5/12 Edit: Last update, yay! Due to the chaos of my senior year and first year of college, this process took over two years, but I'm far happier with this rewrite than I was with the original version. Keep in mind it may take me longer to write actual new chapters, but I intend for this story to be finally finished by the end of 2014.

(Also, ignore last chapter's promise of a new section. This chapter's already pretty long and split into multiple sections, so there really wasn't room for a new section here. With that in mind, my next chapter just got that much darker ;)

Disclaimer: The Inheritance Cycle belongs to Chris Paolini. All original material belongs to me.

Jarshan did not appreciate the poetic irony of having been pinned down and rendered helpless by magic, like he had once ordered Eridor and Safiri to have been. During the torture, the tiny portion of his mind that hadn't been lost in agony had been flashing back again and again to a proud King made helpless by underhanded enchantment, to the accusing gaze of his lifeless corpse, to the single egg that had been wrenched from beneath his mother's cooling-

Growling deep in his throat, Jarshan ripped himself another bloody piece of meat. Even his new set of restrictions didn't prevent him from imagining the mutilated deer corpse as his master's.

Is a simple 'thank you' too much to ask for? Thorn quipped from the other side of the dragon-hold.

Jarshan bared his fangs halfheartedly, secretly relieved for the return to a normal routine. I'm eating your gift without complaint. From a senior clan-mate, especially your clan head, that's thanks enough.

So you consider me part of your family now?

The elder dragon briefly entertained the idea of hurling a blast of fire at his impudent little room-mate. Maybe Thorn would appreciate yet more scars to go along with his blackened belly and the marks Jarshan had previously made in ripping Jadine's Eldunari from his body. And then his growling stomach intervened, and Jarshan went back to devouring his deer in the most violently intimidating way possible.

Should've known that rat of a human would find a way to deceive me in the end. It's human nature to always act in self-interest, after all, even after all I sacrificed in siding with him.

Thorn's curiosity was noticeable from even across the dragon-hold. Like what? Killing your own brother and stealing his crown?

Jarshan couldn't help but gape, one bloody strip of meat hanging absently from one side of his mouth. How uneducated was this hatchling?

The younger dragon growled warily, retreating several steps. What? My Rider grew up in the midst of Urubaen's political intrigue. Murdering a relative to gain the power and prestige of their rank is dreadfully common here.

Jarshan could think of several ruthless punishments to correct such terrible ignorance from a dragon on the nature of his kind, but the elder dragon was in now condition to carry them out. Passively enlightening the Rider's pet on the true nature of his wild ancestors would have to do.

Long before the first elf stepped foot in Alagaesia, long before even Aiedail breathed his first, wild dragons had loyalties that went beyond their own personal needs and those of their mates. The bonds of blood and mind between close family members allowed for clans that would support one another through the darkest of times. Second only to our own mates and broods, wild dragons were expected to act in the good of their extended kin, for the benefit of the entire family...

The so-called King of the wild dragons staggered to his paws, shoving the deer aside as he limped across the dragon-hold. Heavily injured and humiliated, he still managed to tower over Thorn with the inborn grace of a royal dragon. Do you know the sort of circumstances it takes for a wild dragon to willingly betray such bonds, little orphan? Greed, envy, ambition- do you think that is what truly drove me!?

Thorn shrunk back like the coward he was. Jarshan's heart of hearts soared with furious triumph as the rightful order finally asserted itself, as a member of the most heinous perversion of nature's balance realized how broken his artificial bond with his Rider had made him, how it had robbed him of the comfort of his own clan.

Slowly, however, it dawned on Jarshan that Thorn was not horrified at how twisted the Riders had made him, but afraid of him. Unable to understand the older dragon's rage, Thorn only thought him mad, and braced only for another attack.

Everything left of Jarshan's common sense shattered. His injuries and new oaths may have prevented him from physically pouncing, but his mind was free to completely overwhelm Thorn's.

Jarshan said nothing, merely the messenger as he allowed the flood of ancestral memories surging into Thorn's mind to speak for themselves. Let them tell of the treacheries, the atrocities, the slow and inevitable slide into oblivion that had defined their kind ever since that first foolish elf had stumbled across a dying she-dragon and her egg...

Is that the elf-forest? There, in the distance?

Eragon glanced over to his right. The emerald expanse of Du Weldenvarden was little more on a smudge on the horizon from this distance. Aye, Caradoc. That is Du Weldenvarden. You'd do well to remember its proper name.

The light blue dragon snorted mutinously. He and Trinnean did their best did their best side by side in a straight course to Ceunon. Saphira dutifully glided beneath them, both a graceful example to imitate and a guardian to prevent either one of the overly curious younglings from once again straying off-course. Eragon brought up the rear, a shepherd keeping his small and rebellious flock on the right path. They'd all learned their lesson after Caradoc had nearly crashed after trying to chase after an unfortunate hawk.

It's too hard to say right! he complained, the complex name too difficult for his still-developing mind to process.

I can say it. Trinnean flashed his brother a smug grin. Du Weldenvarden, Du Welden-

Enough! Eridor roared. Caradoc, who had been reaching over to snap at his sibling, smartly snapped back into position. You two are about to meet a dragon revered as a wise elder long before I was even hatched. How are you two to act when you meet him?

On our best behavior, the twins muttered.

Doubt prickled at Eridor's mind at their ability to follow through, but withdrew from their minds without further comment. As the buildings of Ceunon began to grow more defined, he and Eragon mixed minds, just as they had practiced over the course of the journey. Their souls were nowhere near to being truly fused, but the technique blurred their thoughts and feelings enough to make them seem a single unique entity. So long as Oromis and Glaedr didn't pry too much, they could all get to a private place for a proper explanation before all hell broke loose.

Don't worry, Elva vowed. I'll keep them to it.

Elva was casually sprawled out over Saphira's back only because Eragon was expected to be King of the wild dragons, and thus above being a beast of burden. Trinnean and Caradoc had both volunteered to carry their 'little-big-sister', but their father had bluntly vetoed the idea over their still-small size and inexperience.

Look. Saphira nodded at the sea of tents that still encircled Ceunon. The elves haven't moved out yet. Oromis must have really been insistent upon this meeting.

She was apparently correct, for Eragon glimpsed a massive form rising from a nearby copse of trees moments later. Glaedr's golden scales glittered magnificently in the morning sun. His heavy scarring and missing limb only increased the twins' terrified awe of him. Deep in the private corner of their shared minds, Eridor snorted in jealous derision.

While Caradoc and Trinnean only had eyes for the far more awe-inspiring Glaedr, Eragon was more riveted to Oromis. His mentor was clad in golden armor near-identical to his dragon's scales, and couldn't have been from a farther sight from the tired and insightful elf Eragon remembered during their time in Du Weldenvarden.

Eragon raised his head in his best imitation of Eridor's haughty grace. His masters were making their best first impression to an alleged King, after all, and he didn't want to be remembered as the clueless and hotheaded boy who had arrived for tutelage those many long months ago.

Leaving the group behind, Saphira flew ahead to converse personally with her former mentors. Eragon was unable to eavesdrop with dropping the illusion of being a different soul, but their visual reactions were telling enough. Glaedr's massive amber eyes narrowed as he noticed the little girl sitting in Eragon Shadeslayer's customary place. Smirking, Elva waved cheerfully back to a behemoth large enough to swallow her whole.

Everything had been going relatively well until Glaedr had turned to survey the newcomers to the dragon race. Their courage breaking, Trinnean and Caradoc had both attempted to duck behind Eragon, one of their wings slamming into his body. Eragon had immediately corrected his position while Eridor snapped at his sons for their 'unacceptable cowardice.'

The illusion of one kingly mind had shattered. Oromis and Glaedr possessed long memories time had been unable to dull. They both recognized that disembodied voice as Eridor's as clearly as they knew his mind to be inexplicably to their former student's, although the young Rider was nowhere in sight... and then realized the white dragon held both the souls of Eridor and Eragon.

For what seemed like an eternity, stunned silence reigned between the eight of them, until Eragon's brave voice dared to pierce it. Hello, Masters...

In an isolated clearing far away from the prying eyes of Ceunon, Oromis struggled to align his glaring misconceptions with the far more impossible reality standing before him.

Back before his world had been turned upside down, he had believed the young white dragon with the uncanny resemblance to Eridor to have been the old King's son, an egg that had miraculously survived both the purge and capture by Galbatorix to hatch as Alagaesia's first wild dragon in almost a century. To Oromis, it had made perfect since for this 'Majesty' to have claimed his father's crown, to have allied himself against the destroyers of his race, to have taken the last she-dragon in the world as his made.

Leaning heavily against Glaedr, Oromis had nodded absently to everything he had just been told.

Eragon's accidental mispronunciation of the ancient language had forced an infant child into growing up unnaturally fast in order to live up to her oaths. Oromis had already known that much. The fact that the strain from such pressures had completely killed innocent Elvana's spirit? Or that the soul now inhabiting this little girl's body was that of the she-dragon who had first chosen to be reborn and had failed to stop Elvana's demise? Aside from the existence of spirits and an afterlife being apparently confirmed, the story was not the most tragic Oromis had ever heard, not after the butchering of Riders and dragons alike.

Oromis turned to Caradoc and Trinnean, the youngest dragons he'd seen in a good long while. The nearly identical brothers were cowering behind Saphira, peering up every so often to gawk at Glaedr before ducking back down again. Elva herself stood between them, stroking their horns and scratching between their horns.

These little miracle children were not Saphira's, but rather two of Eridor and Safiri's last brood together. Oromis had not been surprised in the slightest to hear the sea serpents had fully reclaimed Vroengard. They had always resented the first Riders into forcing them underground and making them into glorified guard dogs for Doru Araeba. Only Prasavitri had kept her 'children' grudgingly in line. The Mother of sea serpents was an enigma Oromis had never understood, and she had watched over the eggs of her ancestry for reasons known only to her.

"I... see," the last true Dragon Rider said after an eternity of silence, finally facing the biggest headache of them all. "There's no way for you to... change back?"

Eridor snorted. Is there a way for elves to be transformed into dragons?

Oromis barely contained his exasperated huff. He definitely hadn't missed the wild dragons for their bluntness toward everything. Gods, he was having a difficult enough time just handling the existence of an afterlife for dragons...

Are there any gods? No, Oromis, best not think about that now.

Glaedr glanced at Eragon and Saphira, a dragon and former Rider whose familiar dynamic had been so unnaturally contorted. Are you two...?

The she-dragon shook her head curtly. Oh, no! Not until after this war is over. Sne and Eragon glanced thoughtfully at each other. Or, at least not until mating season is done. Having Trinnean and Caradoc helps with the... urges, but there's still the risk to conception. There'll be time enough for more hatchlings after the Mad King's been slain.

Glaedr simply nodded in understanding.

Oromis internally frowned at his dragon's nonchalance. I don't see how you can be so unfazed by this.

Are you kidding, Oromis? You weren't the one that had to put up with Saphira's lovesick advances for all those torturous weeks! And look on the bright side, no one has to worry about Eragon mooning over the Queen's daughter anymore! He's found someone much closer to his own age, my race is no longer doomed to inevitable extinction, Eragon and the princess are no longer compatible-

Having a new set of unsavory images to go along with his nightmares, Oromis shoved his dirty old dragon out of their private connection. "Your resounding victory at Aroughs has shown our side we no longer need a Dragon Rider in his prime to win this war. The Varden needs to so desperately depend upon Eragon Shadeslayer no longer; they have Master Blodgharm and his elves, Arya Svit-kona, an improving Du Vrangr Gata, and three more dragons than they had at the First Battle of the Burning Plains."

That should at least appease the Queen when she realizes Eragon is no longer completely vulnerable to her influence, Glaedr privately drawled. Her beloved dragons have more than doubled in these past few months and seem well on the road to recovery. To the others, he asked, What are your plans now? Surely you're more needed on the southern front than the northern.

We head north, Eridor said curtly, for Eragon has yet to undergo his King's Trial.

Oromis couldn't help but raise his eyebrows in curiosity. The wild dragons had always jealously guarded their secrets, and even a respected elder Rider such as himself knew little about the extent of the power a King or Queen dragon wielded. Oromis recalled King or Queens typically won their titles by defeating their predecessor in a fair fight, as Eridor had done to Vanilor, but knew nothing of the other possible Trial.

Judging from the surprise on the others' faces, Eridor had waited until this exact moment to tell them their true destination. Secretive old bastard, Oromis groused to Glaedr. Eridor always had too much of his father in him.

Openly, Oromis only bowed his head in silent defeat. With Eridor once more there to oversee the next generation, the old divide between wild dragons and the Riders was there to stay. "Don't let these old souls keep you then."

Eragon's face went blank as he retreated into the privacy of his own mind, dragging Eridor along with him. Everyone else tactfully averted their gaze from the catatonic dragon and the two minds arguing within.

At long last, emotion returned to Eragon's face as the dragon returned to himself. While the dragon was barely holding back rage at being kept in the dark for so long, Eridor exuded only serene confidence, his true thoughts concealed behind a barrier Oromis doubted even Eragon could penetrate.

Elder Oromis, Elder Glaedr, I hope this time we can have a proper farewell, the former King said smoothly. Our last... was not on the most civil of terms.

Memories carried Oromis back to that last fateful encounter. Vrael had called for an emergency meeting between his council and the most significant individuals of the wild dragons, their King first and foremost amongst them. Ordinarily, this group would have also included the leaders of the strongest clans and the oldest and strongest of Eridor's offspring, one of whom would be the most likely to one day succeed him.

Yet Vrael had summoned the wild dragons late in autumn, the season of mating, and many she-dragons were either heavily expecting or looking after newly laid clutches. Their maternal instincts at their strongest, whether for their own children or those of close relatives, the she-dragons had refused to attend. In such troubling times, their mates and close relatives had been loathe to leave them alone, especially as they had never thought highly of the Order.

Despite Safiri expecting yet another clutch, Eridor alone had grudgingly defied his protective instincts to fly to Vroengard, and only out of obligation to the ancient oaths that kept peace between their races. He had been eager to return home to his mate the very moment he had landed in Doru Araeba.

The number of the dead and disappeared, amongst both the Order and the wild dragons, had been rising with each day. Reports had been constantly streaming in of Galbatorix and his Forsworn spearheading the persecutions, of Urgal tribes ambushing nesting mothers in their most vulnerable time, of rogue human magicians banding together to strike down Riders that had strayed too far from their outposts.

Such devastation to the ranks couldn't have come at a worse time. She-dragons, both wild and bonded, seemed to have been laying fewer eggs each year. Out of those shrinking clutches came fewer eggs that proved viable, fewer hatchlings that survived to adulthood, fewer mothers that had donated eggs to the Order. The wild dragons had not reacted well when Riders seeking new eggs had come more frequently, more insistent in their pleas, until one desperate Rider had foolishly dared steal the one remaining egg of a clan that had never forgotten the atrocities committed against their ancestors in the Du Fyrn Skulblaka. The charred remnants of the fool Rider and his unfortunate dragon had been tossed out for the scavengers.

That descent had continued until Vrael himself had personally checked the stores... and found the Order had a single red egg left to its name.

Oromis and Glaedr had been among the majority of the council members convinced that Eridor would persuade his subjects to donate more of their eggs to the effort, to replenish the Riders' depleted ranks before Galbatorix could diminish them further. After all, Eridor had been one of the last clutches King Vanilor had ever sired. From a very young age, he had often journeyed with his parents to Doru Araeba on diplomatic affairs, and thus grew up understanding the Order better than most others of his kind. In his late thirties, Eridor had been far younger than many of his stubborn kin, far less set in his ways, far more likely to listen to reason.

Eridor had not been convinced. He had snarled at Vrael, rumbling that he could command no dragon to sacrifice their children.

Then the youngest council member had snidely suggested the King of the wild dragons offer up his own offspring.

Never before, in his many centuries of life, had Oromis witnessed the King's Wrath before that day. Never did he wish to witness it again.

Eridor's eyes had burned with righteous fury, and the flames he had breathed could have come straight from hell. Those unnatural flames had seared straight through the protective wards the council member had tried throwing up around herself and her dragon.

Eridor had slipped away in the aftermath, leaving behind burns that would never fully heal and scorch marks in the council chamber that had outlasted the Order itself. He had intended to teach a painful lesson, not kill, and that was the only reason the council member and her dragon had survived to be cut down by Galbatorix.

Not long after that disastrous meeting, news came that had Eridor and Safiri had been found murdered in their cave, and that no successor had stepped forward to fill the vacuum power left in their wake. Without a single dragon to hold the wild clans together, to act as a between the Riders and their volatile race, the delicate balance between the two had crumbled for good, and the fates of both sides had been sealed.

"Aye," Oromis replied at long last. "We're all in need of a more amicable goodbye."

Eridor growled with a fire not even death had been able to douse. If you're still expecting an apology for what I did to that impertinent youngling and her oaf of a dragon, wait another lifetime, Elders. My children are my own, and they will live their lives as they choose. He sighed, Eragon's eyes involuntarily moving to gaze upon Trinnean and Caradoc. Look at my sons, innocent and untouched by the travesties of this war. Where would they be now, if I had given them to you? Long dead alongside their Riders, languishing in Galbatorix's treasure trove, or mindless slaves of his like Shruikan? I will never regret giving them their freedom of choice. Never.

Glaedr silently looked upon Eridor's sons for a moment. Oromis knew his dragon had never expected to see another child of his kind again. Even Saphira, the first dragon Glaedr had had contact with in decades, had departed Ellesmera a dormant egg and had returned a grown adult.

And yet here were Trinnean and Caradoc, months away from breathing their first flames, and without the haunted looks in their eyes Eragon and Saphira already carried in theirs.

Those innocent souls are not worth regretting, your Majesty. Glaedr inclined his head in the deepest respect, even the younglings to reach out and touch him before they darted back behind Saphira. May we meet again someday, be it amongst the stars or elsewhere.

The same to you, Master Glaedr. And so we depart here on relatively good terms, Master Oromis. Eridor chuckled humorlessly. As good as I can ever manage them.

Everyone else exchanged their farewells. Leaning once more against Glaedr's side, Oromis watched in bemusement as Elva imperiously chose Eragon as her new mode of transportation, then outright laughed when Trinnean tripped in his take-off, dragging Caradoc down with him as he struggled to regain balance. As the strange group became blobs on the horizon, only then did it occur to the two ancient masters they had forgotten something.

Do you think we should tell Eragon the truth about his parents? Glaedr muttered. Or at least let him know Brom was his true father? We may never get another chance after this.

Oromis looked up at the magnificent white dragon his overly curious student had become, and knew the distant past was the furthest thing from his mind. "In the end, what does it even matter? Surely Eragon doesn't have to worry about any of his future children resembling anyone from his side of the family. Besides, Saphira still has Brom's message. She'll give it to him when he's ready."

Glaedr hummed absently, licking between the claws of his one remaining front foot. I wonder if I can myself reborn as one of their hatchlings, just to see what sort of parents they'd make. You can find me in my new life, too... if it's possible for elves to do that.

Oromis momentarily pondered this enigma... and then cursed Eridor for giving him yet another unsolvable mystery to waste his free time upon.

Of course Eragon was still furious Eridor had hidden their ultimate destination from everyone until the last possible moment, and angrier still that the damned bastard still refused to either reveal what the King's Trial actually was or give any more explicit instructions other than 'north.'

But Eragon also realized now was not the time for he and Eridor to exhaust themselves in a confrontation. After what had happened outside Ceunon, Eridor had fallen into a dark and dreamless sleep, and no one had been foolish enough to wake him until they'd landed for the night.

After they refreshed themselves on fresh meat and fresh water, Trinnean and Caradoc both curled up close to Eragon, their eyes glimmering in the darkness as they gazed up at him awe.

Or, rather, Trinnean and Caradoc gazed up at their father in awe.

Eragon had temporarily relinquished control over his body, and Eridor relished relished in the opportunity to physically drape his wings over his sons to shield them from the cold night air, to take in their faces and scents without relying on the senses of another. Having been allowed to rest well after departing Ceunon, Eridor had plenty of energy for what was to come.

Elva? he expectantly called to the she-dragon he considered his daughter, regardless of appearance or blood relation. Would you care to join us?

The girl's violet eyes brightened in realization, before she smirked. "The old family tradition, father? I'm not a hatchling anymore, you know."

Eridor chuckled hoarsely, savoring the feel of the rumble deep in his throat. No. But you're smaller than your younger brothers now, so I figure your pride can make this one exception. Besides, Eragon and Saphira are listening too.

Eragon snorted wryly, for once the disembodied voice in the back of their shared mind. I don't really have a choice here.

Saphira rolled her eyes playfully, curled up a slight distance from the others. Eridor might have been in control of their body, but he had no desire to impose on the intimate bond she and Eragon shared. Quite an example you're setting for the little ones, stone-head.

Elve remained quiet as she burrowed herself between Trinnean and the body that Eridor temporarily called his own. With his audience settled down for the night, he followed his memories back to far happier days, and repeated the old story to a new generation that would hopefully survive to pass it down again.

We are wild dragons, and we have no need for exaggerations or wild lies to make our stories interesting. We have no need for anything but the truth, for what truly is in this world. That which I am about to tell you tonight is no mere myth or legend, but an ancient truth my father passed down to me when I was your age. And my father learned it from his mother, and she her father, and back and back until we reach the first ruler of the wild dragons. Now, the time has come for that truth to be passed down onto you...

Long before I ever breathed my first, before the first elf step foot off his silver ship into this land, there were no Kings or Queens to maintain order amongst our sometimes fatally proud kind. Each dragon was loyal only to their own clan; their mate, their offspring, and their extended family. In those times, every clan had their own unique features, those to mark them as either friend or foe. One clan would have white-speckled wings, one curled horns, another no horns at all. A dragon knew his mate could come only from within his own clan, with his own clan's marking; all others were the enemy, yet more competition for precious territory and prey.

Every clan possessed their own ancestral cave, a homeland their earliest ancestors had chosen for their future generations. As more eggs were laid, as more hatchlings matured to adulthood and produced broods of their own, clans found their territories overlapping. Terrible wars would either make clans once again small enough for their borders, or wipe them out entirely so the victor could take their place.

In their own haughty pride, one individual dragon could drag his entire clan into a war over something as petty as having glanced too long at another clan's pretty she-dragon. Too proud to admit fault, each side was willing to fight down to the last hatchling to defend their family's honor. Their fatal pride and blind devotion to their clans would have proved our entire race's undoing, and our ancestors knew it. Yet, again their arrogance, none dared to admit the traditions of their most ancient and venerated ancestors as self-destructive.

And this vicious cycle would have continued until there were no more dragons left, had not something miraculous happened in the greatest of these clans.

What physically set this clan apart from all others has been lost to even our memory. Some say they all possessed pure white scales, but how can this be true, when a black egg can be born to two yellow parents? Others believe that this clan had always been set apart by the intensity of their flames, which burned far hotter than any other.

But what truly set this clan apart was their leader, by far the oldest and largest dragon in the world. Having long outgrown his clan's ancestral cave, he was as massive and as mighty as the mountain he had first hatched in, able to curl entirely around it as the Mother of sea serpents does the eggs of her unborn children. This mountain-lord had outlived not only all of his children, but his grandchildren and most of his great-grandchildren. Many died of natural causes, but many more died in battle against rival clans.

Ancient as the mountain-lord was, his heart had long since grown accustomed to the grief every parent feels when a child is lost, and he became as hard and impassive as the mountain he had outgrown. What did their deaths matter? For every descendent cut down, several more were being hatched and more still ready to replace their fallen kith and kin and increase the extent of the mountain-lord's power.

You see, the older a mated pair gets, the less desire they feel during mating season, and fewer are the healthy eggs they produce. For the mountain-lord, it had been decades since he had last felt the need to couple with his mate, and decades more since their last fertile clutch had been produced.

Yet, for a final time, the mountain-lord felt a faint spark of passion rise up within him, and from that brief union his mate laid a single egg the color of storm clouds.

At first, the mountain-lord felt an idle interest for the child in this egg, for it had been decades since his last child had died to further his personal glory, and he could no longer remember if his own offspring had proved stronger and more competent than their lackluster descendants. But when the resulting son hatched with six horns? Oh, was there an uproar amongst his distant nieces and nephews, but his father most especially.

The mountain-lord dared call his loyal mate, she who had bonded her soul to his centuries ago, a traitor, for what dragon in their clan had six horns? Not a single dragon in their clan, nor in any of the neighboring clans. Though the ancient male searched far and wide for someone to take his wrath out on, he found no one else with six horns, and his mate's memories proved she had been nothing but faithful to him and their sacred bond.

Still, although the mountain-lord had no choice but to recognize the six-horned hatchling as his own son, that did not mean he would have to tolerate such peculiarity polluting the gene-pool of his clan. Thus the little abomination was cast out. Without a clan for support and protection, the predators would surely claim his unnatural life. Even he survived to maturity, what was the point? Surely no female would claim such a freak for a mate, and how long could a dragon survive without the company of his own kind before falling into despair?

Despite the odds stacked against him, the six-horned male survived until his chest had broadened in physical maturity and his inner fire had ignited with the passion of his spirit. When his first mating season came around, he acted upon the instincts most other young dragons his age felt, and flew off to the closest clan to prove himself worthy to one of their eligible females.

Naturally, everyone in the clan he found attempted to drive this freakish intruder out, but none could hope to even touch him. In addition to being to being too swift and cunning to be caught by his blundering elders, the six-horned male possessed an inner fire that burned even hotter than those of the mountain-lord's clan. Not wanting to be burned by such intense flames, the clan grudgingly left him to his own devices.

Though still rejected by the clan's available she-dragons, the male was persistent. He would always chase off other interested suitors, leave fresh kills at the mouths of their caves, and defiantly belt out mating calls every night until one of his potential mates roared at him to shut up.

Eventually, one of the she-dragons noticed the interloper's temerity. He had bested all of her other suitors in battle, provided her with a fresh kill every day, and would undoubtedly sire offspring with both his intense flames and his tenacious spirit. Though her clan had roared in outrage, the she-dragon followed her own heart and sound reasoning (for the six-horned male was matched by none) until the day she and him became one in body and spirit.

Now, this she-dragon was the favorite daughter of the clan leader, and killing the six-horned male would have certainly been the death of her once they were mated. So the pair was allowed to live, though the clan kept their distance from them both. In time, eggs were laid and hatched, the resulting offspring all bearing both their father's six horns and unusually strong fires. When mating season rolled around again, these children were ready for mates of their own, and all shared in their father's dogged persistence when it came to seeking partners. Taking their mates from their mother's clan and its neighbors, their numbers continued to expand with each new year.

Though every last one of the original six-horned male's offspring shared his unique traits, they were lost among subsequent generations, and most of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren had only one or two pairs of horns and average flames. The clans were readily mixing now, their own signature features vanishing as bloodlines blurred too much for anyone to tell apart.

Too large to remain a single clan, the six-horned male's descendants spread throughout Alagaesia, forming smaller familial groups of their own. Despite this, all were astoundingly loyal to their progenitor, the six-horned male responsible both for siring many of them and eliminating the old clan rivalries that had kept so many apart. When these smaller 'clans' squabbled over territory, or with now dragons that preferred either living alone or in small family groups, they all turned to the six-horned male for guidance. As he was quick to beat any who challenged his rulings into submission, his word soon became law.

Meanwhile, as the neighboring clans crumbled to pieces around them, the ancient mountain-lord couldn't have cared less. Their losses were hs gain, as the upheaval had greatly allowed his clan to expand in territory size and sheer numbers. Never before had his forces been so strong, and their power was still only increasing.

Yet the mountain-lord's apathy to his new way of life evaporated completely when he caught six-horned intruders trying to steal his young male and females away. Against all odds, that botersome bastard of his had survived to spawn abominations of his own, and had surely spread his taint further.

Calling his clan together, the mountain-lord took flight for the first time in years to personally track down and kill his errant son, uncaring of when new dragons were quick to move in and claim the caves and hunting grounds his family had completely deserted. The mountain-lord had been entirely consumed by his lust for vengeance, and not even his poor mate could pierce the madness clouding his mind or the stone encasing his heart.

The mountain-lord discovered his bastard son on a lonely northern mountain with only his mate and several half-grown offspring for company. Thinking this to be his impudent hatchling's entire clan, the ancient male thundered down from the heaven to obliterate the root of the problem before having his clan wipe up its remnants.

The mountain-lord was a behemoth that had personally finished off countless sons and daughters, countless clans, that had tried to wrest power from him. He was as large as the mountain the six-horned male called home, large enough to blot out the light beneath him.

But the six-horned male fought his sire head-on. He used his smaller size to his advantage, twisting and turning to avoid his sire's clumsy swipes. His searing flames melted centuries' old scales right off, burning straight through to the flesh and bone beneath.

Increasingly unstable, the monster of a dragon tried to swallow his son whole... and was blinded a plume of blazing white fire for his efforts. Far from defeated, and absolutely furious, the mountain-lord decided it better to destroy the six-horned male's entire family while he was powerless to interfere. Loyal to the bitter end, even with their leader a burning mess, the mountain-lord's clan obeyed and moved in for the massacre.

...And then the six-horned male reared back his head and roared. The terrible call was enough to stop even the mountain-lord in his tracks.

From every corner of Alagaesia, from every surrounding mountain, the six-horned male's 'clan' answered.

The heavens themselves flashed every color of the rainbow as dragons dived down from the clouds, swarmed forth from every cave and valley. Too late did the mountan-lord and his clan realize the six-horned male's subjects included everyone but them.

The skies darkened, the dragons closed in, and the bloody reign of clan against clan came to an end as the six-horned male incinerated his mountain-sized sire into ash.

At long last, the dragons finally knew peace, a peace which the six-horned male by resolving the most troubling problems that still simmered between different clans. Even then, the clans were finally families again, where individual members were free to come and go as they pleased, and no longer obligated to die for another's pride or ambition.

The six-horned male ruled for many decades, until the time was finally ripe for change. In time, even the six-horned male would die, he and his mate departing to the heavens when they felt they had lived their lives to the fullest. His star is the first to rise every afternoon, and the last to set every dawn. Some elders say he will not fall for rebirth until the end of the world, to burn away the earth itself so it can rise anew from the ashes of the old.

Long before the ancient pact was sealed with the elves, long before our ancestors learned 'civilized' tongues of speech, the six-horned male had a name. Above all else, he was the First King, The First To Rise, The Last To Fall, the Morning Star. Now, he is more simply known as Aiedail.

1. My head-canon is, however dignified Oromis and Glaedr are in public, they bicker like old bros or an old married couple in private XD Obviously, that showed here, and no one can be the Solemn And Wise Mentor all the time.

2. In case you didn't get, the last section is a story Eridor is telling to Eragon and company. Making it its own section made more sense than putting the entire damn thing in italics.

3. The story of the struggle between Aiedail and the mountain-lord, and the transfer from the old clan system to something a lot less stupidly suicidal, is based on a motif found in old human myths that describe a radical change from an old, barbaric way of life to a newer, less bloodthirsty one. (Think God flooding the world so Noah and his survivors can give the human race a second chance, Anansi stealing the stories from Tiger and letting people know things over than violence and fear, ect.)

Scientifically speaking, Aiedail's six horns and unusual powers are basically a freak genetic mutation that proved highly beneficial for himself and the dragon race. Since Paolini's dragons laugh at the laws of nature and physics, don't put too much thought into this XD Basically Aiedail's six horns indicate both hotter fires and a stronger-than-usual Eldunari and control over magic. Anyone who inherits Aiedail's six horns can thus potentially hold the powers of the King's Wrath without bad, bad things happening to them. All of a King or Queen's dragon offspring inherits their six horns (and thus the potential to succeed them), but the chance of inheriting the six horns and that potential decreases the further you get from your last King or Queen ancestor.

By the time Aiedail defeats his father, pretty much every dragon outside the mountain-lord's little inbred clan is either descended from him or related to one of his descendents within a few degrees (think someone having a first cousin mated to one of Aiedail's descendents or something like that.) Eventually, every dragon out there had Aiedail out there on their family tree (because he's that ancient and really got it on alot with his mate). Eragon, by nature of being a human turned into his own unique dragon, is the first dragon in millenium to not be.