Slumber, my darling.

Arya didn't dare believe what she just witnessed, but she could not deny hearing the sound of his crushed and broken body hitting the ground. Nor could she say that she didn't see or breathe in the cloud of dirt and smoke that erupted into the air, engulfing her like a blanket of dust. Her eyes watered and she coughed, feeling her chest sear with pain as she did.

If she wanted to, she probably could've ignored all of those things. But she sure as hell couldn't ignore the fact that his blood was pooling at her feet, flowing so steadily from the open would. Then she realized that the soles of her soft leather boots were damp; she shifted her foot, and left a bloody print on the ground; not that she looked, she didn't dare look down. Not yet.

It took a moment to process it; and in the battlefield, any moment not fighting was a moment where you were left more vulnerable that ever. Her body acted of its own accord as her mind let down the curtains to hide the reality; and she was untouchable.

It was just seconds before, and he was so far away; at the other ends of the plains, alive and well, fierce and proud. His armor gleamed and blinded like the sun to those who dared to stare at it for too long. As he sat atop Saphira Bjartskular, his new blade, Adurna, colored the same hue as his dragon, flashed and cut through the enemy ranks; so fluidly it was when he wielded it that it didn't seem like a weapon, but an extension of his limbs. The way he tore through the opposing army looked as effortless as it would be if they were all made of paper.

After so many years, this was to be their final stand and they had managed to goad the King out of Uru'baen. Though they had been fighting for the past few days, it was only today the Galbatorix stepped out of his safe confinements; and that was all they needed. Though their people were exhausted from the days of battle, many had turned to join their side; and though they were all terrified at the prospect of encountering their fearful oppressor, they were also relieved; this marked the end. No matter who won, at least it'd be all over.

The battle that raged upon the once-pure land was desperate. They fought for their lives and the rest of the world, each knowing that if they gave up there would be no hope left at all.

The ground was cracked and bruised; through it ran rivers blood from dwarves, elves, urgals, humans and dragons alike. The clean air filled with the stench of blood, fire and decay; the only sounds to be heard were the anguished screams of dying creatures.

That was just a moment ago…

But only as everything seemed to fade away into shadow around her, sounds, sight and pungent smells; only as everything was now clear, yet hazy all the same; only as she realized what he had done; only now she dared look down.

His rich golden brownish hair, matted with blood; his face was streaked with dirt. His sword dangled loosely from his hand as he breathed slowly and deeply; his armor crushed and melded together at his chest. She bit back a cry as she looked upon the wound, immediately knowing that it was fatal; that no amount of magic could heal him. She yearned to press her hands against it, to staunch the flow of escape in which his life seeped away so fluidly. She nearly reached out then, but pulled back when she came to realize what she was doing. You can't help him, she told herself, swallowing hard, You can't help him, she repeated, feeling her lungs want to collapse inside her ribcage as she struggled to breathe normally, properly as if she were the one who was so terribly wounded.

Far away, she dimly recognized the agonized bellows from Saphira. She heard the cries of thousands of men as Saphira thrashed and flailed, trying to barrel through those who separated her from her rider, oblivious to those of either side.

She choked back the flood of tears that threatened to overwhelm her; she fought to stand, to keep focused. There was a time to grieve, and it wasn't now. She let her raging sea of emotions bottle within her; she knew it was dangerous, but it was worth the risk. Her vision blackened and then glowed blindingly white; she gathered tides of rage and despair up and formed it into a glowing ball of white energy. She waited, and let it expand until it threatened to explode in her hands; she raised her palms towards the sky and screaming, she let it go.

All the sounds vanished as if it were sucked into the vacuum of space. Time itself seemed to hold its breath. Everyone on the battlefield watched the missile with apprehension, wondering whether the target was someone on their side. All anyone knew was it was surely meant for someone powerful like a dragon rider.

A split second later, a huge explosion rocked the earth and Shruiken fell like a stone from high, a dazed King still saddled tightly against him. Arya sank to her knees, feeling little satisfaction knowing that her vengeance had come to fruition and that perhaps the war would soon be over.

Just like his life would be.

She barely noticed the cry of triumphant victory and the roaring as the cheers spread like a wave, moments later as Murtagh, with Thorn's help, lopped off Galbatorix's head, instantly killing Shruiken as well. It didn't matter, much because all she could see was his face, pale and waxen as he drew in labored breaths. She slowly fell to her knees; her blade clattered and bounced on the stained ground beside him, then lay still as he was.

She tore off her battle gauntlets, tossing the precious battle armor aside unceremoniously as she bent over him.

He felt her soft, slim fingers touch his face, warm like the blood that coated the entire side of his face, warm against the cold that already began to eat away at his body. He felt a drop land right below his eye and trickle down his cheek, carving a pearly trail against the grime that hid his face like a mask.

He slowly reached up, using the remnants of his strength to wipe the tears away from her smooth and soft skin; he could not bear to see her in pain because of him. He had put her through enough already. Besides, she was a diplomat, a princess, an elf; who was he to her?

He was nothing; just a poor farm boy who chanced upon a legacy as old as time.

He looked upon her face as his vision grew hazy and sounds were muted to his ears, and he blinked with an effort. His hand dropped and fingers intertwined between strands of her dark silky hair. So perfect even in battle… he thought, blinking to try and clear his sight.

Remembered the Black Morning Glory as he strained to see the features that tormented his mind every night; he could picture the flower, its petals unfurling, fanning their inky robes to expose the hoard of nectar in their centers. A starburst of royal blue filled their throats, diffusing the sable corolla like the vestiges of day into night.

"Is it not the most perfect and lovely flower?"

"Yes… It is. As are you."

"Must the price of my indiscretion be our friendship? I cannot help how I feel toward you, but I would rather suffer another wound from Durza than allow my foolishness to destroy the companionship that existed between us. I value it too highly."

"Our friendship shall endure, Eragon. As for us spending time together…Perhaps. However, we shall have to wait and see what the future brings, for I am busy and can promise nothing."

"How tall the trees, how bright the stars… and how beautiful you are, O Arya-Svit-kona."

"Eragon…"

"Arya, I'll do anything to win your hand. I would follow you to the ends of the earth. I would build a palace for you with nothing but my bare-hands. I would –"

"Will you stop pursuing me? Can you promise me that?… Eragon, this cannot be. You are young and I am old, and that shall never change."

"Do you feel nothing for me?"

"My feelings for you are those of a friend and nothing more. I am grateful to you for rescuing me from Gil'ead, and I find your company pleasant. That is all… relinquish this quest of yours –it will only bring you heartache—and find someone your own age to spend the long years with.

"How can you be so cruel?"

"I am not cruel, but kind. You and I aren't meant for each other."

"You could give me your memories, and then I would have the same amount of experience and knowledge as you."

"It would be an abomination… Hear me well, Eragon. This cannot, nor ever shall be. And until you master yourself, our friendship must cease to exist, for your emotions do nothing but distract us from our duty… Goodbye, Eragon Shadeslayer."

His hand fell from her shoulder, but she caught it and pressed it gently against her cheek; closing her eyes for a moment, savoring his touch; forbidden though it was. There was no more worry… they would never be together.

When she reopened them a steely glint burned. "Why did you save me?" she whispered, drawing closer to him. "Why did you save me?" she repeated, each time more forceful than the one before. Did he not know what he had done? Did he not realize…

He simply smiled; the tiny gesture expended the last of his efforts as his muscles slowly failed to respond altogether.

"Why?" A fierce edge crept into her voice as she tried to quell her tears.

"Why?" she repeated, her voice dropping softer than the dead breeze that blew; anguish poured into that single word as she repeated it once again. "Why? Eragon, tell me! Why did you save me?" Her voice broke as she spoke again, "You had your entire life to live… why did you … why did you … you wasted… sacrificed yourself… why?

"Arya," he said, drawing in a shuddering breath, wincing because of the pain that seared throughout his entire being as he did so. "Arya…" he said again, tasting her name upon his lips… a pale light shone from within his eyes. "Do you… not know?

Arya shook her head, not trusting herself to speak as she watched his eyes start to mist over with a pale gloom. She composed herself for a moment.

His breath was soft, his voice was faint. "My life… could never be wasted… and it was worth sacrificing… to save you…" He paused to draw a great shuddering breath. " … It was… Wiol ono un wiol pomnuria ilian." He said slowly, holding her gaze for another moment, heroically fighting his fate; then the light faded and his eyes clouded; she could feel the life withdraw from his fingertips, and his hand go limp.

Now only a few meters away, a mournful roar pierced the air and Saphira toppled over, hitting the ground softly as the life escaped her as well.

Arya heard the shouting; she could hear Murtagh's voice, louder, more insistent and less composed than all the others. She could see Orik, standing shock still not too far away and Nasuada yelling out orders, flustered, but trying to stay in control, to keep the calm there never was.

"Eragon," she said softly, her gaze never leaving his now peaceful face as he rested in eternal slumber. " Eragon… you fool."

The tears came again, harder this time; but she did not even try to quell it. She let them flow freely as sobs wracked her body. The torrent of emotions she always masked beneath a cold and cruel demeanor now broke through and possessed her. Anger at him for being so thoughtless, selfish and stupid and for breaking the oath she made him swear in the ancient language. Confusion because he broke the oath, the oath was supposed to be unbreakable, since no one could lie the ancient language. Sorrow for losing him, sorrow for Saphira's bound fate, the last female of the race of dragons, sorrow for herself…

She lost herself in these feelings, not knowing anything. She sat there, beside him for hours on end; no one could get her to leave his side, nor could they get her to let them take him away.

Finally, she touched his face again; it was icy beneath her fingertips. She wrapped her arms around his strong shoulders and cradled his head in her arms, pressing her lips against his forehead, running her hand through his hair. Crying as she realized that when finally she was able to lend him support and return what he gave… he was gone.

She raised her head to the darkening night sky, still caressing his body. Words suddenly sprang to her lips as she sang softly, unaware of the crowd hovering meters behind in the kind of stifling silence that only death could bring.

Her haunting tones echoed, in the dark and long night, creating an ethereal melody that rang across the tainted plains, never to be forgotten.

" Slumber, my darling, thy mother is near,

Guarding thy dreams from all terror and fear,

Sunlight has pass'd and the twilight has gone,

Slumber, my darling, the night's coming on.

Sweet visions attend thy sleep,

Fondest, dearest to me,

While others their revels keep,

I will watch over thee.

Slumber, my darling, the birds are at rest,

The wandering dews by the flow'rs are caressed,

Slumber, my darling, I'll wrap thee up warn,

And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

Slumber, my darling, till morn's blushing ray,

Brings to the world the glad tidings of day;

Fill the dark voice with thy dreamy delight –

Slumber, thy mother will guard thee tonight,

Thy pillow shall sacred be

From all outward alarms,

Thou, thou are the world to me

In thine innocent charms.

Slumber, my darling, the birds are at rest,

The wandering dews by the flow'rs are caressed,

Slumber, my darling, I'll wrap thee up warm,

And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm…"

A/N: I do not own the characters, as you all very well know, they belong to Christopher Paolini. I do not own the lyrics to the song performed by Alison Krauss.

Dark S3cret.