-1The wind whipped across his face, bringing the searing air into his nostrils . . . That acrid scent shook him out of his reverie. He felt Saphira nudge his mind and turned, his eyes troubled.

What disturbs you, young one? Came that touch, soft and tenuous. You hide your heart . . .

Eragon lifted his face. "Nothing I can't handle," he assured her with a weak smile. In truth, his insides felt odd, like steel had bloomed in his belly, painful and twisted. He took in a tremulous breath through his quivering lips.

Saphira scattered loose debris as she made her way across the ground to him, firm and dominating. Why do you lie to me, Eragon? She made an odd coughing noise in her throat. I know that isn't true . . .why, right now you are fearing destruction! Why?

The young man turned his face away uncomfortably. "Just . . . Just matters of the heart."

Saphira once again forced herself into his field of vision, ardently pushing. It isn't Arya you pine for . . . I can see that. What must be secret even from me? She scratched the ground, flexing her powerful talons, and snuffed. Someone you should not desire? I sense shame.

He took the thoughts, twisting them tighter within himself and stuffing them into the darkest recesses of his mind. "Aye," he agreed sadly.

She was silent, contemplative. Or so he thought . . . Her quiet demeanor concealed her first attempts at invasion. "Saphira!" he warned indignantly.

She managed to look shameful. Sorry, you know I only worry for you . . . What is this about 'brother?' The dragon stretched up her neck in surprise. It is Katrina you desire, is it not? Your brother's love . . . And you are ashamed!

"What? N-" He stopped himself, tucking a lock of hair behind his ear. "That is-" he said, pretending to act ashamed of being found out, "Yes . . . Katrina. What am I to do? She belongs to Roran," finished Eragon, with mock sorrow. "I cannot ever have her without betraying my brother . . ." In truth, his cousin's wife-to-be could not have been less of a concern to his heart. While he had sworn to repay his debt with her rescue, she held no appeal for him . . . But the symptomology fit.

Saphira huffed, a small puff of smoke escaping. It is not right . . . You know your honor will prevent you from having her. She wrapped herself around him protectively.

The very real sadness that troubled Eragon brought hints of tears to his eyes. "What will I do, Saphira?" he asked desperately. He shut his eyes and leaned his head against her rough scales, the first salty tear sparkling like liquid diamond where it trickled down her side.

His dragon told him firmly, We will make do . . . Remember, you hurt too over Arya, you are young and there are many deer in the forest . . .do not hurt overmuch, my Eragon.

He kept his eyes shut, now in the darkness where his secret still lay, reveling in a fantastical union that existed only there. He thought privately that he was safe for now, and allowed himself the indulgence of his dream in the guise of sleep.