What is this madness? An update? Unheard of! I changed the beginning a little bit but not too terribly much (: Enjoy!
Once Eragon and Arya had returned to their house, Eragon found that he simply couldn't sleep. No words were passed between he and Arya, because neither of them really had anything to say. They expressed their hope and love and joy through the smiles that refused to leave their faces. Sometime before the sun rose, Eragon found himself in his elven sleep state, and while his visions were not bad they were... interesting. They seemed to stick in his mind, cling on like burrs. He remembered, vividly, sitting in front of a fire. It was warm and hot, it charred his skin but he did not move. They fire made him happy, elated even, though he could not for the life of him say why.
The flames were red and orange and yellow, but sometimes he would catch glimpses, as if in his peripheral vision, or green or purple or blue flames, as if the flames were made of magic. At this dim realization, the flames pulsed. They began to grow and roll and tumble. It was as if they had gained a consciousness, and were alive. What could it mean? Eragon pondered over this as the flames slowly rolled over and consumed him. Where the ball of flame rolled, a lightly illuminated patch of air, like an aura, lingered. The aura would dissipate in time, but for minutes, it would linger. Why was the fire leaving tracks, Eragon wondered. Why was this vision so clear to him? It was not the hazy half-awake state he was used to. It was... different. In time he tired of the quandary, resolving to give it more thought later, and opened his eyes.
He rolled out of bed to greet the morning, moving with lithe grace so as not to disturb Arya. It was no use, of course, and she awoke as his warmth left her side. Sitting up and rubbing her eyes, she asked, "What time is it?"
"Just after dawn. The suns been up for nearly forty minutes."
"I see." She said. Eragon walked over to the closet where his and Arya's clothes were stored, grabbed a blue tunic and dark brown pants, then was off to the bathroom to dress, wash, and shave. Returning after his morning routine he found Arya perched at the kitchen table with two plates laden with cheeses, fruits, and crisp vegetables. She looked up and beamed at him as he walked in, and while the unusual display of blatant happiness caught him off guard, in was infectious indeed and he could not help but smile back. As he reached for a ripe plum, he could not draw his eyes away from her. Arya's hair was still mussed from sleep, her clothes just slightly wrinkled, and her cheeks blotted with the first exertions in a few hours of inactivity. This raw state had him transfixed.
"What are you staring at?" She asked in a quiet, some what self-conscious voice. A nervous half smile graced her features, only enhancing their delicate balance.
"You are beautiful." Eragon murmured.
Arya's cheeks flared red and she ducked her head, flustered and looking to her hair to cover her expression. Eragon chortled and rose, making sure to scrape his chair across the floor as he moved, so she would expect his gentle touch on her back. He leaned down and rested his chin on her shoulder, tucking his nose into the crook of her neck, and breathed in deep. Her crushed pine scent was as intoxicating as it had been the first time he had met her, if not more so.
"Why does that embarrass you?" He asked.
"It just... does." She answered lamely.
"Well," Eragon said, rising. "Time will fix that. Should we go meet the others?"
Arya just grinned and nodded, heading for the closet and her turn in the wash room.
When both were prepared to greet the day, Eragon opened the front door and bowed generously, gesturing for Arya exit. She laughed and as she passed Eragon said, "M'lady." The streets were not yet bustling, but they were not vacant even though the sun was just barely glimpsing over the horizon, and no where near breaching the city walls. The air was chilly and hung with mist, but Eragon was not concerned with the cold. It occurred to him to tell Arya about his dream. After he finished explaining he looked to her for some hope of an explanation.
She simply shrugged. "I am not sure what it could mean, but you said it felt odd?"
"Very much so."
"Well then do not discard it, but do not let it consume you. If it was truly a portent or sign, the meaning will be made clear eventually." She tucked her hands into her trouser pockets and as a light wind swirled her raven locks out behind her, Eragon could do nothing but nod and smile in agreement. After all, who was he to argue with such a siren? The guard at the front gates bowed low to them as they passed, while the two elves bid them good morning and a fair watch. The forest was already buzzing with activity, so much so that the city seemed vacant and desolate in comparison. Eragon sensed that the creatures knew of the birth of new dragons, as even the earth itself felt to be celebrating. As they neared the clearing, Eragon could not help but break into a jog. He slowed only when he cleared the brush surrounding the new den, as he did not want to startle the new hatchlings.
What he saw pleased him greatly. Saphira and Shrrg lay close together, gentle sentinels over their rambunctious chicks whole rolled about in the dirt before him. Even under the generous coating of dust, their scale shore vigorously. Saphira looked up as Eragon brushed her mind with his, and snorted in a pleased way. Shrrg did the same upon seeing Arya, and he walked over to greet them. He bumped Arya's chest with his snout in greeting, and nodded to Eragon in a more dignified manor. Though Tetkalish and Balae continued to wrestle, and Eragon meant to watch their progress, he was distracted by Saphira. She rose and walked up to him with an oddly springy gait, as if was only through sheer will power that she did not charge him with puppy-like abandon.
What happened? Eragon asked, wondering what had brought on this sudden mood.
We leave for the Hadarac Desert tonight. She said, matter-of-factly.
What? But Tetkalish and Balae... Weren't you going to wait until they could fly on their own? Eragon was not arguing against going to the Hadarac desert, he too was eager to leave, but he didn't want Saphira to rush anything if it might be detrimental to the hatchlings.
Look, Eragon. See them. He did as she asked, and as they broke apart from their scuffle, he saw what she meant. As they became less of a tangle of limbs and tails and wings, and more of two distinct creatures, he saw that they had grown exponentially over night. Tetkalish was somewhat bigger than his sister, but not by much. Both of them had increased buy at least a third of their earlier size, in just a few hours.
How? What happened?
We are not sure. What we can assume though, is that somehow Shrrg's growth rate was passed on, as if the magic had imprinted them as well.
Eragon was not sure if that made sense, but he wasn't in much of a state to consider the specifics. Could magic even do that, he wondered? Leave an imprint strong enough to pass from father to children? Of course it could, he realized, the same thing happened with human magic users. The gift was passed from parents to children, on down through the line. But a specific gift? He knew that some children receive their father's hair or mother's eyes, but was this the same?
He looked over and Arya's semi-glazed look told him that she too was conversing with Shrrg. Her expression cleared and she turned to him. "What do you make of this?" She asked, her voice containing the same sense of wonderment that he felt.
"Perhaps it was simply passed down, like the magical gift is passed in humans, or even just a trait, like eyes or hair. I'm not sure we can know for sure, but why look a gift horse in the mouth, eh?"
Arya nodded. "I thought the same things myself. But then why have Alfakyn and Kestryl progressed at a normal rate?"
Eragon considered it, but could find no win-all reason. Instead he could only proffer "Perhaps it skipped them? Or it has something to do with their rider bonds?"
Arya nodded slowly, then a strange expression came over her. "So when are you and Saphira leaving?" Her voice gained a hard, yet hollow edge to it, and Eragon knew she was trying to cover up her sadness at the prospect of them leaving. Eragon felt himself soften.
"Arya, you can come-" He started to speak, but she cut him off.
"No, I cannot, and you well know it. You are going to unlock secrets, and practice dangerous magic. It is no place for me, I'd only get in the way."
Again, she spoke over him. "Yes it is, and you know it. Plus, you really trust Roran and Katrina here by themselves?" She added with a half smirk.
Eragon blinked, derailed. "No, I suppose not."
"Well there, then. When do you leave?"
"Tonight." He answered quietly.
Arya closed her eyes for a long while, then opened them with a large, bright, fake smile playing on her lips. "Well, why don't we go find your cousin, and give him the great news." Her voice was too cheery.
Eragon smiled sadly, lay a hand on her shoulder, and bid adieu to his dragon. He promised her to return soon with Roran and Katrina, and their other children. Back in the Varden's camp, they spotted Roran, Katrina, and Angela clustered around his cousin's tent. Roran watched pensively from the sidelines as Angela slowly moved through the motions of a complex exercise with wooden staves.
"Then block, block, parry, lunge. Got it?" She asked.
Katrina nodded, a hard and determined look in her eyes. Angela struck forward and they began whirling throughout their allotted camp site, back and forth and back again, swinging the wooden staves ferociously at one another. Roran paled while two dogs, one russet and the other snowy white, poked their heads from the tent flaps. Eragon blinked in surprise, but when the two 'dogs' chirped in excitement, his muddled state was mollified and clarity came into being. Angela had disguised the hatchlings as scruffy dogs. As the two senior riders approached, Angela and Katrina called a stop to their play fight, and Roran let out a long and relieved breath.
"Good timing cousin." Roran said, standing to greet and grasp Eragon's forearm.
"Oh, don't be such and milkmaid, Stronghammer." Angela said with a contemptuous flick of her hair. "A few bruises never killed anyone, or would you rather your wife be called into battle with no training what-so-ever, eh?"
Roran grimaced, but offered no reply. Instead, he turned to Eragon. "What brings you here so early? The sun is not up for another twenty minutes or so."
We have something to show you, and important news."
"That is rarely a good combination." Katrina said, dabbing sweat from her brow.
"Yet perhaps you should think differently in the present situation." Eragon turned and beckoned them to follow. Angela turned to walk away but Eragon called out, "No, you too. This involves all of us."
Angela merely raised her eyebrows, but fell in line behind the riders. When they had left the city walls, the charm over the two youngest dragons fell away and their shining red and white scales emerged in full glory. As they returned to the nest, Eragon was quick to introduce his awestruck family, and a quietly impressed Angela, to Tetkalish and Balae who were still wary of human contact. Roran and Katrina looked crestfallen, but Eragon quickly explained how these two hatchlings were wild dragons, and were not supposed to see humans as their partners, but equals and sometimes rivals. On that cheery note, he moved into the equally lovely topic of his impending departure.
"Which is where you, Angela, come in. Would you be able to assist Arya in their training while I am away?"
"What would you have me do?" She asked, skeptical but not unwilling.
"Polish them off. No magic or flying, none of that yet, but I want them to become impeccable fighters, with swords, axes, hands and feet, sticks and stones. I want to be able to take them out of the city when I come back."
Angela was nodding slowly, but Eragon was not finished.
"Also..." He hesitated. "I have always had the sneaking suspicion that you know more than the average person, the average witch, perhaps anyone else on the face of the world. However, your disclosure is your business and yours alone. However, if there is anything you think might behoove these two to know, anything you'd be willing to share, well..." He dropped off.
"What sorts of things do you have in mind?" Her eyes narrowed.
Eragon had the feeling that he was crossing a very distinct line, and he hurried to bound back over it. "Nothing monumental, nothing like that at all. Like I said, I respect your secrets. But perhaps remedies, or techniques for strengthening their minds, even legends or histories we don't know. All knowledge is powerful." He said, with a quivering note of finality.
The witches silence was uncomfortable and long, but she finally quipped, "Fine. But only because you entertain me so." And with that, she whirled off and literally vanished between the trees before Eragon could thank her.
Eragon let out a large breath he didn't know he had been holding and sagged in relief. He wasn't sure where the sudden instinct had come from, but he made the mental note to never ask Angela about her past or the sources of her knowledge, as they were clearly things she would not share. He shook his head to clear it before turning back to the others.
"Which leaves us with you two. When I return, we will begin training with magic. That means you much build up your strength, and begin meditating. That's what I will teach you this afternoon, and Arya... I am pleased to say that you have far exceeded expectations. You have aced your training, and I think Brom and Oromis and all our masters before us would be pleased to Welcome you and Shrrg as full members of our order."
Arya beamed and Eragon twisted his fingers over is sternum, and gave her the traditional elven blessing, which she repeated to him in turn. Roran and Katrina preferred the gesture as well and Eragon was pleased to see that they were learning not only skills, but manners as well. Turning lastly to Saphira, Eragon said, "I will come for you as soon as the sun sets."
It will be good to fly with you again, and feel the wind under my wings. She said in a kind voice.
Eragon could not agree more. "Kestryl and Alfakyn will stay here today, and learn dragon lore from their parents, and spend time with their siblings." Roran and Katrina smiled, and nodded a bit.
The day flew by, filled with a flurry of packing and hurried explanations. At least, with sunset not even an hour off. The four of them came to Nasuada's pavilion. "Enter," came her voice.
The six of them did as she said and Eragon spoke. "Saphira and I need to leave for an indefinite period of time, and we're not sure quite what we're doing, or how much danger we'll be in. Probably a lot."
Arya turned to him, lips pursed with laughter and the horrified expression on Nasuada's face. "You could have phrased that better."
"What?" Nasuada asked, her voice sharp.
"Were going to get to the bottom of our transformation, which we all agree is long overdue."
"But what of the training-"
Eragon cut her off. "Arya has been welcome as a full Rider, just as skilled as I am. She will replace me for this time, and Angela has agreed to complete the rudimentary training of Roran and Katrina. When I return, we will begin to teach them magic. Then, we will attack the King."
Nasuada was subdued by this last statement. It was quiet for a long moment, but then she asked, "And we shall win?"
"Yes." And for some reason, Eragon truly believed his words.
"Very well. Go. Now. The quicker you leave the quicker this wretched war ends." Her voice was bitter, and Eragon bowed quickly before she changed her mind.
"Thank you." Eragon turned to leave, but Nasuada cleared her throat.
"Now you say that Arya is a fully appreciated member of the Riders?
Eragon turned back, apprehensive. "Yes, she is."
"Will she be swearing herself to the Varden?" Nasuada asked, her voice quiet, yet important.
"Nasuada, I am already sworn to-"
"You were our egg courier, and you fulfilled that job. I believe that being a Rider comes first, however if you would, like Eragon, swear fidelity it would put my mind very much at ease."
Arya looked to Eragon, and he realized that as the leader of the order, her order, it was very much his decision. He bowed his head, and thought hard and fast. "No, she will not. Only because I do not know what will come to us in the future, and when we stage an attack on Galbatorix, she will be by my side. I need to be sure that if I give an order she will follow it, and not be barred by other circumstance. We will of course still work to your benefit, but in the future, if you have a mission for us, perhaps give it to me and I will relay it." Eragon chose his words carefully for while he was in Nasuada's service, he also held a large amount of power, and they both knew it.
Nasuada looked at her desk, then finally nodded, but didn't speak. Eragon took this as a dismissal, bowed again, and quickly ushered their group outside. Once they were beyond their leaders hearing range, Roran said, "Well, that was painful."
"No doubt about it, cousin." Eragon said.
"Eragon, what part will we play in the downfall of the King?" Katrina asked quietly.
"Arya and I will fight Galbatorix, you two will defend the Varden if you are capable, which, by that point, I am certain you will be." He sent a good humored smile towards their wary countenances. "Now," Eragon said, "Follow me and we will meditate."
Once again, they were off into the forest. When this is done, we're going to Ellesmera. There the cities and quiet places are the same place. This is too much hassle. He ranged out with his mind and absorbed all his surroundings at once. Birds twittered in the branches of mighty oaks, while squirrels and even a fox rustled about the undergrowth. The earth seemed to pulse; it just felt alive.
"Here is good." Eragon extended the hand bearing the Gedway Ignasia before him, palm down, and pulled rock up from the ground. He made four broad flat stones, smooth as if weather worn, in a diamond-like shape. He walked to the leading stone, raised slightly higher than the others, and sat. His legs crossed, hands on his knees, and waited for the others to mimic him. As they did, he considered what he would say.
"Meditation," he began, "is more than finding calm. It is more than finding reason, and it is more than simply sitting on rocks." He sent the last pointed bit at Roran's skeptical face, who looked uncertain, is if Eragon had finally rolled off the deep end. "Meditation is understanding, and understanding is everything. As Rider's it is our duty not only to be able react to situations and crisis, but understand them and their nature down to the mere fiber of their existence, and for that we need a clear mind, and lots of training.
"Now Arya, I know that you have already reached this point of meditation, so I will have a separate task for you. But Roran, Katrina, I want you to close your eyes and open your mind. I know that Angela has worked with both of you in contacting your dragons and feeling the forests with your minds. Now I want you to use those skills to feel, and understand, the entire forest. For now, we will focus on this clearing. Begin." He watched them close their eyes and his memory pulled him back to when Oromis had first introduced these lessons to him. Eragon had gotten so frustrated and angry, only later to understand his mistakes. Even to this day he held those moments close to his heart, and was excited to see his cousin and cousin-in-law experience those moments as well.
Turning to Arya he said, "Please come with me." She did as he bid and followed him a ways away.
"What is it you would have me do? I thought you said my training was complete?" She sounded perplexed, but not unwilling.
Eragon laughed. "As a Rider, your training is never complete. You have graduated your formal training, but you will never stop learning. Trust me."
She smiled and nodded, still waiting for his instructions.
"In reality, I don't have anything planned for you today. I wanted to spend the afternoon with you before Saphira and I left." He grinned as Arya broke out into a blushing smile.
"That is very sweet of you." She murmured, stepping into his open arms and meeting his mouth with hers. It was not until the sun had reached it's daily height that Eragon pulled back and said "We should go check on Roran and Katrina."
Arya sighed. "I suppose." Eragon could not help but laugh at the disappointment on her face.
As they came back to the clearing, he saw that Roran and Katrina had not moved a bit, though the difference between them was phenomenal. Katrina sat stock still, her breathing deep and even, her poise alert but at the same time relaxed, where as Roran's face was screwed into a disgruntled sneer and sweat gleamed on his brow. As Arya and Eragon walked into the range of their outward meditation, both Roran and Katrina opened their eyes, having sensed them. Katrina looked around with a surprised look on her face but Roran continued his unappreciative glare.
"Problems, cousin?" Eragon said in a light voice.
"What kind of lesson is this, anyways? Here, sit on that rock and sit four hours upon hours and watch bugs move? What's supposed to be out there anyways?" His voice was harsh, but Eragon kept his countenance tempered and calm.
"Now, why would I go and ruin the surprise?" He moved on before Roran could offer a retort. "And Katrina? How did you do?"
"Fine I suppose. But, if I may ask, how long have you been gone? No more than a few minutes, yes?"
Eragon laughed lightly. "Nearly four hours, actually. I see that you've had considerably more success than stone head over here. Tell me, what have you seen?"
"Harmony. Life. Everything works together in a rhythm and everything has it's place. Life force itself transferred from creature to creature. It was... beautiful. I didn't know it was like that before."
Eragon smiled appreciatively. "Perhaps it is a feminine touch, but whatever the circumstance, I am impressed. It took me a week and a half to come to that conclusion. Perhaps you can give Roran a few pointers." Roran opened his mouth but Eragon cut him off. "Alright then. Off to lunch. Come along."
Two Riders and one disgruntled child followed him back to the clearing where Saphira and the dragons lay basking in the sun. As they approached Saphira and Shrrg nodded in a dignified way while Kestryl and Alfakyn bounded over to nuzzle their riders. Eragon noticed that Balae and Tetkalish, while still shying away, did not growl or physically move away from the human presence. Upon thinking this, Saphira said, Kestryl has devoted the entire afternoon to explaining how you humans are not to be feared. A valiant effort, but it hasn't sunk in. All for the better, though, I'm sure.
Eragon smiled. "I'm sure. So how has your afternoon been?"
Saphira projected her thoughts to all. Very good. We spoke of Dragon Lore for a bit, then a bit about flying and I was just beginning on speaking of our personal conquests when you showed up.
Is it true that you killed two Shades? Kestryl asked him.
"Well, almost. I killed one, and Arya and I both killed the second.
What about these stories about the rider Brom? Alfakyn asked.
At this, Roran and Katrina looked sharply at Eragon. "Brom was a rider?" Roran asked incredulously.
Eragon smiled sadly at the memory of the old man. "Of course he was, just think about it. Everything he knew? The emotion he put in his stories? He knew it all because he was there. Brom was many things. He was a Rider. He was the slayer of Morzan, my half-brother's father. He was the founder of the Varden, it's first leader. He was also my true Father." Eragon smiled at the ground as he thought of the surly, cantankerous, heroic old man that he was proud to call his father, and a slight wetness brimmed his eyes.
Roran and Katrina were speechless.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with legends and stories for all and from all. Eragon spoke of his travels with Brom, Arya told of her adventures carrying Saphira's egg, and those before, while Roran spoke of his flight from Carvahal. Katrina was even able to add her input with stories and quips from a childhood living under Sloan's roof. As the sun began to dip into the sky Saphira cleared her throat pointedly. Eragon sighed.
"I know, I know. We will be leaving shortly."
"You'll be safe, yes?" Roran asked, concern in his voice while the woman showed it all in their eyes.
Eragon scoffed. "When you've had just one year as a rider under your belt, you'll know better than to ask that question. We are never safe. I will, however, do my best not to die." He said with a grinning smirk. He summoned a bag he had packed earlier that morning filled with seeds of various fruits and vegetables. Eragon figured he could do as he had last time he ventured into the desert and draw water up from the ground, and if he planted the seeds he could use magic to grow his meals. He also summoned Saphira's light traveling saddle, the one Brom had crafted for him, half because he didn't want his molded saddle to be damaged by the abrasive sand, and half because he was feeling a bit nostalgic. He walked over to Saphira and began to fasten the saddle around her large girth, all the while talking to his charges.
"Arya, the safety of the Varden is now in your hands. Roran, Katrina, should the empire attack while we are gone, you are not to fight, under any circumstances." He spoke over their protests. "No, without Saphira here, and if Shrrg is out in battle, it will fall on your shoulders to protect Balae and Tetkalish. Plus, Katrina is as of yet in no state to fight, and Kestryl and Alfakyn are still too small. And I haven't put all this trouble into training you, Roran, just to have yourself get killed when you have a much larger burden resting on your head now. No, you will stay." The last cinch tightened, he leaped into the saddle and began strapping in his legs.
"If all goes well, we should be back in a month or so, I think. Keep me up to date," He tossed a large polished rock, perfectly spherical, into to Arya's ready hands, "with this. If anything goes wrong, just hold it and think of me. Mine," He held up a much smaller marble only a centimeter or so in diameter with a hole drilled all the way through and strung on a string, "will buzz and I will scry you. It works both ways. I'll try and contact you once a day, but contact me if anything large, good or bad, happens." He slipped the marble over his head and around his neck.
He was now fully strapped in and ready to go, so Saphira heaved to her feet. He towered above the rest of them now. He yelled down, voice magically amplified a bit, "Alright then. I'll be off."
All of the remaining riders waved, the dragons stared on with mournful eyes, but what caught Eragon's eye and set him smiling was the kiss Arya blew him as Saphira snapped open her wings and shot into the sky.
Sunshine do good? (:
EDIT: Really guys? Really? Uncool. 1,503 hits, 404 visitors, and FOUR REVIEWS! Next time, I figure I'll update again when as many people who nag at me to update and pump out a new chapter four times a day are generous enough to tell me what they thought. Hmph . And go ahead, flame me, but anyone who thinks reviews shouldn't matter hasn't written a word in their life...