Hi! This is the first story I've written on my own, and I'm rather proud of it. I know there are others stories like this out there, but I hope I take a different twist on 'em. Thanks for clicking this link, now go click that little purple/blue GO button on the bottom of this page!
Disclaimer- I own nothing. CP owns all the characters, places, ect. However, my ideas are my own.
"We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it." -Che Guavara
Chapter One: The Wake of Destruction
Eragon Shadeslayer looked out at the bleak battlefield tiredly. The city of Feinster was in ruins, charred and drenched with dried blood. Twisted lumps of wood and stone stood in the place of houses and bodies clogged the streets, choking the city with their cold, gray hands and wide, lifeless eyes. Flies and vultures circled the dead lazily, bellies full. Thick crimson blood, not entirely dried even six days later, flowed sluggishly through the streets in bright rivers.
"It will take a long time for Feinster to recover," a soft voice whispered. Arya came to stand beside Eragon, her green eyes dull with fatigue and sorrow. A dark trail of bruises ringed her neck where the Shade Varaug had nearly killed her.
"Aye," Eragon agreed wearily. "The people who live here will have to struggle for many years to rebuild their lives." He turned his gaze to the ragged band of survivors and prisoners. The Varden treated them relatively well, but the townspeople still glared at the conquering soldiers with hate and fury. Some of the surrendered soldiers had joined the Varden, however, bolstering confidence among the rebels. But to Eragon's eyes, all happiness quickly drowned itself in the tide of sorrow that accompanied the victory.
While the Varden fought at Feinster, the elves attacked Gil'ead, one of the Empire's military strongholds, in an attempt to stop thousands of soldiers from joining the main body of the Empire's army. While the elves struggled below, the ancient Rider Oromis and his dragon Glaedr revealed themselves to the world for the first time in one hundred years. Through Glaedr's heart of hearts, Eragon and Saphira watched as their teachers engaged Murtagh and Thorn in a deadly aerial battle. When it seemed that Murtagh's defeat was eminent, Galbatorix seized control of the minds of his Rider and dragon, using his skill to slay Oromis and a grief-stricken Glaedr.
Eragon pushed down his sorrow, desperately trying to avoid the grief that swelled in his thoughts. Oromis was dead, and even worse, it was Murtagh who killed him. Murtagh. The grief in Eragon's heart redoubled, threatening to overwhelm him.
Little one, Saphira murmured. Eragon looked down from his perch on the castle walls, meeting Saphira's sorrowful blue eyes. Don't be so sad. Oromis would have wanted us to carry on.
I know, was all Eragon could manage. Arya touched his arm gently, her eyes meeting his. Eragon could see tears swimming there, threatening to spill over as they had when the elf first heard of Oromis's demise.
Answering the unspoken question, Eragon hugged Arya briefly, cradling her to his chest. After the defeat of Varaug, the elf princess had become more comfortable with close contact.
"Come." Eragon said after a moment. "Blödhgarm is waiting below, and we need to consult Nasuada for our next move." The two slowly walked down the stairs to the courtyard, leaning on each other for support. It had been days since the battle, but they were both still weak from the trauma they endured while fighting Varaug. Saphira was waiting, her glittering body curled neatly on the stone courtyard.
Blödhgarm and his elves are inside the castle, with Lady Nasuada, Saphira reported. They are discussing plans to send us to Gil'ead. She snorted derisively. As if we would miss the burial.
Will you join us? Eragon asked.
Yes, little one. I can still fit through that hole I made at the balcony. Saphira spread her great wings. Why don't you and Arya ride with me? She offered. Shadeslayers shouldn't have to walk up and endless flight of stairs, especially since one is an elf and the other is a Dragon Rider.
Thank you, Eragon replied gratefully. I don't think I can walk another step, let alone those blasted stairs. He climbed nimbly on the saddle and extended his hand to Arya, who stood below, looking unsure.
Arya hesitated. That is too high an honor for me, Bjartskular, she said. I am not your Rider, and it is not absolutely necessary for me to ride you. A few stairs won't kill me.
Bah, Saphira snorted, releasing a puff of smoke as flames flickered in her nostrils. You carried my egg for fifteen years, sent me to Eragon, and have saved his life more than once. I am in your debt, and you are part of my family, my nest. She snorted again. Too high of an honor? Nonsense. I will fly you up to Lady Nasuada if I have to carry you in my claws.
Wearing a slight smile, Arya accepted Eragon's hand and leaped into the saddle behind Eragon. Beating her massive wings twice, Saphira gathered her muscles and jumped, tearing deep gouges in the stone. Eragon's stomach lurched at the sudden jump, tingling slightly. Powered by Saphira's mighty wingbeats, the three were soon over a thousand feet in the air, gazing down at the burnt city and the Varden.
Warriors scuttled to and fro through the streets, the size of mere beetles from so high. Tents were pitched outside the city and soldiers streamed in and out constantly, getting supplies and what not. Their armor flashed dully in the weak light, for the clouds were thick and covered the sun in their gray tendrils. Saphira began to lazily drift down, circling above the tower where Nasuada sat, no doubt in a heated debate over Eragon's future. The sizable hole Saphira had left when she crashed through the balcony had been covered but a sheet of leather to protect the tower's occupants from the elements. With a hiss of irritation, Saphira swiped her blue paw and it, tearing the leather from the roof and tossing it carelessly to the ground. She landed with a heavy thump and Eragon heard the timber structure of the place groan under her weight.
"Ah, you've arrived," Nasuada said dryly. Since she had ridden into the city, the leader of the Varden had taken Lady Lorana's chambers for her own, as was the custom of the conqueror. Today she was wearing a dress of deep, royal purple trimmed with golden lace. Her arms were nearly healed from the Trial of the Long Knives. Jewels glittered on her ears and in her hair.
"Shadeslayers, Brightscales," Blödhgarm murmured respectfully. The furred elf looked weary and sorrowful, like all the others who had known Oromis and Glaedr and mourned them. If only the elves knew that Glaedr lived on inside his Eldunarí, how great their rejoicing would be. But of course, the secret of the Eldunarí must remain secret, as it had for thousands of years.
"Eragon, as you probably know, one of the elves under Queen Islanzadí ran here from Gil'ead, arriving yesterday. After running for four days without stopping, I gave him a day to rest, and he informed me that Queen Islanzadí has invited you and Saphira to attend the funeral for your mentors. Arya, she had commanded that you stay, to protect the Varden in the event of an attack."
Arya's green eyes clouded. "Very well," she said stiffly. "I shall remain here."
"I will attend the funeral," Eragon informed Nasuada. "That is, if I have your permission."
"This is where we have a problem," Blödhgarm rumbled. His yellow eyes flashed dangerously at the leader of the Varden. "Lady Nasuada is reluctant to let you leave the Varden now, when they are preparing to march to Belatona."
"What if Murtagh and Thorn attack us? They have already nearly bested us twice, and they proved they are capable of slaying an older, experienced Rider and his dragon. What are men to that kind of monstrous strength? We would crumble and blow away like leaves in the wind," Nasuada defended herself. "I can't afford to send you and Saphira all the way to Gil'ead, what with it taking five days to run here."
"Murtagh and Thorn are in no shape to attack us," Eragon assured Nasuada. "The wounds Glaedr dealt Thorn are extensive, and it will take at least another week for some of them to heal, even with magic."
"Really?" Nasuada raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Explain, please."
Glaedr bit of the last three feet of Thorn's tail, Saphira supplied. And the magic he cast at Thorn to repel him was great indeed, for it broke Galbatorix's spell and sent Thorn several hundred feet. The force cracked several ribs, I'm sure, as well as caused some inside bleeding. Not to mention the other bites, gashes, and bruises inflicted upon him. No, Thorn will not be active for the next week or so. But I see no need to go. I'll carry Eragon there and fly back myself. Besides, she sniffed. Dragons do not hold lengthy, pointless burials for our kind. We burn the body and are done with our sorrow.
"Well, that solves that problem," Nasuada sighed. "As for the elves to accompany you, how many can you carry, Saphira?"
I can carry three of four besides Eragon, but traveling will be painfully slow, Saphira warned. I'll take Blödhgarm, I think. He is powerful enough to aid in a serious battle and repel all but the strongest opponents.
"You honor me, Brightscales," The blue-furred elf murmured.
You elves and your foolish honor, Saphira snorted disdainfully, smoke streaming from her nostrils. You make life so complicated with your bowing and your customs.
Arya smiled slightly, stifling a chuckle behind her hand. Even Eragon, as consumed with grief as he was, cracked a lopsided grin. Blödhgarm just looked mildly confused.
When I return, I will also allow Arya to ride my back in the guise of whomever she wishes, to fool the Empire. An enormous blue eye lowered to gaze at Nasuada. But I will not leave Eragon in Gil'ead for more than a fortnight. If such a time span passes and he has not returned to me, I will go look for him, not matter what you say.
"Unless I command you otherwise," Nasuada said confidently, her black hair rippling as she squared her shoulders. "Remember that you swore an oath of fealty to me."
Saphira growled warningly. Do not presume to hold power over me. I did not swear any oath to you, Nightstalker. Eragon's promises do not bind me. Where my Eragon is concerned, I will do as I please. His life is far more valuable to me than the entire Varden. Also, do not think yourself so powerful as to command a dragon. We are an ancient, proud race who answer to no one we don't respect, unless forced so by black magic. I could easily eat you in one swallow. It is only because Eragon respects you that I respect you. Saphira showed her long, thick fangs.
"Duly noted." Nasuada said faintly, awed by Saphira's frightening statement. She could easily wreak havoc among the Varden with her fire and teeth and claws. "If Eragon doesn't return within a fortnight, you may search for him."
Good. Saphira swung her head to face Arya. As I said, you have my permission to ride upon my back whenever you wish.
"Thank you, Saphira. It would be my hon-" Arya was cut off by a warning hiss. "Pleasure."
Perfect. Saphira faced Eragon next, fixing her Rider in her bright gaze. Don't do anything foolish, little one.
Saphira, we haven't left yet, Eragon told her, slightly bemused.
I know, but by reminding you many times, perhaps I can impress on you the idea that staying safe is actually a good thing.
"When do you want us to leave?" Eragon asked of Nasuada. "The Varden still could use our help repairing and fortifying Feinster."
"You will leave tomorrow at dawn," Nasuada informed him. "Islanzadí wants you there as quickly as you can get there. For the remainder of the day, you are to help fortify Feinster. No one must know you're leaving, and you must leave Saphira at the ruins of Carvahall. Do you understand?"
"But why Carvahall?" Arya asked curiously. Saphira nodded in agreement, her tail twitching anxiously. Through their link, Eragon felt her uneasiness at leaving him so far from Gil'ead and other protection. Eragon sent soothing thoughts to her quickly.
It's not that far, Saphira.
It's far enough.
"Because Galbatorix expects us to fly right to Gil'ead, so he's probably set all sorts of traps to alert him of our presence, should we attempt a direct approach. I can make it in myself, with Blödhgarm, relatively undetected." He explained out loud.
"Relatively?" Nasuada gazed at Eragon unblinkingly.
"There is the possibility of spells that detect powerful magicians," Eragon admitted. "I've read about them in Oromis's scrolls. However, in the presence of elves, the strongest spellcasters in Alagaësia, these traps will be all but useless."
The leader of the Varden nodded, satisfied. "I can pass your absence off as a mission to Dras Leona," she said. "That is believable, since that is one of the Varden's targets."
"It's plausible," Arya agreed. Her green eyes flicked over to Eragon. "Funerals among elves are incredibly emotional," she cautioned. "To lose even one elf is a tragedy to our people, but ones as old and respected Oromis and Glaedr… Ah." Arya shook her head mournfully, tossing her raven hair. "The grief will be overwhelming."
Eragon felt to urge to reach over and hug her, but he was aware of the searching gazes from both Nasuada and Blödhgarm.
Saphira suddenly twisted around and bellowed a deafening challenge to an invisible foe. Nasuada yelled and leaped from her chair, facing the balcony tensely, while Blödhgarm bounded to the open hole in the wall, searching the sky. Seizing the opportunity, Eragon bushed Arya's hand, squeezing it comfortingly before returning it to its former position on Brisingr's pommel.
"Bjartskular, what was that?" Blödhgarm demanded. His black-blue fur bristled in alarm. "There is no one out there.
I thought perhaps I saw Thorn in the distance, but now I remember that he is in no condition to fly, Saphira replied placidly. My mistake.
"I shall go make preparations with my comrades," Blödhgarm announced, allowing his fur to lie flat upon his shoulders. "No doubt they will want to join in the mourning too. Mirrors can be arranged so they might participate." The furry elf bowed in the fashion of his race and quickly strode away, using an odd sloping gait, like a wolf. Nasuada raised an eyebrow, obviously seeing through Blödhgarm's ruse to hide his embarrassment.
"Well, Eragon, I bid you farewell and will meet you here in a fortnight. We can prepare our march to Belatona then." Nasuada dismissed them with a wave of her hand. As he mounted Saphira, Eragon saw her crumple into her chair and lean back, exhausted. A twinge of pity tugged Eragon's heart.
I would hate being responsible for so many lives. Even one life is almost too much for me, he said to himself.
Ah, but little one, leading is part of your destiny, Saphira said gently. It shapes your future, and the future of all of Alagaësia.
Eragon remained silent, troubled by Saphira's words. Alagaësia didn't need another immortal leader. Hadn't Galbatorix already proved that?
He spotted Roran below, commanding his warriors to move heavy logs into place to form a wall. Eragon smiled slightly. It had been a good idea on Nasuada's part to put Roran directly under her command. Roran would do whatever he pleased to protect those under his command, but so would Nasuada, so Eragon's brave, slightly foolish cousin had no reason to disobey.
Eragon was proud of his cousin, and of the Varden. In the six days since the battle, the Varden had recovered swiftly, quickly proving their mettle to the Empire despite their losses.
"What's bothering you?" Arya asked Eragon quietly, her green eyes searching his face.
"Nothing," Eragon muttered. Arya would think him foolish. "What's bothering you?" He challenged the elf.
Arya paused, blinking owlishly. "I am worried," She confessed. "Oromis and Glaedr matched Murtagh and Thorn in strength until the very end, when Galbatorix intervened, and then the Black King was able to slay them in a matter of minutes. I fear his power is too much for us to handle; you the elves, everyone. With Murtagh, maybe we could overcome him, but if he hatches the last egg, we are doomed. And Murtagh is trapped in the service of the King. Even if you manage to free him, he will not be completely trustworthy." She shook her head. "Ah, such trouble thoughts often accompany a loss. I knew Oromis well; he comforted me when Mother rejected me. He stopped me from doing something I might have greatly regretted." Eragon felt wetness on the back of his neck. Arya was mourning.
"I am sorry for upsetting you, Arya," Eragon apologized in the ancient language. "I'm hurting now, too, and I think that maybe you might be right. Without Oromis, our only hope is if Murtagh frees himself from Galbatorix's control, and I don't see that happening. So I will probably have to kill him, and I don't think I can. He's my brother, and he was a very good friend." Eragon's voice broke. "I still consider him family."
"Oh, Eragon," Arya murmured. "I'm so sorry."
Eragon, you don't have to kill him, Saphira added. You can capture him and help him find away to beat Galbatorix's oaths. She sent a wave of affection through their link.
Comforted, Eragon allowed the conversation to lapse into a companionable silence. With Saphira and Arya, he felt comfortable and relaxed. Roran didn't see what Eragon's qualms about killing Murtagh were about, and Orik wanted Murtagh's blood. All his family, real and adopted, wanted him to slay his brother, half-brother, but still his brother.
"Eragon, something puzzles me greatly, but it is a very personal question. Do I have your permission to ask it?" Arya said after a short time.
Saphira was circling lazily now, reluctant to land and once again be put to use ripping up trees and flying them into place.
"Of course." Eragon gave his permission almost instantly. He trusted Arya with his life.
I can answer what he refuses to, Saphira supplied.
That's what I'm here for, little one.
"Why is your heart so gentle and kind?" Arya asked bluntly.
"What I mean is that you have seen so many awful, cruel, twisted things in the world, and yet you balk at killing. In the battlefield you are a terror, I admit, but you have a habit of sparing the lives of those who could be dangerous to you. Sloan, for example. And the soldiers during the siege. You could have slaughtered them like rats, yet you urged them to surrender. Why? I can understand the reason for your desire to save Murtagh, but those soldiers?"
Eragon sighed. "I am not a hard man," he said after a moment. "Roran is hard, Murtagh is hard. Brom was hard, Morzan was hard, my uncle Garrow was hard, and from what I know of my mother, she was hard as well. They all can or could kill someone who is or may become a threat. Roran killed some guards in the north, Murtagh killed the slaver Torkenbrand, Brom slew Morzan and several others, Morzan himself was a monster, Selena was the original Black Hand, and if I or Roran were in any kind of danger, we knew without a doubt Garrow would do anything to protect us. And yet I am a soft- hearted fool who is tormented by those he kills," Eragon said bitterly.
"So you spare the lives of others to save yourself from the torment that follows?"
Eragon shook his head in frustration. "No! I don't know why I spare the lives of those people. I am not a king, or a god. Why should I become their executioner? I am a simple farm boy, not a merciless killer!" By the end of his tirade, he was shouting.
Little one, you are not a farm boy anymore, Saphira reminded him gently. But neither are you a merciless killer. The Riders were a powerful force in Alagaësia, that is true, but they did not slaughter needlessly. Roran feels regret after he kills, and Murtagh probably does too. Morzan was a twisted individual and Brom… well, Brom was just crazy.
"I'm sorry for bringing this up, Eragon-finiarel." Arya apologized. "It interested me. I look at you, a being neither a human nor elf, not a farmer but not a soldier… You intrigue me. You are a unique person. Forgive me."
Eragon sighed. "It's not your fault I feel this way." He looked gloomily out over the destruction. "I feel alone," he confessed. "All the other Riders are either evil, under Galbatorix's control, or dead. When Oromis was alive, I could talk to him and ask him for advice. Now he's dead." The bitter edge returned to Eragon's voice. "Glaedr hasn't woken since he lost Oromis. I am alone."
That is something we must do, Saphira growled fiercely. I understand how painful it must be for Glaedr to lose the partner-of-his mind-and-heart, but we need him now. You and I shall awaken him tonight, before you leave.
It is necessary, little one. You know this.
"Eragon, I am sorry to have brought up such a painful subject. Since I won't see you for a while.." The elf hesitated, looking unsure. "I'll miss you, Eragon Shadeslayer." She hugged him briefly.
"And I you, Arya Shadeslayer," Eragon replied teasingly, his anger forgotten in the sweet scent of her hair. He returned the hug. Arya looked at him with her beautiful green eyes.
"Try not to get yourself killed," she murmured, a smile tugging at her lips.
Yes, Eragon. Danger follows you like dwarves to gold, Saphira agreed as she landed with a thump. I need to eat, but I will join you to help with constructing the wall around Feinster, she told him. Her great blue eyes swiveled to gaze at him. Tonight, we bring Glaedr out of his misery.
Good. Now hurry. Roran is coming here as we speak with some laborious task for you. She spread her wings again and took off, leaving Eragon on the ground. Arya had already departed. Roran was indeed loping towards his cousin, a puzzled look on his face. He couldn't understand the sorrow in Eragon's eyes. No one could, except Saphira, and she had flown away. He was utterly alone in the wake of destruction.
Master Oromis…. Eragon despaired, hiding his thoughts from Saphira. Why did you leave me alone?
Well, here it is, chapter one. please reveiw! Tell me if you like it, hate it, whatever. I just want to know! I'll have the next chapter up by tuesday at the latest. Review!
EDITED 5/25/11, thanks to !