrated in recognition of the words.

He backed away, suddenly apprehensive. How would she judge him? Fair or foul? For judge him she would; she could not help it.

Arya released a long breath and looked at the sky for a while. When she turned to him again, her expression was softer than before. “You have a good name as well, Eragon,” she said in a low voice. “However, I do not think it is the name you had when you left Palancar Valley.”


“Nor do I think it is the name you bore during your time in Ellesméra. You’ve grown much since we first met.”

“I’ve had to.”

She nodded. “You are still young, but you are no longer a child.”

“No. That I am not.”

More than ever, Eragon felt drawn to her. The exchange of names had formed a bond between them, but of what sort he was unsure, and his uncertainty left him with a sense of vulnerability. She had seen him with all his flaws and she had not recoiled, but had accepted him as he was, even as he accepted her. Moreover, she had seen in his name the depth of his feelings for her, and that too had not driven her away.

He debated whether to say anything on the subject, but he could not let it go. After gathering up his courage, he said, “Arya, what is to become of us?”

She hesitated, but he could see that his meaning was clear to her. Choosing her words with care, she said, “I don’t know. … Once, as you know, I would have said, ‘nothing,’ but … Again, you are still young, and humans often change their minds. In ten years, or even five, you may no longer feel as you now do.”

“My feelings won’t change,” he said with utter certainty.

She searched his face for a long, tense while. Then he saw a change in her eyes, and she said, “If they don’t, then … perhaps in time …” She put a hand on the side of his jaw. “You cannot ask more of me now. I do not want to make a mistake with you, Eragon. You are too important for that, both to me and to the whole of Alagaësia.”

He tried to smile, but it came out more as a grimace. “But … we don’t have time,” he said, his voice choked. He felt sick to his stomach.

Arya’s brow furrowed, and she lowered her hand. “What do you mean?”

He stared at the ground, trying to think how to tell her. In the end, he just said it as simply as he could. He explained the difficulty he and Saphira had had in finding a safe place for the eggs and the Eldunarí, and then he explained Nasuada’s plan to form a group of magicians to keep watch over every human spellcaster.

He spent several minutes talking, and concluded by saying, “So Saphira and I have decided that the only thing we can do is leave Alagaësia and raise the dragons elsewhere, far away from other people. It’s what’s best for us, for the dragons, for the Riders, and all the other races of Alagaësia.”

“But the Eldunarí—” said Arya, appearing shocked.

“The Eldunarí can’t stay either. They would never be safe, not even in Ellesméra. As long as they remain in this land, there will be those who will try to steal them or use them to further their own designs. No, we need a place like Vroengard, a place where no one can find the dragons to hurt them and where the younglings and the wild dragons cannot hurt anyone themselves.” Eragon tried to smile again, but gave it up as hopeless. “That is why I said we have no time. Saphira and I intend to leave as soon as we can, and if you stay … I do not know if we will ever see each other again.”

Arya glanced down at the fairth she still held, troubled.

“Would you give up your crown to come with us?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

She lifted her gaze. “Would you give up charge of the eggs?”

He shook his head. “No.”

For a time, they were silent, listening to the wind.

“How would you find candidates for the Riders?” she asked.

“We’ll leave a few eggs behind—with you, I suppose—and once they hatch, they and their Riders will come join us, and we’ll send you more eggs.”

“There must be another solution besides you and Saphira and every Eldunarí abandoning Alagaësia!”

“If there were, we would take it, but there isn’t.”

“What of the Eldunarí? What of Glaedr and Umaroth? Have you spoken to them of this? Do they agree?”

“We haven’t spoken to them, but they will agree. That I know.”

“Are you sure about this, Eragon? Is it really the only way—to leave behind everything and everyone you have ever known?”

“It’s necessary, and our departure was always meant to be. Ange

la foretold it when she cast my fortune in Teirm, and I’ve had time to accustom myself to the idea.” He reached out and touched Arya on the cheek. “So, I ask again: will you come with us?”

A film of tears appeared on her eyes, and she hugged the fairth against her chest. “I cannot.”

He nodded and took his hand away. “Then … we will part ways.” Tears welled in his own eyes, and he struggled to retain his composure.

“But not yet,” she whispered. “We still have some time together. You will not leave immediately.”

“No, not immediately.”

And they stood next to each other, gazing into the sky and waiting for Saphira and Fírnen to return. After a while, her hand touched his, and he grasped it, and though it was a small comfort, it helped dull the ache in his heart.


WARM LIGHT STREAMED through the windows along the right of the hallway, illuminating patches of the far wall where banners, paintings, shields, swords, and the heads of various stags hung between the dark, carved doors that dotted the wall at regular intervals.

As Eragon strode toward Nasuada’s study, he gazed out the windows at the city. From the courtyard, he could still hear the bards and musicians performing by the banquet tables laid out in Arya’s honor. The celebrations had been ongoing since she and Fírnen had returned to Ilirea with him and Saphira the previous day. But now they were beginning to wind down and, as a result, he had finally been able to arrange a meeting with Nasuada.

He nodded to the guards outside the study, then let himself into the room.

Inside, he saw Nasuada reclined on a padded seat, listening to a musician strumming on a lute and singing a beautiful, if mournful, love song. On the end of the seat sat the witch-child, Elva, engrossed with a piece of embroidery, and in a nearby chair, Nasuada’s handmaid, Farica. And curled up on Farica’s lap lay the werecat Yelloweyes in his animal form. He looked sound asleep, but Eragon knew from experience that he was probably awake.

Tags: Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Fantasy
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