God, baby, I'm on a real here :D
While 'prodigal' most often means 'one who spends lavishly and foolishly' it can also mean 'one who has returned from a long absence' ;).
On the night of his trial, Eragon had felt nigh omniscient. His time amongst the stars had not only allowed him an unobscured view of the past and present, but of the future, and all the myriad ways it could unfold.
While most of his knowledge had faded with the stars the following dawn, some bits and pieces remained. While some vestiges of his memory were fainter than others, and his scattered recollection paled in comparison to the original crystal clear image he'd had of his ideal future, they were enough to help him ensure that future came to pass.
He would have never found the campsite otherwise; hundreds of men huddled together in a quiet village just outside Aroughs. They were not Varden soldiers.
With the battle for Aroughs so effectively won, and all thought turned to further planning for the next leg of the journey north to Urubaen, Eragon doubted the Varden had any idea of the extent of the rebellion the occupied Imperials were plotting. Even then, the Varden would have anticipated a typical daytime engagement, not a desperate attempt to scale the city walls in the dead of night and slaughter any rebels they could find.
No matter how Eragon handled this moment, the Imperial resistance would end in failure. Their numbers were too small to manage anything more than a minor setback to the Varden's plans.
Still, they were desperate men abandoned by their King, and they had nothing left to lose if Alaegaesia should fall to the rebels. If they managed to breach Aroughs, hundreds of men and thousands of innocents could be caught in the massacre. With Urubaen still so far away, such massive losses on only the first city claimed were unacceptable.
They are not fighting honorably, Elva pointed out. In the end, neither did the dragons, but by then it was too late. Freed of her curse, she no longer had reason to fear the pain of others, and so looked down upon the Imperials without mercy. If they aren't fighting honorably, then you have no reason to.
In the dark of the night, the men would never see the dragons swooping down upon them until it was too late. By then, Eragon's Wrath would be unstoppable, and devour every last remnant of Imperial loyalty left in the area. Aroughs and the Varden would see only the fires, and know that not only had the King of the dragons returned, but had once again saved them.
Should that be the decision he made, Eragon knew Saphira would stand by him, for war was no easy feat.
His gaze strayed to Trinnean and Caradoc, who silently circled with them above the camp. They were both too young to breathe fire and participate directly in the massacre, but they would still witness the precedent their new King made here tonight, one that could possibly echo for centuries to come.
Eridor slumbered on, of no help to anyone, but Eragon didn't need him tonight.
Aiedail didn't fight honorably either. As four bewildered dragons turned to gawk at their King, he steadily continued, When the mountain-king rallied his clan, Aiedail knew how hopelessly unmatched they would be against him and his people. That did not stop him from not only bringing his clan's wrath down upon the mountain-king, but also those who followed them because they knew no better. To Saphira and Elva, he privately added, Some of those younglings cut down were younger than Trinnean and Caradoc.
There are no children here! Elva bared her fangs. Only men prepared to die for their foolish cause!
Because they believe us gone from Aroughs. Eragon's eyes blazed. I was chosen because I am the first of something new, so I shall start by doing something new: I shall give them a warning, the warning Aiedail never gave to the mountain-lord's clan.
Saphira may have been his faithful mate, aye, but that didn't mean she had to support him something so suicidal. You know I am with you always, dear one, but they shall shoot you down before you can speak your piece. With the magicians here, I also doubt you could reach out to them mentally before inciting similar alarm.
With half-remembered visions of the future flashing before his mind's eye, Eragon knew what had to come next... and that he could very well alienate his family by doing so.
Firstly, the white dragon reached for his mate, and gave her the best embrace he could while flying. Do I remember what I asked of you, after our hearts became one? Saphira nodded. I will have to ask for your faith sooner than I intended.
I'm not going anywhere, stone-head. She butted her head fondly against him. And neither is my faith.
Neither are we! Caradoc interjected, with his twin adding, You're our King, remember? We'd stand by you through the end of the world!
Eragon turned to Elva next. Except for the fierce violet eyes and silver mark upon her brow, she was impossible to recognize as the sallow, sickly little girl she had been. Eragon's magic had set her free and restored to her the body she'd had mere moments before her death. He might have been unable to restore Elvana, or her murdered mate and children, but he had returned her wings and fire to her. For that, Elva would be forever grateful.
No matter what happens, Elva Safirisdaughter, remember what I did for you that night. Remember what you were before. No matter what happens, remember the impulsive little boy who so foolishly cursed you, who killed Elvana, is dead and gone. He was burned away in dragon-fire.
Elva choked back a sob. Even though she had been lovingly raised by Eridor and Safiri as one of their own, that had not stopped her surrogate clan from forever reminding her of her outsider heritage, that she did not have the six horns of a royal dragon because she was not truly one of them.
Why? she asked.
Because, even though we've all moved on from him, the rest of the world isn't quite so ready to let Eragon Shadeslayer go yet.
Officially, Galbatorix had recalled every last one of his regiments back to the Imperial heartlands. The King no longer believed the outer reaches of his Empire to be salvageable, was not prepared to sacrifice precious troops in ill-fated battles against the rebels, and so wanted them were their numbers would be most needed: guarding Urubaen and the surrounding territories.
Officially, Wilhelm Henricksson and his men had been supposed to join them, to leave their homes and families behind for the rebel barbarians to savage.
Wilhelm had politely declined the order, then ran his sword through the pompous son of a bitch that had tried arresting him for treason. He and the rest of his 'deserters' had been allowed to stay while their cowardly comrades had ran with their tails between their legs.
Pah! Wilhelm spat. As if all is lost here because of a stalemate and one minor loss on the Burning Plains, or one city besieged.
Wilhelm and his men may have been outnumbered, but they knew the region, how to hide and forage off the land until the time was ripe to strike back. No matter how the Varden trumpeted that it had 'liberated' them all from the Empire, most people were still loyal Imperial citizens and were a valuable resource for learning what was happening within Aroughs.
Wilhelm had no idea where in the hell the dragons had went, but all four of them had been gone for days, and were unlikely to return anytime soon. Eragon Shadeslayer had vanished off the face of the earth. Rumors couldn't agree on whether he was off in a top secret assignment or dead, but with that other Rider and dragon far to the north, the biggest threat left in Aroughs were the elves.
We know the city and we have the element of surprise on our side. We'll slit their throats before they're even out of bed, and my girls can safe soundly again.
He couldn't help but wince at the thought of his own wife and daughters, relatively safe and sound on a humble estate far from the fighting. There were women and children in Aroughs kept as hostages. Try as Wilhelm might to prevent it, undoubtedly some would be killed or injured, innocent blood spilled alongside the rebel filth that needed to be purged from the city.
The self-made general winced as his headache returned in full force. Whether it was the ungodly hour or thought of the looming bloodbath that pained him, he had no idea, but there was time yet before they moved. Plenty of time to rest, reflect, and pray to the gods for-
Wilhelm had no sooner entered his tent (a luxury afforded only by his high station) when a blade's cold tip pressed against his throat. A foreign mind smothered his own, muffling whatever mental cries for help he tried making to the loyal magicians.
Gods damn the Black Hand for retreating with the rest. The magicians left were too inept to sniff out even this shitty assassin!
The assassin before him hadn't even bothered disguising his conspicuous appearance. Certainly any soldier should have noticed the pointy-eared, white-haired, fierce-faced elf that had been in their midst.
"Well?" Wilhelm hissed. "Get on with it!"
The elf's eyes narrowed. His burning blue eyes cut through the darkness and their pupils were unnervingly slitted like a snake's.
"I did not come to kill you." He spoke in the ancient language Wilhelm had been forced to learn, and his words were undoubtedly the truth.
The self-made general narrowed his eyes suspiciously, for the sword pressed to his throat was his own, the spare he had left in his tent. Examining the fierce-eyed elf more closely, Wilhelm noticed that the clothes he was wearing, from the cloak down the ill-fitting tunic and breeches, were also his.
"...Did you walk through camp and into my tent naked? What exactly do you want from me?"
Even in the darkness, Wilhelm could tell the elf winced in embarrassment, muttering about how it had been too much to ask his magic for pants on top of everything else.
Wilhelm felt a smirk crawling across his face, but then the blade dug just deep enough into his throat to draw blood. The elf's eyes were inhuman, and they stared at him as if gazing into his very soul. Wilhelm had faced such eyes only on his King, and so froze instinctively, for Galbatorix had not hesitated to strike down those with treacherous thoughts.
"I came to ask for your surrender, for I shall only give this warning once."
Wilhelm laughed. "Slit my throat, and my men shall upon you like hounds to the kill. Even if you have us surrounded, elf, we shall go down fighting and drag as many of you with us as we can." Surreptitiously he edged for the hilt of his own sword. Perhaps he could stick it into the elf's gut before he bled to death.
He froze in dread as the elf exposed the silvery gedwey ignasia upon his palm. "Your men may be valiant, but they shall not stand a chance against five dragons. They circle above you even now and are prepared to burn everything on my command. It would be a massacre."
Wilhelm frowned in contemplation. There had been no signs of the Rider with the golden dragon moving so far south, and no rumors of a third Rider declaring for the rebels. He had also personally seen Eragon Shadeslayer during the first Battle of the Burning Plains, had thought him foolish for fighting so long on foot when he had entered the fray with the advantage of a dragon to ride upon. That brown-haired boy warrior barely resembled the fierce-eyed elf yet before him, and yet...
"You wouldn't happen to be Eragon Shadeslayer, would you?"
"I no longer think of myself as that," the white-haired man said honestly, "but many still do."
"Should I surrender, what will happen to my men, to our families? Mad as Galbatorix has become, he is a known evil. He has taught us, his loyal subjects, to despise all who are not."
"The Varden and I intend to overthrow Galbatorix permanently, and to free the world of his tyranny. So long as you accept defeat gracefully, the Varden will no longer trouble you. Return home to your family, General Wilhelm Henricksson, and protect them from whatever evils you fear. But you and your men do no one good by throwing away your lives here tonight."
He would have loved to accept that offer, but Wilhelm knew his men had suffered much, and many would not back down so willingly. He told Eragon Shadeslayer as such.
"Your underestimate the faith they put in your word. Should they hear this truth from you, they will listen. One does not need to fully know the ancient language to understand the truth behind it."
With Shadeslayer's help, Wilhelm had his thoughts broadcasted throughout the entire camp. Although many of his men initially felt panic, rage, and a burning desire for vengeance, several moments of careful reflection allowed common sense and a longing to return home to overpower foolish pride. Wilhelm suspected the Rider or his dragons may have been behind the peace that fell over camp, for he felt oddly calm for a man still facing a potential fiery death from above.
After an eternity, Eragon Shadeslayer nodded in satisfaction and exited the tent with Wilhelm at his side. The white-haired man moved awkwardly, as if his skin didn't quite fit him right, but no amount of clumsiness could bow the regal tilt of his head or dampen the respect his presence commanded.
Wilhelm's men parted like water to let them through. Like Shadeslayer, they still had swords and other weapons tucked into their belts, but none looked ready to invite further hostility. Even when the magnificent sapphire dragon swooped out of the darkness to land at the edge of camp, many people tensed, but did not draw their weapons.
With some difficulty, Eragon clambered onto the dragon's back. Once its Rider was mounted, the dragon unfurled its wings and vanished into the night.
Wilhelm waited a few minutes to see if fire would still rain down from above, but the Shadeslayer kept his promise, and the night remained silent.
The self-made general gave his men their leave, thanked them for their service, and then without even bothering to collect his remaining belongings, readied his horse himself and rode for home. Slowly, but steadily, others followed his lead until not a soul remained. They dispersed in all different directions, either returning to their families or heading north to join their comrades at Urubaen.
Seeing not a single soul suicidal enough to approach Aroughs, Eragon gave the signal, and his clan finally abandoned camp too.
Despite the ungodly hour, many rebels abandoned their beds to welcome their dragons back with full applause, for all felt safer with winged, fire-breathing alongside them. While Saphira and her 'sons' were eagerly received, confused murmurings started over the white-haired stranger upon her back, the unknown violet dragon with them, and Majesty's suspicious absence.
Their welcome became far more cordial when the stranger revealed that he was indeed Eragon Shadeslayer, having at long last returned from a 'pilgrimage.' His white hair and blazing eyes were but signs of his 'spiritual cleansing and rebirth' and not cause for alarm. While Majesty had business to attend to elsewhere, he had sent one of his 'loyal subjects' as a sign of good faith and to ensure the Varden still had two adult dragons to aid them in the march north.
Away from prying eyes, Eragon was more honest with those who knew his secret. He was King of the wild dragons in truth now, but the world still had need of Eragon Shadeslayer the Dragon Rider, and the full power of the King's Wrath was a surprise best saved for a more desperate hour.
Arya, whose own sister had suffered a terrible fate at trying to change her fate, wondered how Eragon and Elva could have so easily changed their shapes, when it had been beyond the ability of the best elven casters.
Eragon had answered her honestly. "Dragon magic isn't like the magic tamed by the human language. Even I can't control it fully, only tell it what I would wish for it to do." He waved a hand at his own imperfect guise. "It would have been easier to assume an appearance completely like my old self, but this was the best I could manage. Beneath her skin, Elva was always a dragon. My magic didn't change her nature, but freed it."
"And you were born human, Master Eragon." So entranced by the complexity of his disguise, Blodgharm had been unable to tear his eyes away from him the entire night. "Wouldn't this be the face of your true nature?"
"My transformation at Helgrind changed me from the inside out. I haven't been human since very early on." From a human face, dragon eyes steadily met those of his audience. "This skin is no truer than Elva's was. When the time comes, I will shed it for good, and I will no longer be Majesty and Eragon Shadeslayer, but simply who I am."
Lady Nasuada dipped her head in silent acknowledgement of his wishes. Since his coronation as a King, Eragon was no longer her vassal, but an equal she had no right to order around. "If you wish for your secret to remain so, I suggest ordering Elva to temporary take a pseudonym. With the dissappearance of her human self, it would not take long for connections to be made between Elva the girl and the dragon who also shares her name."
"I have already told everyone wild dragons don't put much stock in names." As dragons had only gained traditional names after the first Blood-Oath Ceremony, that hadn't technically been a complete lie. "Should she wish, Elva can choose a new name to go by, or even none at all."
"Violet!" Angela cried with a delighted smile. "Until the truth can come out, I shall call her Violet." Solembum rolled his eyes in exasperation, but Eragon had seen to be much to be phased by a witch's antics.
"I assume she'll take your original place in the battle for Feinster then?" Arya asked.
Eragon nodded, a draconic smirk spreading across his face. "Master Oromis's forces plan to seize the most important settlements on Lake Isenstar's northern shores before marching to Gi'lead. With a Rider and two dragons, I'd like to think we could take our next major city first."
Within a week's time, the last preparations had been made, and the forces that hadn't left behind to garrison Aroughs were sailing up the coast to Feinster. With Feinster built on the water, and the massive swamp north of Aroughs to slow down any force that tried marching through, utilizing Surdan and captured Imperial ships to transport the troops had seemed the fastest option.
Despite the fleet at Aroughs having been thoroughly destroyed, there were sizable fleets at Kuasta and Narda, and an even one larger one stationed at Teirm, For all the Varden knew, those ships could now have been docked at Feinster and teeming with soldiers, or just waiting for them to leave Aroughs ripe for recapture.
Acting on a hunch that could have been another half-remembered vision, Eragon and Saphira had flown out to the mouth of Aroughs's harbor, where a familiar face was waiting for them.
What are YOU doing here, water worm?
Thalassa's head barely broke the water's surface, but her emerald eyes glittered menacingly. Coming to speak to you on Mother's behalf, obviously. Our ancestors are more forthcoming to us than your silent stars, and Mother was instructed to send a representative here to negotiate with you damned fire-breathers.
Aye, but why YOU, of all possible serpents?
Because Prasavitri has a sick sense of humor, Eridor interjected privately, having finally awoken from yet another long sleeping spell. It's been centuries since the Riders allowed the sea serpents to hunt in coastal waters, where some of the best hunting grounds are, and not since humans were added to the pact where they allowed to prey upon ships. The water worms would be a great ally to defend our waters, but tread carefully.
"All human settlements are off-limits," Eragon stated, tone leaving no room for debate. "Rebel and Imperial settlements. You will not enter their rivers and lakes or harbors. Should a small fishing or merchant vessel be within sight of shore, you can't touch them." His burning blue eyes bore into Thalassa's. "I also know even a serpent your age is intelligent enough to know the difference between a civilian craft and an enemy warship."
Thalassa hissed eagerly. And those ships who can't see the shore.
Eragon swallowed hard. Try as the Riders had to police the waters, not even they had been able to stop the older, more brazen sea serpents from preying on ships that had foolishly strayed too far from land. The sea was vast, and not even a Rider could find a sea serpent that didn't want to be found.
"My domain is upon the land. I cannot speak for those who would leave it." He ominously bared teeth too sharp to be human. "But, for the duration of this war, you shall touch no ship with a painted bottom, for they are my people."
The sea serpent remained silent, weighing the strength behind his words. While the dragons had been practically persecuted to extinction, Prasavitri's children had thrived over the past century. Counting all extant dragons (including treacherous murderers), they numbered but ten, not even a fraction of those nesting beneath Vroengard.
"My kind lives long, and we have an even longer memory. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Should your Mother and your siblings break my terms, I shall turn my Wrath upon Vroengard until your magic can never take root there again."
Even Prasavitri respected vows made in the ancient language. No doubt on her Mother's cue, Thalassa accepted his terms with bared fangs, and vanished beneath the waves.
"I have a feeling this will eventually come back to haunt me," he said grimly, running a hand over Saphira's scales.
If dragons are fire, sea serpents are water and ice, Eridor intoned grimly. Should our kind's numbers flourish again, so shall the conflict. But Prasavitri remembers a time before the peace forced upon her kind, and she longs for her children to hone themselves again in battle. For now, she'll behave, and no Imperial fleet can dare leave their harbor without fearing for hungry sea serpents.
With the bottom of every rebel ship brightly painted, Nasuada and her generals were able to lead their men right next to Feinster entirely unmolested. Any Imperial warship that tried sailing out of the harbor to meet them was dragged beneath the waves by the coils of a massive sea serpent. As the rebel fleet had dragons wheeling watchfully above them like overgrown seagulls, surely any soul looking out from Feinster would be quaking in their boots.
While her forces were unloading and readying themselves, Nasuada and Orrin both had sent numerous emissaries to Feinster with generous terms for surrender, making it no secret Eragon Shadeslayer had returned to them.
The Imperial forces gathered at Feinster were larger and more organized than those stationed at Aroughs. Whoever was in charge was also far more stubborn than any commander at Aroughs, for every emissary sent had been spitefully rebuffed.
Young as they were, Trinnean and Caradoc were ordered to remain with the ships. A proud wild dragon to the end, Elva had defiantly refused any armor or wards, only grudgingly taking some protective enchantments after Eridor gruffly said he would see no more of his children dead.
Having grown use to the speed and agility fighting without armor provided her, Saphira also only accepted wards. Although Eragon was astride her, they had both refused the saddle. Eragon's skin was deceptively tough, more so than human flesh should have been, and so the saddle would serve only to slow Saphira down. Out of the kinship Eragon felt to Orik, who had adopted him into his clan, he wore the armor that had been gifted to him at the Battle of Farthen Dur. The sword he wielded was no Zar'roc, but human weapons would soon be obsolete to him forever anyway.
Unlike during the first Battle of the Burning Plains, Eragon and Saphira remained airborne at the head of the army. Blodgharm and his elves would surely flush out whatever enemy magicians remained in Feinster, leaving a Rider and dragon far more useful from above.
Having anticipated dragons this time, Feinster had clobbered together several massive crossbows that could theoretically shoot one out of the sky. But the weapons were large, inaccurate, required a massive team of men to load and shoot off bolts any dragon could easily dodge. Saphira and Elva worried far more about the archers aiming at their eyes and wings and the pike-men that tried impaling them whenever they swooped down to exhale fire.
Saphira, her magic strengthened by her bond to Eragon, had no need to dive so dangerously low. Her soul truly in tune with her mate's, her flames had greatly enhanced power and range. While the ground forces engaged the Imperials on the frontlines, she and Elva devastated them from the rear, taking out rows of archers and reinforcements.
Not long into the battle, Arya and Blodgharm had managed to breach the city walls in their hunt for rival magicians. Realizing the day all but lost, the more desperate Imperial spell-casters had banded together, sacrificing their lives to summon a new Shade into the world.
Feinster's last hope did not survive even a minute against two of Islanzadi's most powerful warriors.
Once the last traces of resistance were mopped up, and the formal terms of surrender exchanged between sides, Eragon and the she-dragons had eagerly retreated to the abandoned farm on the edge of the city that Trinnean and Caradoc had claimed for the night.
Neither one can quite agree on who actually disposed of the Shade, so now they're both stuck with the title 'Shadeslayer'. Elva chuckled. I wonder how long their pride can stand it.
Caradoc cocked his head in confusion. Isn't 'Shadeslayer' what the humans call you though, Uncle Eragon? What right do Lady Arya and the cat-elf have to it?
With Elva now too large for the position, Eragon had taken her prior spot between the younglings, one hand each dedicated to scratching their budding third pairs of horns for them. Aside from breaches for modesty's sake, he was unclothed. After his time as a dragon (and still being one beneath his human guise), clothes felt too constricting, an evil to be dealt with only when necessary.
"I only managed to kill Durza because Saphira and Arya provided me the distraction to do so," he admitted easily. "It is a title I never thought I deserved, so I'm happy others are beginning to be associated with it."
What do they call you, Father? Trinnean piped up.
The Order referred to me as Eridor Bluefire, for the heat of my flames, but that's hardly a unique title. All Kings and Queens wield the Wrath, and I certainly wasn't the fire to breathe blue fire. After a moment's hesitation, he added, I was very young when I defeated my father, less than fifteen. When I died, I was only in my thirties. Do you remember how big Master Glaedr was, my sons? Most clan-leaders were around his size, if not bigger. Vanilor was an old and mighty King, and then suddenly they all had to answer to me, his runt of a son. If they were polite, I was called Young King, or Little King. If they weren't, I was Runt King.
Caradoc turned innocently to Eragon. What will they call you, uncle?
He frowned grimly, remembering how scornfully many of the dragon souls had looked down upon him. Did they already call him Abomination or Aiedail's Folly?
Saphira looked to her mate thoughtfully. Your first spell was 'brisingr' was it not, dear one? At his nod, she exchanged a meaningful glance with Elva. And your first act as a dragon was to burn the Lethrblaka and their spawn to cinders.
Fireborn, Elva murmured. They shall call your uncle Fireborn.
Feinster had fallen. It was the third major city lost to him after Aroughs and Ceunon, along with many other minor towns and villages too unimportant to deserve a place in his official maps. With elven forces steadily marching along Lake Isenstar's shores, it would not be long until Gil'ead joined the list. What city would be next in the south? Melian? Dras-Leona?
Despite the gradual loss of loyal settlements, it was the reports of the previously unknown violet she-dragon at Feinster that had sent his generals into conniptions. Just how many wild dragons answered to Majesty? Just how big was the army he was surely amassing, and where would they strike first?
Galbatorix's frowned deepened as his black eyes shifted westward. Prasavitri was a vengeful old bitch who had passively sat and watched as the Forsworn had razed Doru Araeba to to the ground. Once the Riders were dead and gone, she and her children had viciously turned on Galbatorix's forces, claiming Vroengard entirely for themselves. With the seat of his power to be located on the continent itself, Galbatorix had not seen the need to waste precious resources reclaiming a burned husk of an island from water worms.
And now Prasavitri's children had his fleets at their nonexistent mercy. Any warship that tried leaving a harbor found itself dragged beneath the waves by a ravenous sea serpent. Narda and Kuasta had been boiling with unrest since news had first spread of the elves emerging from their forest sanctuary. With Imperial forces largely recalled to the Empire's heart, and its navy trapped or decimated, full-blown rebellion had exploded throughout the Spine. Even Teirm, locked down as it was, was becoming dangerously unpredictable.
"I would have been fine with it all burning," Galbatorix grumbled to Shruikan's puppet of a body. The beast's dead white eyes blinked listlessly back at him. "In the long run, it would have made everything easier. But that runt's allied with water worms, Shruikan, and he's resurrecting abominations just like himself." His black eyes burned, and Shruikan's body rumbled with his hatred. (and I can't abide by that)
Resurrecting the she-dragon from the whore might have been a failure overall, but her body had been flawless. If only he could give the dragon soul a better reason to stay put...
"Leverage, Shruikan! I need leverage." His face nearly cracked with the grin that crawled across it.
A dozen levels above his head, he had some sulking right in the dragon-hold.
"I believe I have put off a family reunion far too long. It wouldn't be kind of me to keep them apart any longer."
Summoning a page, he ordered that the magician Darnell be brought to his chambers for his long-deserved reward (because he would be the means to an end.)
Next chapter: The rebellion's good luck runs out... and it runs out hard.
1. Some of the details may be a bit hazy to him, but Eragon's got a master plan and he's sticking to it, dammit. All I can say is the world needs Eragon Shadeslayer for a little longer and the precedents he's setting will go a long way toward a lasting peace in Alagaesia. How could he pull off a 'transformation' the elves couldn't? Totally different magic systems, for one thing. Secondly, the elves were trying to make permanently elves into full-blown dragons from the inside out. Eragon is a dragon who just so happened to need a more-or-less human disguise for the time being.
2. Galbatorix may be a total shithead, but more than 90 percent of the people under him are just normal people that want to protect their homes and families. Wilhelm and his men were smart enough to surrender while they could, but the people in charge at Feinster saw themselves as facing an unspeakable evil, and were too stubborn to go down without a fight.
3. Honestly, how many of you expected more-or-less human Eragon to make a (temporary) return? Or Darnell? You know, the Black Hand that Jarshan reached out to? The one who unwittingly condemned Jarsha to a fate worse than death?