DISCLAIMER: I don't own Eragon.

There was a subdued silence after Oromis closed the book. The story had taken a sudden left turn, and the prospect of defeating the King was sounding more and more difficult by the second. In order to gain a position in which he might openly oppose Galbatorix, the boy would have to take refuge with the Varden, a task which presently seemed impossible since no person knew of their whereabouts. The farm boy had no guide save for Brom, and as clever as he may be, without his dragon, and at the decline of his strength, he would not be as strong a man as he used to. All in all, it would take nothing short of a miracle for the boy and hatchling to reach this Varden alive.

"I fail to see how a solution can present itself, when there is no solution," Ormund growled.

"Do not give up hop-" Oromis started.

"Do not blather on about hope Master Elf, the harsh reality of the world works not on hope but on strength, on power, on skill. Hope is nought but false confidence in a guise; this boy lacks the strength, power and skill to become a figure who might defeat the mad King, and no amount of hope will force the sword through the traitor's heart! Forgive my impudence, but the fact remains that without some mystery pawn coming into play, he will not be able to fulfil his duty!"

Oromis inclined his head,

"You forget though Ormund Svenson, that hope is also responsible for the courage that drives one man to die for another, that continues to fuel the spirit in a soul that it might not shatter and break. You can have all the strength and skill of a hundred dragons but if you lack the conviction, if you lack the belief in what you are fighting for, then you will be swept aside as easily as smoke in the wind by the will of others."

Ormund looked contrite, though anger still burned in his eyes, "I apologise Wise One, I did not think of it that way."

Oromis waved him away, "There is nought for you to apologise for Ormund. Unto each man is bestowed the gift of sight, and we all perceive that which lies around us differently. You have your views, and I have mine."

"Well since we have no solution, I propose that we continue reading," Vrael said, reaching once more for the book.

Chapter 5: Fate's Gift

The evening after their return from Carvahall, Eragon decided to test the stone as Merlock had. Alone in his room, he set it on his bed and laid three tools next to it. He started with a wooden mallet and lightly tapped the stone. It produced a subtle ringing. Satisfied, he picked up the next tool, a heavy leather hammer. A mournful peal reverberated when it struck. Lastly, he pounded a small chisel against it. The metal did not chip or scratch the stone, but it produced the clearest sound yet.

The eggs of dragons have shells far stronger than any other kind, they will not yield to magic nor might Umaroth said.

As the final note died away, he thought he heard a faint squeak.

Everybody's breath caught. Glaedr blinked a single golden eye.

Merlock said the stone was hollow; there could be something of value inside. I don't know how to open it, though. There must have been a good reason for someone to shape it, but whoever sent the stone into the Spine hasn't taken the trouble to retrieve it or doesn't know where it is. But I don't believe that a magician with enough power to transport the stone wouldn't be able to find it again. So was I meant to have it?

"It would seem so," Arva said, glancing at Valdr.

He could not answer the question. Resigned to an unsolvable mystery, he picked up the tools and returned the stone to its shelf.

That night he was abruptly roused from sleep. He listened carefully. All was quiet. Uneasy, he slid his hand under the mattress and grasped his knife.

"He sleeps with a knife huh?" Ormund said gruffly, though his eyes shone with grudging approval.

"A rather unnecessary precaution for a farm boy," Islanzadi said sharply.

He waited a few minutes, then slowly sank back to sleep.

A squeak pierced the silence, tearing him back to wakefulness.

It is hatching Glaedr said, unable to contain the excitement in his voice. Umaroth hummed, glancing fondly at his younger kin.

He rolled out of bed and yanked the knife from its sheath. Fumbling with a tinderbox, he lit a candle. The door to his room was closed. Though the squeak was too loud for a mouse or rat, he still checked under the bed. Nothing. He sat on the edge of the mattress and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Another squeak filled the air, and he started violently.

"He really is skittish," Frida said, frowning.

Where was the noise was coming from? Nothing could be in the floor or walls; they were solid wood. The same went for his bed, and he would have noticed if anything had crawled into his straw mattress during the night. His eyes settled on the stone. He took it off the shelf and absently cradled it as he studied the room. A squeak rang in his ears and reverberated through his fingers; it came from the stone.

The stone had given him nothing but frustration and anger, and now it would not even let him sleep!

"Belive me lad, that's going to be the last of your problems," Ormund growled ominously.

"Don't be so oppressing," Lakshmael snapped, while turning back to Vrael.

Ormund glared at her.

It ignored his furious glare and sat solidly, occasionally peeping. Then it gave one very loud squeak and fell silent. Eragon warily put it away and got back under the sheets. Whatever secret the stone held, it would have to wait until morning.

"Surely it should have hatched," Evandar said uncertainly, glancing at Umaroth.

It may take a while for the hatchling emerge from egg; it takes a geat deal of effort to break free, Valdr rumbled.

The moon was shining through his window when he woke again. The stone was rocking rapidly on the shelf, knocking against the wall. It was bathed in cool moonlight that bleached its surface. Eragon jumped out of bed, knife in hand. The motion stopped, but he remained tense. Then the stone started squeaking and rocking faster than ever.

Valdr snorted in satisfaction, violet eyes gleaming.

With an oath, he began dressing. He did not care how valuable the stone might be; he was going to take it far away and bury it.

It will hatch before he can but leave the nest Umaroth growled, quelling Islanzadi's furious cry of outrage.

The rocking stopped; the stone became quiet. It quivered, then rolled forward and dropped onto the floor with a loud thump. He inched toward the door in alarm as the stone wobbled toward him.

"It is very strong," Evandar said thoughtfully.

Than the toughest steel Valdr said, a hint of pride in his voice.

Suddenly a crack appeared on the stone. Then another and another. Transfixed, Eragon leaned forward, still holding the knife. At the top of the stone, where all the cracks met, a small piece wobbled, as if it were balanced on something, then rose and toppled to the floor. After another series of squeaks, a small dark head poked out of the hole, followed by a weirdly angled body.

It is strong; it needed no help hatching, Umaroth said approvingly.

Eragon gripped the knife tighter and held very still. Soon the creature was all the way out of the stone. It stayed in place for a moment, then skittered into the moonlight.

Eragon recoiled in shock. Standing in front of him, licking off the membrane that encased it, was a dragon.

"And that is the end of the chapter," Vrael said, a fierce smile of joy on his face. All three dragons hummed in satisfaction.

And there is your hope Ormund Svenson, Valdr rumbled.

"I can but not help worry for the outcome of this bonding," Islanzadi murmured, though not as hostile as before.

"Strength comes in all types of forms, including the spark of fire that can be buried in the heart of man. We have yet to see, but \I have great hopes for this Eragon," Vrael said, "Great hopes indeed."

Thank you for reading. Sorry for the late-ish update, I know I promised it Friday! Anyway please drop a review and tell me what you thought.

Dreamsadow102 xx