Eragon slid his sword back into its sheath as Saphira continued her descent into the Beor Mountains.

The two of them had been tracking the Ra'zac for a better part of a few months; Roran had only separated from them because he was needed back with the Varden to commandeer the citizens of Carvahall. Eragon had had to promise him that if he and Saphira were to find the Ra'zac, then they would not kill them until Roran had a chance to catch up with them. Luckily Eragon's cousin was only a few days behind, so not much time would be lost. And Eragon had made sure not to make the promise in the ancient language — he didn't want to kill the Ra'zac alone, of course, but if the circumstances made it necessary, then he wanted to be able to do so without the binding of the ancient magic.

Clearing away these thoughts and reaching out with his mind, Eragon felt into the presence of the Beor mountains. He could tell from his scouting that it was home to many mammals — all of them apparently larger than normal. He could sense a rabbit family the size of yaks, a wild tabby cat larger than a cheetah, and insects as big as rats.

Saphira could sense them too, through her mental link with Eragon. It makes sense that these unusually large mountains are home to unusually large animals, she said.

Aye, replied Eragon; he had not been surprised by this, as he had read about it in Ellésmera. The question is, however, where do the Ra'zac fit into all of this?

Saphira could sense Eragon's brooding frustration. They had reached the Ra'zac's lair — which had been shielded by magic — just in time to get attacked by a Lethrblaka. Eragon had been knocked senseless, but with Saphira's help had regained consciousness and driven away the Lethrblaka with magic. This proved to be a mistake, however, as the Ra'zac and its Lethrblaka had promptly fled.

This puzzled Eragon, that the Ra'zac would choose to run away rather than stand and fight. They probably have motivations of their own, he had realized. Disgusted with himself for allowing his enemies to escape, he had followed their trail ... a trail that had taken them here, into the heart of the Beor Mountains.

Slowly Saphira descended further and further into the mountains, folding her wings as she came in to land. No sooner had her back feet touched the ground than Eragon jumped off of her back and started forward into the trees. Saphira had to hurry to keep up.

Eragon pushed aside leaves and branches, hurrying through the forest; Saphira, however, had slower progress than he did, owing to the fact that she had to clear much more of the foliage away. Finally she got caught in a shower of leaves and branches, and growled to Eragon, Explain to me again why we thought traveling on ground would be easier.

If we're not in midair, there's less chance that we'll be seen in advance, said Eragon in response, going back to help her out of the tangle.

Perhaps, but at this rate we will lose the Ra'zac's trail, she said, clearing away the last of the foliage. Should we risk it?

I'm not willing to get attacked in the air again, said Eragon, now walking alongside her. Nor would you be, I should think.

Saphira said nothing, but a soft growl deep in her throat told Eragon that he was right. Saphira had not forgiven herself for allowing Thorn and Murtagh to overtake Eragon while she had been caught in the air with magic. Eragon had tried to talk her out of it — for he recognized that it was his own fault much more than Saphira's — but the dragon still brooded on it, though she knew it was not wise to.

Suddenly Eragon stopped, jolted out of his reflections, and Saphira whipped her head upward to look ahead of them. The two of them could feel a large presence nearby. Eragon reached out with his mind and, bewilderingly, found a solid mental barrier he could not penetrate. He thrust at it with his mind probe, but to no avail: the block was as hard as stone. He stumbled backward with the effort and retreated the probe, but he could still feel the sense that something huge was approaching them.

He listened intently. Even with his superior hearing, all was quiet in the mountains. Nothing could be heard save for an odd bird chirp or twig snapping. He and Saphira cast their eyes around their location: They had found themselves in a large clearing, a ring of trees surrounding them.

Yet the mysterious presence would not fade from Eragon's mind. He slid his new sword out of its sheath once more; its blade flashed in the sunlight. We're too vulnerable here, he said to Saphira, his eyes darting around.

Should we move into the trees? asked Saphira, also worried.

I think— Eragon started, then suddenly yelled in alarm; a large shape had burst through the trees into the clearing. The animal circled them in a blur, the breeze rustling the leaves and branches of the trees beside them. Eragon desperately tried to glimpse what the form was before it stopped, pacing in front of them.

Eragon gasped: It was a Shrrg. A giant wolf, as large as Saphira. Its deep blue eyes gazed intently into Saphira and Eragon as it prowled in front of them, its gaze never leaving the two of them. Its sleek black fur was streaked with white on its chest, its jaws curled back into a snarl. It stopped pacing before them and growled, hackles raised.

Eragon stumbled backward again and reached into his mind for the magic, to utter one of the twelve words of death, when suddenly —


Saphira? said Eragon, bewildered, swinging around to meet her gaze. The dragon shook her head, her eyes wide as she stared at the Shrrg. Eragon reached for the magic again —


Eragon's eyes widened as he realized that it was the Shrrg communicating with him. Somehow it could speak directly into their minds. The giant wolf stopped snarling and lowered its hackles, but continued to pace in front of them, its eyes never leaving them.

Who are you? Eragon asked the Shrrg, holding his sword high as a warning.

The Shrrg stopped pacing. My name is Zuvhar, he said. But I am unimportant. I believe you are Eragon Shadeslayer, son of Morzan; and you — here he swung his gaze to Saphira — you are Saphira, daughter of Iormúngur and Vervada.

How does he know that? Eragon asked Saphira, astonished.

The Shrrg gave a small smile. Information is easily obtained when the minds of those who have it remain open to outsiders, Eragon.

Eragon cursed himself. I should have protected myself to greater extent. Now broadcasting his thoughts to Zuvhar, he said, Be that as it may, we still have no way of knowing whether you are friend or foe. Now, speak, and give us a straight answer!

The Shrrg smiled slightly again. If I must. He slowly sat down in front of them; far from being relaxed, however, he remained alert as Eragon tightened his grip on his sword. You know, of course, that I am a Shrrg, he said, a giant wolf native to the Beor Mountains. You also know that years ago your ancestors — he looked at Saphira again — killed and consumed many of my kin.

They must have had some kind of reason to do so, Saphira snapped back, the first time she had spoken to the wolf. And I'm sure you can tell us all about it.

Zuvhar nodded. I can. He kneaded some of the foliage on the ground with his front paws before continuing, staying alert the entire time.

Years ago, during the war between elves and dragons, he began, we Shrrg were feared and despised. The dragons, in their vengeance against the elves, sought to eliminate us as well, for we Shrrg have been known to be bound to elves and serve them when necessary. This was not only us, but every other creature in the Beor Mountains. He paused, and a note of bitterness crept into his voice: The Shrrg, however, were hunted primarily because of intelligence — we could do things the elves required of us that other species could not. However, when the elves learned of the slaughter of our kind, they did nothing, consent to betray us and let us succumb to the jaws of the vengeful dragons.

The elves wouldn't do that! protested Eragon. They are the fairest of folk. They wouldn't leave a companion to be slaughtered—

They did, said Zuvhar simply. And therein lies their mistake. The elves thought of us like they did the dragons — animals, nothing more. They did, of course, realize their error when the treaty to end the war was signed, and the spell was cast across the land that created the Riders and extended the lives of elves while giving intelligence to the dragons. The Shrrg became part of this spell as well, though unintentionally.

What about the rest of the creatures in the Beor Mountains?
asked Saphira carefully, did all of them gain the gift of speech?

No, just the Shrrg, the wolf said simply. As said before, the elves worked with us because we possessed a higher intelligence; and only Shrrg were affected thusly when the spell was cast.

Eragon's head spun. How do we know all of this is the truth? he asked Zuvhar sharply. How do we know you aren't spinning a web of lies to trap us?

Look within you, Shadeslayer, replied the wolf with a slight smile, and you will notice that I told you all of this in the ancient language; therefore, it must be true.

Eragon started, realizing Zuvhar was correct. He had grown so accustomed to speaking in the ancient language that he hadn't noticed its use. Reverting to his native speech now, Eragon asked Zuvhar, So that's why elves treat animals so loyally now — because they realized that they underestimated you when they betrayed you?

Partly, said Zuvhar. Much of it has also grown from roots in customs over time.

Well, then, why haven't Shrrg served humans and elves as dragons do now? Saphira asked the wolf. Why have you stayed hidden in the Beors?

Shrrg have been reluctant to serve the races since the elves betrayed us, Zuvhar explained. As the spell cast on us was unintentional, we were overlooked when the pact was made between Riders and dragons. And so we have been content instead to stay hidden in these mountains for many years — much to the downfall of Galbatorix.

Why is that? asked Eragon carefully.

Because, replied Zuvhar vehemently, he believes he can use this place as a hideout for his Ra'zac, and clear away the forest, trees and animals living around him to make room for their base. The fact that Galbatorix has killed thousands of our kin, of us animals, does not sit lightly with us Shrrg.

So you're on our side? said Saphira, watching Zuvhar closely.

I might be, said Zuvhar lightly. If I was, I would tell you that the Ra'zac's lair is currently concealed by magic three steps away from this clearing, and that if you were to attack they would be caught completely off guard, due to the mental barrier I have raised around the three of us.

Eragon and Saphira looked at each other in disbelief. Eragon's eyes then darted back to Zuvhar as he asked, Saphira ... can we trust him?

Saphira hesitated, thinking, but then replied, We can, Eragon. Eragon looked back at her; she was smiling now. Thank you, Zuvhar, for your help.

Think nothing of it, Bjartskular, said the wolf, bowing. He nodded his head toward the trees to their left, and said, I'll keep the barrier up long enough for you to surprise them. I suggest you move quickly.

Eragon tightened his hold on the handle of his sword, then moved forward cautiously. The trees appeared normal to him; however, he continued walking, and shifted his hands so that his right was holding the sword, while his left stretched out in front of him in anticipation of the magic. Eragon felt like a blind man walking through the forest as he felt in front of him for the illusion that he knew was there.

Soon he came upon a spot where two separate tree trunks reached overhead and converged, forming a triangle with the ground. Eragon tried to reach his hand through the gap, but was suddenly blocked by an invisible barrier. He pushed his hand against it, but it remained firm.

Eragon took a deep breath and reached within himself for the magic. Saphira, help me; I can't do this on my own.

Saphira obliged, wordlessly joining her strength with his Eragon felt the energy surge within the two of them, and barked, "Brakka du vanyalí abr du skölir!" Reduce the magic of the shield!

Eragon felt a tingling in his hand, and as he did, the barrier pushing against him seemed to grow weaker ... little by little he and Saphira's strength ebbed away along with the shield in front of them. Beads of sweat appeared on Eragon's forehead as he struggled to maintain the magic. He pushed harder against the barrier; it had weakened considerably but was still too firm. Saphira— he gasped. It's too strong.

Eragon, if we release the magic now, the shield will be unaffected, said Saphira, her voice strained. We must see the task through its completion.

Perhaps I can offer some assistance, came a voice, and Eragon turned to see Zuvhar behind them, having followed them through the woods. Wordlessly the wolf lowered his head, his eyes on the two of them, and Eragon felt another strong surge of energy. The three of them felt the magic flow between them, and gradually the shield under Eragon's hand faded away ... until at last Eragon felt it vanish entirely.

As it did, the illusion of the forest vanished as well: In front of them now loomed an enormous, bleak cave that provided a stark contrast to the surrounding light of the forest. Eragon, Saphira and Zuvhar were standing on the edge of a cliff that loomed over the cave; as they looked down upon it a crow flew overhead, cawing ominously. Eragon also noticed that the magic surrounding the cave made the sky above dark and cloudy, as opposed to the clear blue sky above the rest of the forest.

Rather cheerful place, isn't it? said Zuvhar lightly.

Eragon smiled in spite of himself. Come on. Slowly he and Zuvhar climbed down the crags of the cliff, eventually landing on level ground with the cave. Saphira landed with a soft thump in front of them, having flown down in seconds.

Zuvhar, is the mental barrier still around us? she asked, peering into the cave cautiously.

It is, Saphira, the Shrrg replied.

None of them moved for a time; the three of them simply stared into the mouth of the cave — black and lifeless. Saphira arched her neck as she tried to see inside. I don't like this, she said. I don't want a repeat of what happened last time.

The Lethrblaka jumped you? said Zuvhar, also looking into the cave; his hackles were raised slightly.

That's right, said Saphira with a growl. She snorted, and a thin trail of flame emerged from her nose and briefly illuminated the inside of the cave. Nothing moved in the shadows.

No one's there, said Eragon. Let's move forward.

Suddenly there came a piercing screech from the cave and, looking up into the bleak sky above them, the trio saw a Lethrblaka circling above the cave. It had spotted them; as it looked down at them it screeched again and Eragon covered his ears in an attempt to mask the painful, agonizing sound.

Eragon, let's move! cried Saphira, flapping her wings desperately. If we can kill it now, we can still take the others by surprise. Eragon quickly climbed on top of her, and she made ready to hop off the ground and fly toward the Lethrblaka; but, looking up, Eragon realized this was unnecessary: the Lethrblaka was bearing down on them.

"Brisingr!" the Rider shouted as he brandished his sword; such was the strength in the spell that the word reached Saphira and Zuvhar mentally. A blue flame erupted at the hilt of his sword; and as he drove it forward, the fire moved down to the tip of his blade, where it struck the charging Lethrblaka in the heart.

The gigantic beast let out another great shriek — this one of agony — and spiraled out of control, its wings crashing into trees and branches, its chest trailing smoke. Thrashing through the air in pain, it turned its hateful eyes on them and prepared to charge again out of vengeance. Careful not to make the same mistake again, it tucked its great claws in to its stomach so its chest was protected, and made for the trio.

This time Zuvhar was the one who acted: leaping upward, he managed to close his jaws around the neck of the struggling beast. The Lethrblaka howled and whipped Zuvhar's head every which way as it attempted to get free. The Shrrg held firm and shook his head fiercely, making the Lethrblaka dizzy. Only then did he release his grip — and throw the creature right toward Saphira. Catch!

Immediately the blue dragon arched her neck and blew a great wad of fire from her mouth, right toward the Lethrblaka. It screeched again and beat its wings, managing to veer off-course, but not by enough — one of its wings caught fire. Enraged, the creature then turned its head and made to jab Saphira with its beak, but Eragon leaped forward and deflected the attack with his sword. He had expected to chop the beak off, but the Lethrblaka's hide was tough and strong. Hellfire! he grunted, as he and the Lethrblaka fought, this may be harder than we thought.

He and the creature thrashed around briefly, each struggling to one-up the other. Eragon could feel himself slowly losing strength; seeing this, the Lethrblaka seized its chance and swept its beak toward him. When Eragon deflected it, his sword flew out of his hand and buried itself in the rock several yards away. Before he had time to react, the giant bird was upon him — and then Saphira dove in front of him, and the Lethrblaka's beak struck her side.

Saphira! shouted Eragon, then reeled as the pain spread across their mental link. Saphira howled in pain and rage, and more flames burst from her mouth involuntarily. This time the Lethrblaka was not so lucky and its other wing caught fire. Shrieking and thrashing, it landed on the ground and rolled over and over in an attempt to smother the fire; when most of it was extinguished the Lethrblaka leaped upward once more and flew back to the cave, shrieking in pain with every beat of its wings.

I don't believe it, said Zuvhar, breathing hard. It's running away.

Somehow, I don't think so, said Eragon, also panting heavily. Quickly he ran toward Saphira's side and examined the wound. It was very bloody and very deep; it would require a lot of energy to heal. Eragon closed his eyes and uttered the long and complex spell he had used back on the Stone of Broken Eggs. It seemed so long ago that he had sat up there with Saphira and discussed the possibilities of finding her a mate. Thinking back on that now, he wondered if they ever would.

Eragon shook his head and concentrated, continuing to hold the spell for several minutes so as to fully heal Saphira. When Eragon felt himself weakening, Zuvhar joined his strength with the Rider's, until the process was finished. Saphira lowered her head and nuzzled Eragon. Thank you, little one. Then she opened her eyes and added: And you as well, Zuvhar.

Before either of them could reply, there came another piercing screech. Eragon whirled around: the Lethrblaka had emerged from the cave once more — and this time another one came with it. Mounted on the backs of the two gigantic beasts were the Ra'zac, their swords at the ready as they dove, hissing, toward the trio.

Eragon brought his sword up and one of the Ra'zac's clashed against it as the Lethrblaka overtook them. "Ssso we meet again, Sssshadeslayer," whispered the Ra'zac, his cold breath chilling Eragon's face. "What Galbatorix would give to have you on our sssside. You are persssissstent."

We will never join your Empire! Saphira shouted, enraged, and she struck at the Ra'zac with her jaw, aiming to bite the creature in half. The Ra'zac pulled on its Lethrblaka's reins and fell backward, narrowly missing Saphira, and the Lethrblaka took to the air, shrieking all the while.

Meanwhile, the other Lethrblaka — the one that they had injured — flew toward Zuvhar, and the smaller Ra'zac mounted on top of it raised its sword for the kill. Zuvhar dodged, and the crimson blade swished through the air. Before the Ra'zac had time to turn around, Zuvhar had leaped onto the Lethrblaka's back, pinning it to the ground. The giant wolf reached down and prepared to tear the Ra'zac to bits with his teeth.

"No, Ssshrrg!" the Ra'zac hissed, and brought its sword up. The blade clanged against Zuvhar's teeth, which were strong and did not break — but the wolf still howled as a fierce pain ripped through his jaw. The Ra'zac took advantage of this distraction to bring its blade down again; before Zuvhar could move it had sliced through his shoulder, splitting the bone.

Zuvhar howled again, and the forest seemed to shake this time, recoiling from the sound. The Shrrg fell to the ground with a thud, panting, and brought his other paw to his shoulder, attempting to examine the wound. Zuvhar looked up, tears streaming down his face: the Ra'zac was above him, chuckling murderously, and he raised his blade again.

"NO!" Eragon growled. "Blöthr!" Stop! The Ra'zac froze in place, its blade towering over Zuvhar. It struggled mightily against the magic, but Eragon raised his hand and kept the spell in place, panting hard. His energy was draining quickly: it was taking a lot of effort to keep the Ra'zac unmoving.

Eragon, look out! cried Saphira, and the first Ra'zac swooped low over them again. "Fool of a Rider!" it hissed at them, bringing its blade up. "Why do you think we led you out ssso far? We were leading you away from the king! He doesss not deem you fit to confront, and it issss no wonder why! Usssing magic like this, you can never hope to challenge him!"

The Lethrblaka flew over the trio and Eragon ducked; the Ra'zac's sword whistled over his head and the gigantic winged creature changed direction, coming at them again. This time the Ra'zac leaped off the Lethrblaka's back and, cloak billowing behind it, sailed through the air toward Eragon. Before the Rider could do anything more, the Ra'zac had leaped on top of him, pinning to the ground. Eragon involuntarily broke the magic, and suddenly the other Ra'zac was freed from the spell.

It looked around briefly before raising its blade once more to execute the fatal blow to Zuvhar. Only one problem — the wolf had vanished. The Ra'zac whirled around and met Saphira; she lashed out with her claws and grasped the creature, pinning its sword to its side. Eragon! she dragon shouted, taking flight toward where her Rider lay.

"And now, Sssshadessslayer," the Ra'zac above Eragon snarled, drawing out the last word mockingly, "you ssshall perisssh."

Eragon! Saphira shouted again — she wouldn't be able to get there in time and she knew it —

I don't think so, came a voice, and the Ra'zac whipped its head upward, forgetting Eragon. Zuvhar was standing above them. The Ra'zac didn't even have time to draw its sword up before the wolf brought down his good paw. Eragon shut his eyes and turned away, bracing himself.


Saphira folded her winds and landed heavily, hurrying toward her Rider. Eragon! she shouted. Are you —

I'm all right, Saphira, Eragon gasped as he opened his eyes. Zuvhar managed to hit the Ra'zac and not me. Determinedly not looking at the bloody mess next to him, Eragon got up shakily, sliding his sword back into its sheath. Tentatively he reached out with his mind and found nothing. That's one down, one to go, he said.

Saphira looked down at her paw: The Ra'zac was struggling mightily but had been unable to break the dragon's grip. With a growl, the dragon began squeezing harder, and the Ra'zac's struggling slowed...

Suddenly, two simultaneous shrieks reached their ears. The Lethrblaka were charging the three of them: the two gigantic birds dove through the air, heading right for Eragon, Saphira and Zuvhar. Eragon brought his sword up automatically, but he wasn't the Lethrblaka's target — the birds aimed for Saphira and struck at her paw; when she released the Ra'zac involuntarily, roaring with pain, the uninjured Lethrblaka swooped down and scooped the Ra'zac onto its back. It flew back toward the cave as the Ra'zac climbed onto its back and mounted it properly.

They're getting away! Eragon shouted. He raised his sword and threw it with all his might; infused with magic, the blade spiraled through the air toward the two birds. The injured Lethrblaka was having difficulty keeping up with the other, and as it turned around with a screech, the sword drove itself into the bird's heart and finally finished it off. The Lethrblaka fell through the air and landed with another resounding CRUNCH on the ground, not moving.

All was silent for a moment: the only sound was Saphira and Zuvhar's hard breathing, and the swooping beat of the Lethrblaka's wings in the distance. Eragon retrieved his sword with magic and looked up at the retreating Ra'zac; even as he reached for the magic he knew that they were too far away to reach.

I can't believe they fled, Zuvhar said as he sat down, panting and clutching his injured soldier.

Let them flee, Eragon said shortly, and Zuvhar and Saphira stared at him, surprised. He smiled slightly as he slid his sword back into its sheath. We can't pursue them with you two injured, and besides, it's only fair to Roran. Now, Zuvhar, let me see your shoulder.

Eragon approached the wolf and healed him as he had done with Saphira; it required the three of them to combine their strength again, but soon Zuvhar's shoulder was fully mended. Eragon then turned to Saphira and did the same for her injured paw. When it was all finished, the three of them retreated back into the forest and sat down in a large, grassy clearing; Eragon lay on his back and waited for his strength to return, exhausted with the efforts of both the battle and the magic.

All three of them were silent for a while as they rested there, content to listen to the calming sounds of the woods around them. Birds chirped, leaves rustled in the wind and running water could be heard from a brook some distance away. Eragon breathed the scent of the trees in deeply as he reflected on what they had just done — and what remained still to do.

Brom's death has been avenged, Eragon thought to himself as he rested. But Garrow's shall not be until Roran and I track down and kill the last two. He considered his options: The remaining Ra'zac were probably heading back to where they had come from — back to Galbatorix. Eragon groaned slightly as he recalled what they had discovered. The Ra'zac were leading us away from Galbatorix ... why didn't I see it? They must be heading for the king's lair right now. If that's the case then we shall trace them again — and this time, he resolved, we will not be so easily fooled.

He lay there for quite some time, alone with his thoughts. Presently, Saphira spoke. Well, she said, turning toward Eragon, we were able to get two of them.

Indeed, said Eragon, sitting up and stretching. Roran's not going to be happy ... but at least we left a pair for him to finish off.

It was only fair, like you said, said Saphira, licking a paw. We should try to contact him as soon as possible, and let him know what went on here. He will want to know.

That is true, Eragon admitted, now standing. He shook the weariness out of his limbs and turned to see Zuvhar lost in thought, seemingly unaware of his surroundings. Eragon walked over and placed a hand on the wolf's newly healed shoulder, and Zuvhar blinked, then wordlessly turned to look at the Rider.

You did well, Zuvhar, Eragon said simply. Are you coming with us?

Yes, the wolf replied. But there is one thing still to do.

And with that the wolf stood up, took a deep breath, and threw back his head to howl. This was nothing like the one they had heard before: it was a summoning call, one that echoed throughout the Beor Mountains. Birds took to the air in fright, trees rustled with the anxious movement of other animals, and the wind carried Zuvhar's call across the entire mountain range.

Zuvhar finished, and for a moment nothing moved. Then, listening hard, Eragon heard the rustling of leaves some distance away. It wasn't coming from just in front of them, though: it was coming from all directions.

The Shrrg are going to war, Zuvhar said, staring forward. We have been content to stay hidden in the Beors, but for no longer. Now ... now we must fight.

And out of the trees surrounding them emerged dozens of Shrrg — countless numbers of wolves of every color. Brown, black, gray, red — the clearing was filled with Shrrg, and Saphira and Eragon could only stare in wonder as the largest of them, a brown one with golden eyes, approached them. You called, Zuvhar? he said, in a light tone.

It is time, Jorren, Zuvhar replied.

The two wolves stared at each other before Jorren nodded seriously, and turned to face Eragon and Saphira. The Shrrg inclined his head slightly, then said, after a moment, Are you willing to have us fight with you?

Both Rider and dragon smiled. We are proud to have you and your fellow Shrrg by our side, said Eragon.

Then so be it. And Jorren threw back his head and howled, echoing Zuvhar; within moments all of the wolves had joined in. A chorus of howls came from the clearing, and the sound seemed to give the pack a surge of energy; Eragon and Saphira could feel it too. The forest around them echoed with the wolves' mighty howls, and Zuvhar turned his head to face Eragon and Saphira. The Shrrg smiled. Lead the way.

Grinning, Eragon mounted Saphira, and the dragon spread her wings and took flight, hovering above the pack of wolves. Fight for your ancestors, Eragon shouted, broadcasting his thoughts to all of them. Fight for your relatives. Fight for all of your loved ones who were slain under Galbatorix's rule! With the Shrrg's forces on the side of the Varden, the King's Empire shall at last fall, the last Ra'zac shall be slain, and Galbatorix's reign of terror shall end!

Eragon drew his sword and held it above him with a fierce look of determination, and the chorus of howls before him grew louder, leaving his ears ringing. For the end of the Empire! Saphira shouted, turning now to lead the wolves out of the Beors to the Varden. For friendship! For freedom!

Freedom! came the wolves' mental reply.

And as a rush of energy flowed through them, Eragon and Saphira flew forward to lead the Shrrg to the final, inevitable confrontation between the Varden and the Empire.