Nothing's mine, not even much of the dialogue: Quotes #: Eldest, pp 576-580 & 650-653
Poem, excluding the ending of the fourth, and the new fifth stanza: Eldest, p 649/650
What did Arya think, when Eragon's fairth shattered on the ground? What led to their reconciliation, later, in her rooms? Set in Eldest; a companion-piece to Flawed Perfection.
A quiet tale, about past sorrows and lost dreams, drifting somewhere between memories and hope; between an Image of Perfection and the Beginning of Wisdom. One of the many turning points in the strange and not always clearly defined relationship of Eragon and Arya from her POV, written for the 2008 Changes Challenge at SFF.
Something to keep you all entertained while I'm busy writing on Flawed Perfection. It's a response to a challenge at Shurtugal FF (write an important scene from Eragon or Eldest in a different POV) … for which I spontaneously got an idea, and promptly missed the deadline. By a freaking hour. How stupid is that?
But oh well … I polished it a bit, and as I wrote it from the beginning as part of the Flawed-Perfection-story arch, I makes sense, even without the challenge. It expands on Arya, has a few spoilers for chapter four, and I like it all-around, now.
Thanks as always to Social Bunny, for wonderful beta-work. Review, please. And I'm off.
A companion-piece to Flawed Perfection
Under the moon, the bright white moon,
Lies a pool, a flat silver pool,
Among the brakes and brambles,
And black-heart pines.
Falls a stone, a living stone,
Cracks the moon, the bright white moon,
Among the brakes and brambles,
And black-heart pines.
Shards of light, swords of light,
Ripple 'cross the pool,
The quiet mere, the still tarn,
The lonely lake there.
In the night, the dark and heavy night,
Flutter shadows, confused shadows,
A knock disrupted Arya's work at the poem that was to be her gift for the Agaetí Blödhren. She rose from the chair at her desk, and walked through the living room towards the screen door that led to her chambers, opening it.
She saw the elf on the other side, and frowned. He touched his lips in the customary gesture of loyalty.
"Atra esterní ono thelduin."
Arya nodded and completed the ritual.
"Bellaen? What brings you?"
"I apologise, Princess, for disrupting you, but Master Orik was most insistent that he needed to see—"
The dwarf pushed his way past Bellaen. "Aye. I hope you don't mind. I convinced him to bring me, 'tis not his fault. As he said, I was most insistent."
Arya gave a little smile at their small guest.
"It is well, Bellaen."
He bowed, and turned to walk away. Arya gestured to her apartment.
"Come in, Orik. How can I be of assistance?"
She closed the door behind him, and went to a cupboard, that was part of the same tree which made up the walls.
Orik hadn't moved further than a few steps into the room. "Oh no, don't trouble yourself. I've just a bit of official business to conduct."
Arya slanted an eyebrow.
"Yes. As I'm sure you are aware, King Hrothgar sent me here to watch the progress of Rider Eragon's training…"
– * –
Together, the odd pair strode through the green trees in the heart of the forest. Both were silent, dwelling on their own memories. Arya thought of Eragon, she'd see him again after his visit yesterday, and she had to smile. The black Morning Glory, and Eragon's clumsy attempts to compliment her. He amused her with his infatuation.
After showing him the impossibility and improbability of what he was asking for that day under the Menoa Tree, she'd let him be; he had enough hardships to overcome already, she needn't add to that. He was young, it would fade in time, even though his persistence was surprising. Surprising, as were so many thing she found out about the young human suddenly turned Rider.
Yes, he was indeed surprising her, time and time again, equally in both good ways and bad; and that in itself was what was surprising her the most, because after all her time between humans, she'd been sure to have seen it all, and prided her in her ability to assess every one she met after a short while correctly.
All that seemed to fail when it came to Eragon, but she didn't really mind; it made him interesting.
"Hail, Rider!" #
Orik's cry pushed away her thoughts. They emerged onto the clearing of the Crags, and Arya saw Eragon and Oromis, both of whom she'd felt long before in the back of her mind.
She exchanged the traditional greeting, before Oromis, as expected, spoke up, frowning slightly.
"To what may I attribute this visit? You are both welcome to my hut, but as you can see, I am in the midst of working with Eragon, and that is of paramount importance." #
"I apologize for disturbing you, Oromis-elda," she answered, "but—" #
"The fault is mine," interrupted Orik, once again. He looked at Eragon, and explained: "I was sent here by Hrothgar to ensure that Eragon receives the instruction he is due. I have no doubt that he is, but I am obliged to see his training with my own eyes so that when I return to Tronjheim, I may give my king a true account of events." #
And just as she'd told Orik, Oromis wasn't easily convinced.
"That which I teach Eragon is not to be shared with anyone else. The secrets of the Riders are for him alone." #
"And I understand that. However, we live in uncertain times; the stone that once was fixed and solid is now unstable. We must adapt to survive. So much depends on Eragon, we dwarves have a right to verify that his training proceeds as promised. Do you believe our request is an unreasonable one?" #
"Well spoken, Master Dwarf," said Oromis. He tapped his fingers together, and Arya realised he was pondering the request, just like he always did when there was a problem, and he tried to watch it from all angles, before coming to a decision. #
"May I assume, then, that this is a matter of duty for you?" #
"Duty and honour." #
"And neither will allow you to yield on this point?" #
"I fear not, Oromis-elda," said Orik. #
"Very well. You may stay and watch for the duration of this lesson. Will that satisfy you?" #
Orik looked at him, now frowning himself.
"Are you near the end of the lesson?" #
"We have just begun." #
"Then yes, I will be satisfied. For the moment, at least." #
Arya continued to observe Oromis during the exchange. She had feared that he might take the intrusion not too kindly, but he had realised, just like Orik had told him, that these unusual circumstances called for unusual solutions.
Oromis nodded, then turned to his student. "Eragon."
He didn't react. "Eragon!"
He blinked, apparently far away in his thoughts.
"Yes, Master?" #
"Don't wander, Eragon. I want you to make another fairth. Keep your mind open, like I told you before." #
"Yes, Master." #
Arya watched with interest as he gripped the tablet, starting to concentrate. She herself was somewhat curious just how far Eragon had come since he had arrived here. Producing a fairth was no small feat. His result would be a good indicator to show how much control over his magic he had, and how well he could concentrate.
Next to her, Orik was tugging at his beard in obvious anticipation.
Finally, she heard Eragon mutter the spell. However, he didn't seem to be too happy with the result. Arya remembered how much time it had taken her to learn and master the art. It was to be expected that the result would be nothing extraordinary, if there was even anything visible at all.
"What have you wrought, Eragon?" demanded Oromis at length. #
"I... I don't know." #
He hesitated for a long time, but then let go of the slate, and offered it to Oromis. Arya started to frown, as Oromis expression turned stern, and he stared reproachfully at Eragon. He passed it along to her without a single word. What could possibly be—
And then she saw the picture.
She was staring at herself, as from within a mirror; a peculiar mirror, not reflecting the outside, but the inside: her innermost being, her deepest core, her essence. Eragon had made a picture of her soul.
And she was staring at perfection. She was wise, all-knowing, powerful and strong.
She was staring at what she ought've been, and everything she was not.
That painful realisation came crashing down on her only moments later, in a torrent of memories, a whirlwind, that carried her away and brought forth much of that which she'd spent so much time on to keep it locked away …
… Father! – The black blade, she saw it clearly, her eyes sharp, even from this distance – it suddenly stuck in her father's body, from behind …Cursed Blade! And she could do nothing, so small, so helpless, so very much five-year-old … Vrael … her mother nodded to him, as he closed the circle, and she set the pile of wood on fire, giving Father the respect he deserved … the lament of the elves filled the clearing … an oath. She would become powerful. Strong. Wise. Perfect, just like Father had been … never again would anybody rip someone dear to her from her …
Her steed struck by the red light, dying instantly. Arrows hissing, she whirled around, and suddenly, he was falling … falling down, arrows protruding from his back. His pain raced through her … she cried out in anguish. Fäolin. She felt him in her mind, deadly wounded … no. Not him. Not … she took a step towards him. She could help. She had to – she … the Urgals closing in. Fäolin or the Egg … She – another step … no! She cursed the Urgals, the fate, the course of the world, and –
No! She forced her thoughts away from the past, back behind the walls, which was their place. Her fingers had clenched around the plate, the sharp edges cutting her skin; but she never noticed.
She tried to tear her gaze away, but couldn't; the picture was of an oppressive intensity, because Eragon's lens had been his heart. And suddenly, his infatuation with her wasn't funny anymore. It never was. It was becoming much too extensive, much to frightening, because this was how he saw her; was frightening her, because with one ill-fated fairth, tossed her way, just like that, he had the power to make her relive all this; because suddenly, everything she worked for, for herself and Alagaësia, was threatened.
And yet … despite all that, despite her knowledge that everything depictured was so completely untrue, for one second she couldn't help but wish that this was her, just like back when everything was still right, yearned for someone to tell and show her, once again, that despite all the errors she'd committed, all the poor choices made and tasks failed, everything she did and had done in the past was worthwhile …
"… just one look, and all of a sudden, I feel so much better about myself; as if everything I've done served a purpose, was worth it in the end. But how do you do this to me, Fäolin?"
He smiled, brushing her lips softly with his. "I am not doing anything," he murmured, gently, holding her. "When you look at me, you see yourself, only reflected through my eyes. I am showing you yourself."
"But how can that be? I make mistakes. I fail, oh-so-often. I disappoint those around me. I have faults, glaringly obvious."
"And I see them all, and yet none of them matter. You may not be perfect, no one is, but you are perfect for me."
No. He wasn't Fäolin. Fäolin had seen her flaws, even when the surface had become perfect, yet for him they didn't matter. Eragon didn't see them to begin with. He didn't see her, didn't know her. And she scorned herself for even comparing Eragon to him, and scorned him for his blindness in regards to her.
She heard Orik asking about the fairth, and knew that she had to end it here. She couldn't have to do anything with Eragon in this state; for her own well-being as much as that of their cause.
And she raised the fairth over her head, and hurled it against the ground, with all her might; shattering that mockery of her into a thousand pieces. That part of her was the past, it was gone; it had begun to wither with her exile from Ellesméra, died in an ambush near Osilon, and was buried deeply beneath the filthy floor of a dark cell somewhere in Gil'ead.
She drew herself upright and walked past Eragon, with as much dignity as could muster; across the clearing, and into the tangled depths of Du Weldenvarden; wandering aimlessly for hours, to clear her confused mind, until finally, as the night already began to fall and she could see the first stars blink on the sky through the canopy, she'd once more regained her usual peace of mind. #
– * –
The days went past, turning into weeks, and she kept her promise. Whenever she felt Eragon near, she withdrew, secretly and quietly, vanishing nimbly-footed amongst the green of the ancient pines. But there came a time, when her steps had led her into the gardens of Tialdarí Hall, back to her beloved flowers, that she found herself missing him and his company; whatever anger there might've been long since given way to sadness.
She knelt besides Fäolin's Morning Glory, staring at the black centre of the chalice, and felt lonely; lonely, like back when she first arrived at the Varden, all on her own, away from everything and everyone she'd known. But here it was infinitely worse; because here it was her home which she loved dearly, here she was among her own, and yet she felt thusly, and realised that seventy years spent away had changed her more than she'd ever thought.
Oh, Fäolin … why did you have to leave me? With nothing but memories, a fairth and your flower …
Arya's eyes were wide with wonder. He looked at her, and spoke fast; seeming almost bashful and nervous.
"You can plant it into the earth, right tomorrow, if you like – it will take roots, as I sang it from the vine …"
She giggled a little at his hurried, spouted explanations, but beamed at his next words.
"It is something for you – just for you."
"Oh Fäolin, thank you. It is the most perfect and lovely flower in the whole world."
It was no use dwelling in the past. She breathed softly on the blossom, and it closed again. He was gone from this world, and she was left behind, cold and empty.
She rose slowly, cleansing the front of her tunic, where the moist earth had left stains. No one here knew her anymore, not really. And the one person, who had come near her, the nearest anyone had since Fäolin, was blinded by his heart. It left a small sting of bitterness behind, that his lamentable infatuation blinded him, because he'd been the closest thing to a person that deserved the title of a friend she'd had, for a long time.
And as she walked through the lovely, wonderful garden, with flowers shining in the golden sunlight like precious gems of all colours, she smiled sadly.
Eragon … why do you have to make everything so complicated? Why this view? It is so completely wrong. Because I'm not, she told herself. Not strong. I wasn't strong enough when it mattered. Not wise. My choice brought on Fäolin's end. Not powerful. I couldn't stop them. Not great. Not perfect.
Oh, why can't you see, Eragon?
She crossed the patch of grass and returned back into the cool confines of the trees that formed corridors and rooms; wandering through Tialdarí Hall, back to her own quarters. When she reached the open doors, she spotted a shadow inside and froze.
Eragon was standing in her room. How had he found it? With a sinking heart, she saw that he placed a bouquet of flowers on her table, then turned to leave, just when he saw her. He looked startled by her presence, and came to an abrupt halt. Quickly, she hid her emotions.
They stared at each other in silence. #
Finally, he lifted the bouquet, hesitantly offering it to her.
"I don't know how to make a blossom for you, like Fäolin did, but these are honest flowers and the best I could find." #
She sighed inwardly, feeling weary.
"I cannot accept them, Eragon." #
"They're not... they're not that sort of gift." He paused. "It's no excuse, but I didn't realize beforehand that my fairth would put you in such a difficult situation. For that, I'm sorry, and I cry your pardon..." #
She faltered. Had he seen something? Did he know more than she thought, after all? But his next words removed the ambiguity, unwillingly brought into them.
"I was just trying to make a fairth, not cause trouble. I understand the importance of my studies, Arya, and you needn't fear I will neglect them in order to moon after you. That's all." #
Oh, if only that would be all, just that … But she felt relieved, to an extent; her past sorrows where hers, and hers alone, it was all she had left, and she felt not inclined to share any of it … and she could not decide if it was not even with him, or especially not with him.
But it was of no matter, was it? The intention mattered not, as long as the outcome was the one desired, here and everywhere. Lost in her thoughts, she slowly reached out, taking the flowers with her hand, smelling it.
Will you be able to keep your promise, Eragon? She wondered, trying to discern the truth from his eyes, watching her, so honestly and a little weighed down. For now, at least.
"They are honest flowers," she offered, not able to tell if more than that troubled him. "Have you been ill?" #
"No. My back." #
Another worry, once again beyond her control.
"I had heard, but I did not think..." #
He shook his head, pushing himself from the wall.
"I should go." #
She felt torn, then, not really able to make up her mind, decided impulsively; so very unlike her usual self.
Still hesitating, she guided him over to the bay window, to the padded bench, where he sat down. She picked up two goblets from her cupboard, crumbling a few of the dried nettle leaves Bellaen had brought her upon her return to Ellesméra. She filled the goblets up with water and said: "Sjöda," heating the water.
Seating herself gently on the bench, she gave one goblet to Eragon, who was watching the gardens, outside, twenty feet below, upon which dusk had slowly begun to settle. Fireflies where dancing between the flowers, whose sweet scents were drifting up into the night, even up to this height.
"I wish...," said Eragon, "I wish it could always be like this. It's so perfect and quiet." #
Is it? She wondered. Perhaps it was. If there was something like perfection, it would be something as fragile as the span between two blinks of an eye, the small instant between two breaths, the spell between two beats of the heart. But perfection, like beauty, was never meant to last. How fleeting this curious thing called a moment, how soon gone, to never return …
She stirred her tea, reminded of happier times, when she would sit here, just like that, drinking the same tea, waiting for Fäolin to arrive every moment. Once more, she shook herself of those thoughts, distracting herself with something different.
"How fares Saphira?" #
"The same. And you?" #
She considered him, over the rim of her goblet. #
"I have been preparing to return to the Varden." #
"After the Blood-oath Celebration. I have tarried here far too long as it is, but I have been loath to leave and Islanzadí wished me to stay. Also... I have never attended a Blood-oath Celebration and it is the most important of our observances." #
Not wanting to delve further into her reasons to leave, she changed the topic, her thoughts once again circling around his hindrance that brought him so much pain and severely weakened his worth in any kind of fight.
"Is there nothing Oromis can do for you?" she asked. #
He shrugged half-heartily, looking once again so weighed down, and Arya realised, not without guilt, that she as well had begun to put hope onto his shoulders, and thus added to his burden. But there was no other way, no different plan or second chance. Eragon was the best hope they had.
"He tried everything he knows." #
"Your studies go well, though?" #
"They do." #
Both sipped their tea in peaceful silence, Arya's thoughts flying into the future, asking herself what fate would have in store for him, for her, for the rest of the world. Sitting here, like that, she thought that maybe he'd been right before; she could almost pretend that everything was right and well, or at least would be, and that there never had been anything between them; that there was nothing in the back of her head that always reminded her that he was seeing her for something she was not; and that there was no evil little voice telling her that it was because she never gave him the chance to do otherwise.
Eragon picked up a parchment from the window, she saw; it was the one with her poem on.
"Do you often write poetry?" #
Somehow, she felt strangely touched by his question; while working on it, she'd realised that it was a part of her, likely the most personal thing she'd ever written. It was her, in melancholy and emptiness, the words her self, but severely hindered by her lack of talent in this art. She extended her hand for the paper, and rolled it into a tube, hiding away the words from his eyes, distracted shortly by a thought on how to change and end the fourth stanza.
In the night, the dark and heavy night,
Flutter shadows, confused shadows,
Where now the cold air empty,
The home once was.
"It is custom that everyone who attends the Blood-oath Celebration should bring a poem, a song, or some other piece of art that they have made and share it with those assembled. I have but begun to work on mine." #
"I like it."
It, the poem, herself. Arya stared at him. He sounded so sincere. She answered reflexively, denying his words.
"If you had read much poetry—" #
"I have." #
And everything came to a halt. Just two words, seemingly said without thinking, just a direct answer to a question never asked. Just two words, to define everything anew, to show her the need to reassess everything she'd thought about him, to watch him again, like for the first time. Because once again, under her very eyes he'd changed, without anyone being the wiser, her included; surprising her now, with a new side she never knew existed.
Long since gone was the human boy; talented and special, yes, but human nonetheless. Much rather was he now one of her kind, she realised; all of a sudden remembering hundreds of small details, gestures and mannerisms about him that were much more elfin than human.
"Forgive me. You are not the person I first met in Gil'ead." #
And he was not; he had changed above and beyond anything she would have thought possible in this short time; and it continued, on and on. And this was the reason he kept surprising her; she'd underestimated him, while indeed he was more and more becoming an equal, if not to her, then to any elf his own age.
And he deserved to be treated and judged as such; honour and burden alike; and she felt herself putting yet again a bit more hope onto him; but this time knowing that he would and could handle it, and felt her worries lift a little.
"No. I..." He stopped and twisted the goblet between his hands, trying to put in words what he felt; pensive and considerate. #
"Arya... you'll be leaving soon enough. I would count it a shame if this is the last I see of you between now and then. Could we not meet occasionally, as we did before, and you could show Saphira and me more of Ellesméra?" #
His words ripped her from her thoughts, and while her revelation just now had finally convinced that indeed she was considering him a friend, and that he would eventually see her for what she was, and not what he now thought her to be, it was the same thought that made it even more important to keep their distance; for both their sakes.
And so, gently, but firmly, she said, "It would not be wise." #
He looked up at her. #
"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." #
Arya played with goblet, drinking the last of her tea. Never would the Eragon, back from their first meeting in Gil'ead, have said anything alike, least of all to her. And he meant it, she felt; and was thankful that at least he considered her a friend as well. And while she wouldn't have trusted the one back at the prison to keep his word in this situation, this Eragon, now and here…
"Our friendship shall endure, Eragon. As for us spending time together..," she said at last, almost smiling at his plea, and his strong attempts to change her mind, but still not willing to decide either way quite yet. #
"Perhaps. However, we shall have to wait and see what the future brings, for I am busy and can promise nothing." #
"Of course, Arya Svit-kona," he said, and bowed his head. #
– * –
He took his leave soon after, returning to Saphira; leaving Arya in her rooms, alone, but very much different from when she arrived. Strange it was, she mused, as she seated herself once more in front of her desk, slowly unfurling the poem.
Without ever knowing it, he had glimpsed her, in the poem. The poem he'd decided to like.
What the future brings … Somehow, she felt this evening to be an important step; though for what she could not say. But whatever the future might bring, maybe, just maybe, it looked a little brighter.
She picked up her quill, and started to write again, lost in thoughts.
Gleams the pool, the silent pool,
Pierce the night, the dark and heavy night,
Where now the cold …