Well... it's been a while, but at least it didn't take me a year to update this time, right? -ducks flying tomatoes- I've had writer's block on how to get past on big, boring hunk of training. In the end I just decided to skip past quite a few months with insightful vignettes :D, so it may be a little more disjointed than usual. More regular chapters should come with next update. This is also a chapter will I also start to deviate more from cannon, especially in regard to one certain plot-hole that never sit well with me...
Disclaimer: The Inheritance Cycle doesn't belong to me. However, I own all material you don't recognize from it.
Come on, hatchling, keep up.
Far behind him, Saphira panted, glaring daggers at his back. Then slow down!
Eragon casually craned his neck around, untouched. Time's not on our side, hatchling. Brom may be our mentor but he's still a member of the Varden. I'm certainly not going to give him any extra time to change my mind about not dying. As soon as I can breathe fire, and protect us all, we're out of Alagaesia for good.
Then what does they have to do me? Saphira grumbled. I already know how to fly!
We'll building up your endurance. The brown dragon swooped back, settling next to her. Gods know how far we'll have to travel to get away. Cowering on Vroengard or in the Boer Mountains will only hide us for so long before the King can hunt us down like prey.
Saphira glanced at him. Eragon's gaze remained fixated somewhere far beyond her, where only he could see. Where do we go?
To a continent Galbatorix's evil never touched, he breathed. Forget about the northern wastelands or the endless plains of grass to the east. West, to the human homelands, or maybe even Alalea.
The elf's homeland, where they came across the sea in their silver ships, Eragon answered dreamily. Brom's showed me a few of their ballads. Every elf poet has apparently written something about Alalea. Worst case scenario, it's a fresh start with no evil kings. Best case scenario, paradise on earth.
Saphira tentatively peeked further into his mind. His imagination filled unknowns; a day or two's flight over the Silver Sea, beyond elegant coastal cities, to green and unending mountains. There the skies shimmered every color of the rainbow; dragons hunting, dragons her age playing, safe and sound where the King's evil could never touch them...
Awe-struck, Saphira nodded. Aye, let's go...
She trailed off, realizing her companion had long since tuned her out. Sighing, Saphira veered off to find herself some prey, leaving Eragon alone with a fantasy even she was starting to like.
His cousin was captivated by the word, a simple idea that their lives didn't have to begin and end in Galbatorix's Alagaesia (and, with the elves and dwarves shoved to the far corners of the land, it was his.) Even Saphira now exhausted herself in 'stamina' flights to make it across a sea she had never seen.
Considering his only other options were to die for a cause he didn't believe in or hide around waiting for that cause to find him, Roran had to admit heading west was a far better alternative.
Grinding his teeth, Roran scowled at the deceivingly innocent pebble laying on the ground before him. "Stenr risa."
He slumped forward, exhausted from the effort. The pebble twitched before falling still. Hurling it across the clearing would have been so much easier.
"Promising," Brom allowed, blue eyes sharp. "Just concentrate, Roran."
The younger man glanced down to the journal resting by his feet. Every word of the Ancient Language he had learned was painstakingly written down within, definitions, pronunciations, and all. Most Riders took years to discover their inner magic. Even with tutelage, Roran's progress had been agonizingly slow, especially with swordplay and other lessons eating up what precious time they had.
"I am concentrating."
"Are you?" Brom asked dryly. "Mental arts certainly never took you this long."
Roran clenched his fists, knuckles going white, not trusting himself to speak.
A gods-know-how-long journey across the sea, unknown dangers, no maps, and I'm stuck here learning how to levitate rocks!
"Stenr risa," he growled aloud, forcing his anger and frustration upon the pebble until it wobbled inches above the cavern floor.
Bruised and battered, Roran allowed the training sword to slip numbly through his fingers. Saphira was instantly upon him, wrapping a protective wing around him and growling warningly at Brom.
From the far side of the clearing, Eragon rolled his eyes in exasperation. They were just sparring, Saphira. It's nothing to get upset about!
The smaller she-dragon hissed indignantly. It is when you can feel it! She turned toward her, trying to lick his bruised arms like a mother cat would a squirming kitten. Why you even need that pointy stick anyway? I'd rip anyone looking at you the wrong way apart!
Covered in dragon drool, Roran wriggled from her grasp, beat-red as he refused to look an amused Brom in the eye. "I'm fine," he assured them all. "My pride's wounded more than I am right now."
Brom chuckled, lighting the waiting fire with a simple spell. "You'll learn. It took me years of rigorous practice to become the master I am today." He went to stroke his beard, frowning slightly when he met only thin air. "Fortunately, not many on Galbatorix's side have the strength and speed of fully-realized Dragon Riders. In a few months you'll be able to best most of them in a straight sword fight."
Does it even matter? Saphira muttered, settling in to her familiar spot beside Eragon. The older dragon didn't comment, knowing she only sidled up to him to steal his own warmth. We'll be leaving this land for good once stone-head can breathe fire. She looked curiously at Brom. How far away are the lands across the sea? The elf one sounds like it would be more interesting than the human homelands.
Eragon's amber eyes narrowed suspiciously. Even the most expansive maps Brom had shown him barely encompassed Du Weldenvarden and the Boer Mountains. They showed nothing of the unknown lands to the north, east, and south, let alone what lay across the Silver Sea.
Aye, he said, dangerously calm. Care to show us a few maps, old man? Might as well start planning for the journey.
Brom diligently guarded his mind and secrets as a besieged army would their fortress. Yet beneath a dragon's scrutiny, not even he could not hide tell-tale tics of nervousness; a pause in his breathing, the quick flick of his eyes to another target. Eragon growled, rising to his full imposing height as he rounded on a mentor who had danced around the truth long enough.
Eragon! Saphira cried, aghast. What in the seven hells is wrong with you!?
Roran glanced between them, torn between the insistent glare of his cousin and the frightened half of his own soul. Putting a hand upon Saphira's side, he too turned commandingly to Brom, far more intimidating than he had ever been before with his stubbly beard and two dragons at his side.
"Once again, my cousin is right. How many days have we wasted on magic while he and Saphira prepare for a journey you never want to get around to planning?" At this, even the sapphire she-dragon's gaze snapped questioningly to the older man. "Do you just not want the last free dragons and Rider to leave you people to your doomed war-"
"Doomed?" With a mad glint in his icy eyes, Brom rounded on them, clean-shaven face haggard from weeks of lean living. "What do you know of being doomed, boy, of being forsaken by whatever gods you once worshiped as you call out only for de-"
Eragon roared, trembling the cave's walls as he drowned all argument out. With smoke billowing from his maw, never quite sparking into flame, he jutted his snout inches from Brom's face. What. Happened. In the. West.
Face becoming ominously blank, Brom stepped back and exhaled before calmly asking, "Who here remembers their history lessons?" All three of his students drew back, miffed. "When did the last human ship arrive in Alagaesia?"
Almost eight hundred years ago, Eragon answered tersely. Dark-skinned men who-
"Barely made it shore in a tattered, leaking vessel with whatever of their families remained." The former Rider eased himself onto the floor. "Come. This is not a tale to hear standing up."
Suspiciously glancing at each other, Eragon and Saphira curled up together, Roran taking the warmest spot between them.
What does this have to-
"Dear, stone-headed Eragon," Brom intoned, "have you ever wondered why the elves of the old sagas I sing to you always pine for the wine-dark sea and their silver ships, yet even before the Forsworn drove them into Du Weldenvarden, never settled too close to the coast? Why does even Teirm, wealthiest of the Imperial ports, receive ships only from as far away as Surda and the northern trading outposts?"
Roran rolled his eyes. "What sane kingdom wouldn't cut themselves off from a mad tyrant?"
"Then why, when the Forsworn was at his disposal, did the mad tyrant simply not head off after them? Or, if not for human conquest, then in search of dragons that survived his purge?"
Eragon felt Saphira shiver against him. Then... what...
Brom sighed deeply, looking every bit his one-hundred-something years. "For the sake of your futures, I'll tell you, everything that I know of it..."
Magic, gramarye to those who now know it best, has existed from the dawn of time. Even when bound to language by the Gray Folk, supposedly to make it safer, that race only gave their lives to make such a powerful, all-encompassing force accessible to those that had not the strength to wield it before. For the creative, word meaning is loose, and even a child's level spell can bring an empire to its knees.
Ancient elves were much like normal humans today; relatively short-lived, constantly outstripping resources to support an ever-growing population, and deviously innovative in gaining a leg-up over the competition. When a small fleet departed Alalea for lands unknown, they destroyed their graceful silver ships the moment they landed on an alien shore, regardless of the dangers it held. Dragons, for all of their fire and tenacity, were worth warring against, even if the elves were destroyed alongside them.
Riders long before my time attempted to decipher surviving records of those first elves. From war, disease, or age, those who had actually partaken in the journey were all long-dead. No other ships arrived after that first fleet. Those passages that mentioned Alalea were in the context of how the elves wished to remember their homeland.
Records indicate that Urgals originated from the same homeland, arriving some years after the elvan fleet. Perhaps whatever happened there shaped their value of violence and strength, perhaps not, for their lore carries no sound record anything definite.
If Alalea held on after those fleets departed, all it allowed was for whatever evil that had destroyed to fester within its borders and trickle out to the human kingdoms. King Palancar madly waged war against a far-superior army of flying dragons and near-immortal elves. Perhaps he would simply not allow his people to be driven back into the sea. Perhaps, in his eyes, whatever evils his people had fled were far, far worse.
Now consider the Ra'zac and their demonic parents; feeding almost solely upon humans as juveniles, physically similar enough to blend in amongst their prey, strong and fast enough to make a meal out of even the bravest mortal man. Unlike any other sentient race, they are naturally immune to mental powers, and have a breath weapon that can overwhelm any human, but has little to no effect upon dwarves and elves. Fully-grown Lethrblaka can fly and shriek loud enough to stun prey beyond even what their pupae can catch.
In a surviving fragment of the diary of King Palancar's wife, she merely mentions how thankful she is "the scavengers" only followed them, and not "the true nightmares."
Time passed, the old and fearful died, and the young and curious took their place; what remained of their forgotten ancestral homelands, what had returned and rebuilt, how accurate were the old elvan sages and human ballads?
From Alagaesian ports up and down the coast, fleets were launched westward in hopes of rediscovering lost history. Most ships likely succumbed to the notoriously fickle weather of the deep ocean. Those that reached Alalea and the other homelands? Who can say? The few that ever returned were too unstable to get reliable information from.
So the coastal kingdoms had fallen? Perhaps pockets of civilization had survived further inland, beyond whatever hell the ships had encountered. At long last, the Dragon Riders themselves sent an expedition. Not even they could determine how much distance lay between Alagaesia and other land masses, and so sent only the strongest fliers and experienced Riders.
Of the first party sent, none returned. Of the second, larger party, a single mad dragon carrying the corpse of her Rider had her heart give out before she could be treated. The third expedition, armed to the teeth and with several Elders amongst them... well, quite a few made it back. All simply concluded the west was forsaken, and left it at that; their memories of the journey were all tightly sealed.
Most sane individuals gave up after that. No one wanted to order a suicide mission into the frozen north or across the searing Hadarac. The Riders, with their advanced knowledge of the continent and the stars, concluded it best to fly east over the desert and the endless plains after it. If this planet was round, as they so calculated, then it was simply a matter of flying east until the homelands were reached from the backside.
Things were taken slowly, thoughtfully. Forts were established on the eastern coast. Nearby islands for rest and resupply were mapped out. Dragons and Riders treated the journey as if they were flying straight into the gates of hell.
Eragon blinked, waiting for an ending that never came. Roran and Saphira both simultaneously leaned forward in anticipation. Brom stared blindly ahead, lost in nightmaresthe brown dragon couldn't even guess at.
Well? Eragon prompted. I always heard that those plains were endless, even for a dragon. But if the Riders were setting up bases, then why don't we head east?
"In the eastern sea, the distance between Alagaesia and the other lands is not as drastic," the old man started slowly. "The weather was calmer, more predictable. Even for young dragons, reaching the homelands was no big challenge." His fingers subconsciously tugged a beard no longer there. "Getting back was no big challenge."
The two dragons cocked their heads in confusion while Roran furrowed his brow. "I don't understand."
"Forts were established," Brom repeated haltingly. "Supplies were imported, especially livestock for the dragons."
Saphira snorted indignantly. Those dragons were too pampered to catch their own prey?
"What else was there to eat?"
Deer, mountain goat, bear, the she-dragon dutifully ticked off, boar, bison, fish-
"Oh, there was plenty of food for the Riders." Brom shrugged, his tone almost mocking. "Fields and mountains were lush with edible plants and the oceans offered seaweed to be stored and dried for the livestock that could summon it. But were where the huge schools fish, the herds of deer and mountain goat and-"
Eragon's hackles involuntarily rose as a chill shivered through his tensed muscles.
Brom nodded at him. "According to records, it took days for those in the east to control that reaction, just as wild dragons roosted in the region never strayed from the Boer Mountains . And dragons aren't the only ones with such a sense for self-preservation."
No wild animals, no prey for us, the brown dragon realized, amber eyes wide. Wild prey, anyway.
"Compared to the Silver Sea, the waters were gentle, or at least more predictable," Brom said simply. "Even if not, the promise of fresh food was reward enough to try."
All three of his students blinked, trying to process what sort of beast would view full-grown, fire-breathing dragons and their godlike Riders as prey.
"As if anything survived the Riders!" Roran spluttered.
Brom shrugged. "Some battles were won, others lost, but the waves of abominations crawling from the surf were relentless. Most forts were abandoned as Riders were reassigned elsewhere. Even after the Council had dismissed the West as lost to whatever war and magical nightmares had driven our ancestors across the sea in the first place, an outpost of the mad and stubborn remained, fending off attacks and flying out across the sea until reports stopped coming in."
Eragon growled, But what were they?
"What weren't they?" the old man shot back. "Those at war with another can be so creative at it; normal creatures reshaped into ruthless monsters, beings crafted from dark magic that fed upon the life-forces of their prey, perhaps even abominations from another plane of existence summoned into our world. What specimens the Riders could study were horribly burned by dragon-fire, survivors of attacks too few and unreliable to build an account on."
The brown dragon fell silent, trying to fully comprehend entire nations destroyed by their own creations, a world with nowhere else to hide, an entire proud and noble race down to just two free survivors.
Leaning forward, Eragon disgorged his half-digested deer, and wailed his grief.
Instinctively, Saphira lurched away from Eragon, dragging Roran back by the tunic. She barely saved him from being bowled over as the brown dragon surged out of the cave in an explosion of heart-broken rage and golden flame.
"His first fire," Brom breathed in awe. "A pity it was in such circumstances."
Roran tugged himself from his she-dragon's grip, wearing a furious snarl that better suited her. "You should have told him, all of us earlier, before we built our hopes up for, for-"
"For the fact our ancestors all fled the creations that led to their own destruction?" Brom scolded gently. "Or that there was no place left for the dragons to flee, as if they would ever back down so willingly?" His ancient, agonized blue eyes closed. "Would you have believed me if I had first told you that? In no good conscience could I send the world's last free dragons and Rider charging obliviously to their doom, untried and untrained."
Roran clenched his fists, simmering powerlessly before he turned to Saphira. "Eragon! We should-"
Maternally, the sapphire she-dragon pressed down his rage with waves of calm. Your cousin needs his space to rage, to grieve like all hotheaded males must. Give him it.
Coolly, Saphira leveled her gaze on the old man with a sharpness that did not fit a three-month-old. We agreed to have Brom teach us only until Eragon could breathe fire. You know how to wield a sword and enough to get by in the ancient language. I'm big enough to fend for myself. Should you choose, we can always part ways now.
Silently, Brom dipped his head in resignation, and slipped out of the cave. Saphira doubted he'd go crawling back to the rebellion; he had incinerated all evidence of his comfy life in Carvahall to teach them, after all, and would probably need to be shoved off a cliff before he finally took the hint to leave.
Only later, after she had forced Roran down into a fitful sleep, did Saphira finally decide to track down her errant companion, taking wing into a starlit sky. Some leagues away, her sharp gaze caught hint of a small orange flame flickering from a sheltered clearing. At least the old liar would have one long, cold night to think about how best to suck up to those he had so wronged.
It wasn't long until she smelled the smoke.
Frantically, she scanned the skies for smoke-trails a sharp-eyed scout (or Ra'zac) would notice disrupting the starlight. Finding no tell-tale wisps, Saphira banked sharply left, bracing for disaster.
On the charred peak, Eragon brooded amidst puddles of melted snow. Whatever fire there had been had long since spluttered out on the snow and sparse mountain vegetation, reduced to nothing more than a few scattered, dying embers.
Saphira landed a cautious distance from him. The older dragon, instead of the usual temperamental outburst, only looked at her with disturbingly dim eyes.
Roran's sleeping, the sapphire she-dragon started off gently. Had to force him, of course, but he's safe.
As safe as the last free Dragon Rider in the world can be. Golden eyes narrowed murderously. And the liar?
Gone away from the cave and suffering without our warmth and glorious presence. When the brown dragon didn't snarl warningly,Saphira ventured a few steps forward. You breathed your first flame. We don't need him around anymore.
Eragon flicked his tail and said nothing, staring thoughtfully into the distance. He didn't squirm or bat an eye when Saphira hunkered down beside him for the warmth he radiated. The King must have caught on by now, he mused darkly, or at least sent the Ra'zac back to the Spine. I hope Uncle Garrow chose not to be stubborn and just moved to Teirm. Humans look so alike he'd blend in perfectly.
Saphira nodded absently, her mind still on the man-eating monstrosities that had stalked mankind's ancestors across the sea like vultures tailing a dying animal. You'd be able to just burn the Ra'zac to ash, right? Roran's swordsmanship and magic need so much improvement and I'm months away from my first fire.
Eragon gawked at her strangely, unable to relate the reasonable she-dragon lying next to him as both the egg he had wanted so desperately to hatch or the obnoxious hatchling that had emerged from it. Before you ever exploded into our lives, did you know I had nothing more planned for my future than hanging around and protecting whatever family Roran had at the farm? I just pictured myself waiting in the woods for my 'nieces and nephews' to pop by and visit their lonely fire-breathing uncle.
Saphira recoiled in horror. That's all you ever imagined for yourself!?
I had already scoured the forests of the deep Spine for others of our kind. If Galbatorix's soldiers kept disappearing, why couldn't dragons have been behind it? But no matter how many times I called, no matter how many caves I'd search, I found only their rotting bones. Why would ever I want to leave the loving family I had to become like that searching for dragons elsewhere? Then you came along, and all I wanted was to fly straight out of Alagaesia to where no King could ever touch us. Eragon growled in frustration. All my life... why do I keep thinking running away is the only answer?
The she-dragon remained silent for a long time before quietly asking, If Brom is right about the west, does that make me the last female dragon left in the world?
Aye, her companion answered. Brom told us the last two eggs were male, remember?
Then all future generations could descend from me.
My daughters would have only three mindless slaves to choose as mates, to have their own children hatched into the same cruel life. Sharp blue eyes locked with bewildered amber. My sons would only have their sisters and me.
Had Eragon anything left in his stomach, he would have vomited from the sheer wrongness of such a terrifying thought. Don't even think about that!
Saphira growled, raking her claws against the dirt, imagining it as Galbatorix's hide. I would never subject my children to that, not when I had the power to stop myself. Our race's inevitable end will not be prolonged, especially if the our descendents succumbed to their own inborn faults. Proudly, defiantly, the she-dragon rose to her full height, challenging her companion to argue otherwise.
Eragon, however, only bowed his head in resigned acceptance. Roran showed me in Carvahall what happened when livestock with too closely related each other. No sentient being should have to endure that.
The brown dragon cocked his head, hackles rising suspiciously. Saphira, what are you-
In exasperation, she whopped the back of his head with her tail. Think, stone-head! If our race's future rests solely with me, then I will end it on my terms, and my terms alone. Her eyes flared with the fire she couldn't unleash, not yet. And I intend to end my life cowering away like a mouse before the hawk.
Eragon balked at her insinuation, burning bright and clear in her every thought and movement... until a spark from Saphira's mind jumped over to his. He rose to tower over her, smoke pouring from his maw as the doubt and fear burned away to a single all-consuming thought.
Yay, onto real story!
On the west: Even at the height of the Dragon Riders there is no mentioned contact with any lands beyond Alagaesia. It's understandable most sane civilizations will want to stay away from lands wanted by the insane god-king and his pet dragon, but what about during the times when Alagaesia was overseen by a scholarly order with flying dragons? And they only encountered ocean and endless plains? Of course they were covering something up!
As to what happened to the lands of the west... war broke out, and as wars are wont to do, things got ugly. War in a world with game-breaking magic limited only by the twisted creativity of its wielder? Do the math. I mean look at the Ra'zac: a race thatdepends upon consuming humans for survival, morphs into a dragon-banshee when old enough, and has mental powers elves are invulnerable to. Sure as hell sends like one good weapon to unleash on an enemy. And the Ra'zac/Lethrblaka are nothing compared to what other horrors are waiting across the water *hinthint*.
Because, not only does this answer the question as to why everyone doesn't just fly out to some magical paradise, but all information characters in the books have on lands beyond Alagaesia are centuries old! So: no hidden dragons, no elf utopias, no long-lost Mary Sues. It's more like the Isle of the Damned from The Zombie Survival Guide than anything else...
On Saphira's revelation: Saphira is almost certainly the last female of her kind. Why would you even want to bring kids into a crap-sack world where they're almost destined to have their hearts be used as batteries or be forced into slavery? Now consider the fact that there's only four other dragons out there, all male; your kids' father and three slaves to the bad guy. Now go look up what shit went down with the Spanish Hapsburgs. Now multiply that by A LOT. Repeated uncle-niece marriages are bad enough, but all future dragons would be either first cousins, siblings, or aunt/uncle-nephew/niece marriages. (Which means Ringo had a disturbing downer ending after all!)
Also, even if you had in those 200 dragon eggs, that's only... 203 dragons by the end of Inheritance. Indochinese tigers have more (estimated at around 350) and they're endangered! Now add in the fact that spelled eggs will hatch only for a certain Rider and... yeah, still long-term inbreeding issues to breed about (because dragons are flesh and blood creatures, dammit, and not even 'teh magikz!' can save them from genetics -.-'.)