Ripples in the River is a companion series to my epic Twilight Rider Redux, a crossover between The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Inheritance. It's a series of one-shots that further delve into the aspects of what happened before and during the series, as well as a view glimpses of what happened after ;)
That said, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Like, don't read until you've completed the epilogue.
Era: Before Prelude 2: The Eye of the Storm... and after Epilogue: A Medley.
"Atra esterni ono thelduin, Togira Ikonoka." Sharp gray eyes flicked upward with another acknowledging finger to the lips. "Un atra esterni ono thelduin, Glaedr Gulskular."
"Mor'ranr lifa unin hjarta onr, Islanzadi Drottning." Oromis had no qualms on wishing Islanzadi peace in her heart on his and Glaedr's behalf. It was an earnest desire that transcended the customary greeting. No elf had truly known peace since the day Galbatorix had made a gruesome display of cutting down King Evandar in the Battle of Ilirea.
"Un du evarinya ono varda." Islanzadi turned glance out over the forest of Du Weldenvarden. From the Crags of Tel'naeir her domain looked an unending carpet of green. "Fate has been most merciful as of late, has it not? Not only has our blessed she-dragon hatched, but has breathed her first flame. She and her Rider have made it to the refuge of our realm."
Outwardly Oromis did not twitch at the meaningful slights, that of the title the queen had chosen to address him by and the reminder of her royal authority, but Glaedr's lip twitched all the same. A Cripple-Who-Is-Whole was a cripple all the same, reduced to hiding in the forest as Kialandi's wrathful curse upon him had long survived its caster. Ruler of the Riders Oromis may have been, but only by virtue of outlasting the others. His Order numbered one green human boy and a fledgling. Vroengard was a blighted ruin and Ilirea ruins beneath Urubaen.
What's she on about? Glaedr grumbled privately. The same reverence that prevented Islanzadi from simply connecting her mind to his let him simmer in peace.
"Please, Islanzadi, speak your heart. You are among equals and far from courtiers who would flinch at the lack of formality."
The queen of elves speared him with a stare that had left arrogant nobles groveling at her feet for forgiveness. "Very well, Oromis. Had you revealed the boy's existence to me sooner then I could have better secured our people's last hope. Perhaps even Brom Dragonless would still be alive to to help you mentor them." Glaedr rumbled, nostrils billowing with smoke. Islanzadi ignored him. "Egregious as it was, your transgression has been forgiven. One could even call it a blessing in disguise."
A dragon's fury burned. An elf's ran cold as ice. "What are you implying, o queen by her people's grace?" Islanzadi's claim to the throne was derived from Evandar, a century dead. Arya, a century old and having delivered a Rider to the elves, could well challenge her for it if she ever mastered her temper.
"Under your vigilance the world's first true Rider in a century nearly got himself killed by a Shade and took the she-dragon with him!" she snapped. "The scar upon his back was dealt by a Shade. It can never be healed. Such a curse is too foul for even our best healers to unravel. To send him out into battle again would be a death sentence."
Oromis folded his hands into their sleeves to hide their furious tremble. "We groom Eragon Shadeslayer and Saphira Brightscales to lead the next generation, not to die in some suicidal stand against the traitor."
"What next generation, Oromis? Any future eggs must be born from her, the world's last she-dragon. And there is but one suitable male left to sire them."
Glaedr, up until then the strong mountain at his side, shuddered in revulsion. Had she hatched at the Order's height Saphira would have still been mentored alongside other fledglings in her creche, not yet old enough for her and her Rider to be apprenticed to an individual master. In a sense Saphira was less than hatchling. Even a hatchling learned from parents or creche elders. Guided only by primal instinct and the ghosts of ancestral memory, Saphira had no grounding with her own kind. Her amorous advances were born of desperate yearning for a deeper connection to their race than a healthy sexual desire.
Saphira burns with a fire all her own, Glaedr said resolutely. Her fate is not a broodmare's.
Not that Islanzadi would ever accept such a sentiment. Oromis thus did not relate it. Instead he appealed to rationality. "Saphira is small enough to sit within Glaedr's rib cage." The golden dragon flexed his bulk for emphasis. "The size difference alone is ludicrous."
The queen of elves rolled her eyes. "I was not aware you lost more than your leg in the Fall, Master Glaedr. I remember dragons well enough to know such disparity in sizes between mates was avoided out of personal distaste, not necessity, and that mating between dragons with Riders is far less sentimental the the bond a wild pair shared. Galbatorix has but two male eggs and a mindless beast left to him. But a single brood could-"
Glaedr's roar split the air like thunder. Every eye in Ellesmera must have turned to the Crags of Tel'aenir. It was a small mercy they had ordered their pupils leagues away to meditate in peace.
Islanzadi stumbled back, her gown singed from where sparks of dragon-fire had landed. Her mental shields, battered down by Glaedr when he had given his fury voice, hastily built themselves up.
For a moment she gaped up at him like he had just condemned the elves to death. Then she drew herself tall as the mask of queenly dignity slid back into place. "Master Glaedr, for so long my people looked to you as our ember, the one secret bit of light we hoarded against the darkness of the Fall. Now Saphira Brightscales has become the second. Two sparks is all it takes to light a fire that can rage against Galbatorix's evil. Please keep that in mind before you and your Rider snuff yourselves out."
Without so much as a curt nod or backward glance Islanzadi took her leave. Glaedr snorted at her retreating back.
Good riddance. Then he lowered his head to rest against the ground so their eyes were level. I live to pass on my knowledge because there is no one else left to teach it. I will not leave behind a brood of children to be reared from the egg as pawns in this war. Bad enough such a burden is forced upon Saphira.
Ignoring the sharp bite of pain in his limbs, Oromis braced a comforting hand against the dragon's side. You and I certainly aren't going anywhere soon. Not until we can least secure one of those gods-damned eggs.
For a long time Glaedr was silent. Then he mused, Neither Saphira or Islanzadi can give me further grief if I take an unbreakable oath about never siring eggs upon her.
His Rider winced. I respect your right to make such a vow, old friend, but I beg you not to. We are already bound by so many shackles; our grief and our pain and so many regrets. Besides, you've put off amorous females before. What's one more?
Golden eyes peered deep into his own. If Islanzadi thinks me a mere ember, Saphira and Eragon already burn bright as stars. They do not deserve our fate.
No, old friend, they do not.
Yet Eragon's cursed wound prevented them from realizing any greater destiny. Elves did not put stock in gods, but the fickle and immutable fate was a force most recognized, whether they hailed it or cursed it with every waking breath. If one could pray to fate, Oromis prayed for Eragon and Saphira both to get the chance to blaze like no others before them.
Fate seemingly answered with Eragon's miraculous healing and transformation during the Blood-Oath Ceremony. It would not be for many months more that Oromis realized he had one very specific spirit named Iduneya to thank.
In his most fanciful moments Oromis had once dreamed of surviving until the final battle, his and Glaedr being the final sacrificed necessary to turn the tide of battle in their rebellion's favor. They could slide into oblivion without regrets, confident that the knowledge of their Order lived in through Eragon and the future of the dragon race in the claws of Saphira and the two eggs rescued from the King's clutches.
One such egg had been consumed by Galbatorix's hordes of undead, a spark snuffed out before ever given a chance to fully flare into existence. Shattered with their master's death or devoured by his armies, the entire trove of Eldunarya beneath Urubaen had suffered the same fate. So had every egg and heart of hearts secreted away on Vroengard. Though the failing of the spell upon their memories had seemingly confirmed their worst fears, Oromis and Glaedr had thoroughly searched the entire vault just to be sure. They had discovered nothing but dead fragments of eggshells and Eldunarya. Like Urubaen, Vroengard was still and lifeless as the tomb.
The other egg had hatched into foul-mouthed Thorn, who had happily eschewed the title of dragon for dragon knight. A dragon knight that embraced Murtagh as a brother of sorts rather than his Rider. A dragon knight as content upon two legs as four. A dragon knight that had eagerly embraced the possibility of a human lifespan if it meant not outliving his friends by centuries. Once self-proclaimed in his title, Queen Midna of Eluryh had acclaimed in truth as her second champion.
Saphira, the last female of their race, had also embraced the human form bestowed upon her by a Light Spirit so that she might fight at Eragon's side in the cursed realm of Twilight. Changed so much by their journey, neither she nor Eragon were separate races anymore, but in the same middle ground Thorn occupied. Their bond, not lessened in the slightest, was just no longer one of Rider and dragon.
With the last two Riders and dragons having willingly forsaken their bonds, the pact between their races had been upheld only by them, its last elders. With but the two of them bound to it, it had been a simple spell to unravel. If any future dragon eggs were ever discovered the ancient spells that once would have altered them to hatch for only Dragon Riders would have no effect. Glaedr was content to remain the last true Alagaesian dragon so that Saphira and Thorn could follow their futures elsewhere. Oromis had done the same.
Last of their kinds they may have been, neither the last Dragon Rider nor the last bonded dragon had any intention of dying soon. They had survived armies of undead, spirits dueling above their very heads, and even Kialandi's curse. A Forsworn's wrath was no match against Wisdom, for Queen Zelda of Hyrule had been blessed by a very Goddess. Once the Order, unwittingly isolated from the wider world by the border shared with Hyrule's powerful protections, had declared there be no lands of sentient peoples beyond Alagaesia. New ties to Hyrule opened the way to the countless countries beyond.
Ellesmera had welcomed envoys that ranged from mundane humans to Hylians of intriguing origin to living rocks. Oromis and Glaedr had once been beholden to protect all of Alagaesia. Now they served as its two most well-traveled ambassadors, for not even a Kull or elf could outpace a dragon.
Obligations had first drawn them to Hyrule and its races. Oromis knew he could spend many human lifetimes fully exploring its history and rich lore and magics, but Glaedr's burning curiosity drove them onward. Two of Hyrule's neighbors were most vocal in next hosting them.
Arcadia's lands lay east of Hyrule's southern Sea Province, hailed as a cultural center of the world for its extensive trading ties and influence over art and architecture for many thousands of miles around. Its magic users were rumored to be masters of the arcane arts. Queen Solene was said to have knowledge and magical power that rivaled that of her niece, Queen Zelda herself. Arcadian dragons were best described as massive serpents that breathed venom instead of flame and roosted in swamps instead of upon mountains. Some preyed upon towns from the cover of their lairs. Others watched over sacred temples and springs, offering ancient wisdom to the worthy souls that dared seek them out.
Northeast of Hyrule was the kingdom of Andar. Andar's history was just as ancient as Arcadia's, though written in blood and conquest more often than not. Arcadia was an ancient ally of Hyrule, so heavily intertwined with them their nobility were all virtually Hylian. Andar had warred many times with Hyrule for influence in the region, preferring the hard power of soldiers and steel to Arcadia's soft power of knowledge and culture. Long had the Dragon Riders tempered such ambitions in the humans beneath their protection. And yet Glaedr had still been drawn to its dragons.
Most Andarian dragons preferred roosting in the isolated mountains and granting the human villages a wide berth. The ones closest to civilization were the young fools that liked the easy food, be it from stealing sheep or demanding virgin girls as tribute. Their elders nested in the deeper wilderness and jealously guarded their hoards. Thrice they had been driven off by furious dragons that had only seen them as thieves of their treasure. Once Oromis had been forced to slay one maddened by a cursed ring in his possession. Such corrupted artifacts tainted the minds of most elder dragons, who valued power above material value in their treasures.
"Glittering male!" Smarag had roared to Glaedr in rough Andarian. "Go away! Too damn old to trip over hatchlings!"
Glaedr's golden hide and Smarag interest in his 'human pet with pretty hair' had granted them their first amiable audience. Their first hour of conversation had been spent on Smarag interrogating Glaedr on how he kept his scales so shiny and then over the fight in which he had gained such impressive scarring, including the loss of a limb. Oromis had silently rolled his eyes as the two dragons mostly talked over him. Glaedr, the daft old fool, had luxuriated in the praise of his golden hide and awesome collection of scars. Smarag then regaled him with how she had gained her every scar, be it from an envious human or envious dragon wishing to steal away her treasures.
Smarag rivaled Glaedr in size, perhaps even a head taller. Her scales were a drab green, rough and lusterless from age, but studded with a constellation of emeralds. Her horns and teeth were not yellowed from age, but gold dust. Her one eye left was bright green.
Oromis's lips twitched when Glaedr finally steered Smarag's boasting of her treasures into the oldest objects of her collection, the ones nearly three thousand years old. Old as the pact.
Nice direction, old friend, he thought to himself. Smarag's mind was hot and powerful as any elder dragon's, but roiled with a powerful undercurrent, the collective magical strength of the artifacts she hoarded. Oromis dared not intrude upon it, for Smarag had deigned only to open her mind to Glaedr because she thought him 'too damn old and stupid to learn how to talk the right way.' Among Andarian dragons sharing thoughts was an intimate bond shared only between close friends and family.
Smarag's eyes and spikes flashed a brilliant green. With a twitch of a paw the hoard slide aside, a lance landing at the tips of her expectant claws. Its tip shimmered with a faint blue light of its own. Oromis and Glaedr both blinked in bemusement as they gazed upon Thokablom, one of the Dauthdaertya crafted at the end of Dragon War. All but one of the twelve terrible weapons had been thought lost forever.
"This Frostflower, taken by me three hundred and seven years ago from Fafnir the Frozen through fang and fire, taken by Fafnir the Frozen from Grendel the Grayhearted five hundred and fifty-four years ago through..."
Smarag had illustrious legacies for every one of her treasures, her rough tongue becoming especially articulate as if reciting ancient poetry. As seven dragons had killed each other for Frostflower in one year, the same year a human knight slew the eight dragon and stole the spear before a ninth dragon killed him for it, this one was especially long. Frostflower's ended with, "...and brought to this land by Ellior the Ancient two thousand, three hundred, and one years ago, pried from the burned hands of an Interloper in the forsaken lands upon his slaying of her mate."
Glaedr cocked his head. Did your ancestors come from the forsaken lands too?
"Sea to sea, all land once dragon land," Smarag said grimly. "First Interlopers fuck up magic in one part, then they come back and start killing us. Only the fucking stupid ones stay to make peace. Not clan to us anymore. Then they all die." Her sharp green eye appraised him. "Except you, glittering male."
Aye. Glaedr bowed his head. I am the last... our distant cousins found their happiness amongst the humans.
Smarag shrugged. "Fafnir the Frozen human 'til ring make him dragon. Melys turn human to marry human. Happens sometimes." Her tail twitched thoughtfully. "If you still alive you not so stupid. Golden hatchlings could be treasure. But hatchlings might not be golden. May need to try many times. Or maybe I just keep you and human pet."
After much bargaining, Oromis escaped without fighting Smarag for Naegling. All it cost him was his long silver hair, now sheared short. Glaedr had to haggle scale by scale. Many had thankfully been old and loose enough to be easily removed. A few tender areas as the new scales beneath fully hardened and matured was an easy price to pay.
I had nebulous plans of this one-shot planned for a while. Then the muse took me by the hands and possessed me. I should be in bed, dammit.
Why throw the world's last female dragon into the fight when you have a male and can breed an army in no time flat? Especially when her Rider went and got himself crippled and nearly killed in his first real battle? It's a plot-hole that should have at least been addressed as a possibility, dammit.
Bittersweet endings are par for the Zelda course. Despite clearly saying Firnen's egg, Galbatorix's Eldunarya, and everything from the Rock of Kuthian got devoured by the dragons in the epilogue, I still got a few reviews asking what happened to them. Hopefully this clears up any lingering confusion about their fate :( Like the Knights of Hyrule a century ago, the Order of Dragon Riders is dead and not coming back. The last two dragons linked to the pact were raised by humans, bonded with humans, and are at ease as two legs as on four. They and their former Riders look into a new future. While the Dragon Riders are dead, dragons are not. Neither are dragon knights ;)
Despite scouring the Zelda Wiki, there are few foreign countries that fit my purposes mentioned. Arcadia is a semicanon country from the old Zelda cartoon, home of the douchey Prince Facade. Holodrum, Labrynna, and Calatia also exist somewhere in this world and are briefly mentioned in TRR. Gamelon and Koridai are places that must not be named. Andar is one of my creation. In the last few days I may have flushed out a lot about this world and what I want to do it than I have in the last four years. Let's just say that nebulous sequel I talked about in the epilogue of TRR is a hell of a lot closer to reality ;)
Smarag's name is derived for a foreign world for 'emerald.' Only later did I see how strong the name looks to 'Smaug' XD. Fafnir is the name of a Norse dwarf who got cursed into a dragon and later slain by Siegfried. Melys is a homage to the myth of Melusine.