Chapter one: A light in the shadows
It's been two days since Oromis and Glaedr passed away, Eragon thought, only two days and everyone seems to go back to their normal lives. Everyone but us, Saphira do they not understand what this war has cost, what this war continues to cost us. We have won, but for what, more suffering, more lost lives, more unnecessary killing. I've already lost my father, now; I have lost the only other man who was like a father to me. Is it worth it?
I don't know Eragon, Saphira replied truthfully, but the only choice we have, the only choice the people have is to press on. Only we know exactly how the war is costing, only we realize its burdens and we carry them, but Eragon, my rider, we have come too far to leave this war with good conscience. Either we win, or lose our lives fighting for victory.
If I don't continue training soon, our deaths may soon become a reality for the Varden and the people of Alageasia. I need to get stronger, we need to get stronger. In our current condition, we can take on soldiers of the Empire, but we can't even defeat a Shade on our own. We most definitely cannot beat Murtagh in a game of strength or even take on Galbatorix in a game of running. I am weak, and I don't know of ways to get stronger.
Eragon, perhaps the elves know of other ways to get stronger, surely they must have records of the Riders and how they acquired their strength or at least completed their training.
You're right Saphira, we should ask Arya if she knows anything.
The mere mention of Arya sent shivers running down his spine. He, himself, couldn't believe that even after all this time, and all those rejections, he still was affected by her.
He just simply couldn't bring himself to stop feeling emotions, so he settled for keeping his emotions to himself and learn to live with the pangs of his heart.
Saphira knowingly growled. You shouldn't feel so bad Eragon, there are many other women, human and elf, that would be honored to love and be loved by you.
Eragon solemnly replied, And no matter how hard I look, none of them can even compare to Arya. He thought about how she held him after he revealed the news of Oromis' and Glaedr's passing, he remembered being at peace when she clung to him, and when she released him, he felt the weight of the world threaten to bring him to his knees. It was with these thoughts that the pair, Rider and Dragon, ended their flight in front of the elven camp in hopes of searching for some more answers.
Eragon quickly found Arya's tent, knocked, and waited for a reply.
He carefully opened the flap to see if Arya was resting, but to his dismay, he found no one. He looked around the elven camp some more, but unfortunately could not find where she had gone.
He saw Blodgarm on the other side and approached him.
"Blodgarm" Eragon continued with the formal elven greeting while the elf respectfully returned the gesture.
"To what do I owe the pleasure Shadeslayer?"
"Nothing that demands urgency, but I was wondering whether you had any knowledge of where Arya Drottningu could be? I have a great need to speak with her.
"Last I checked Shadeslayer, she had made her way down to Lady Nightstalker's tent to discuss an upcoming lead."
"Thank you Blodgarm"
Eragon opened his mind to Saphira, Did you hear that, it hasn't been long since we just won the battle and now we are continuing to press on. I realize the Empire is weak, but we are also hurting, there is no possible way the Varden is ready to send more soldiers out on another mission, there is far too much work to be done here.
I agree little one, however, I do believe we can trust Arya and Nasuada's judgment on what to do with the Varden's situation currently. If they don't realize exactly how precarious the situation is, then they are far from being the leaders we know them to be.
I suppose you are right.
I am always right little one.
He smiled at that, it was the one thing he could always count on Saphira to do for him. Make him smile when the entire world seemed to be turned against him.
Not the entire world Eragon, you still have those who believe in you.
I am afraid that I am dangerously close to not believing in myself.
Before Saphira could reply, Arya strode out of Nasuada's tent, and crashed into Eragon who was just walking in. They both fell to the ground, Eragon on top of Arya. Arya's hand was clutching the collar of the his tunic and Eragon's arm had snaked around her back and protected the back of her head to keep her from getting hurt as there were some considerably pointy rocks in the area.
"I'm sorry Arya svit-kona, I did not realize you were coming out." Eragon said a little breathlessly. He picked himself up and Arya who was still clutching his collar, but quickly let go when she was back on her feet.
She smiled a little and replied, "That's quite alright Eragon, it was mainly my fault for not seeing where I was going."
"There's no need to apologize."
Eragon, Saphira projected to Eragon and Arya, seeing no reason to private the conversation, you are bleeding. I think your hand, where's Arya's head could have been, hit a rock. It looks quite deep from here.
Eragon looked down at his right hand and saw a deep gash cut across it. You're right, I must not have noticed because of all those calluses I put on my hands, I should probably undo those, since I have a Rider's sword.
Eragon said the words to make his hands return to their normal shape and size and examined his handiwork. He was far too absorbed to in making sure his hands were normal again to think much of the fact he hadn't healed himself yet.
"You shouldn't keep that cut open for too long, it might get infected."
Eragon frowned at Arya and looked down at his hand, it was a pretty deep cut, but before he could say the words to heal it, Arya strode up, took his hand and muttered, "Waise heill."
"Thank you, Arya svit-kona."
"No, Eragon, I should be thanking you, for instead of the back of my head being cut by such a sharp rock, your hand was."
Eragon simply smiled and continued with the business at hand. "Arya, I need to talk to you."
She merely nodded and pointed to a pathway leading to the lake.
"What is on your mind, Shadeslayer?"
"Saphira and I were wondering if the elves have any other means to train a Rider considering Oromis is no longer with us."
"I am afraid I don't understand your question Shadeslayer, what exactly do you need?"
Arya, we were thinking if there were any books or records of what older Riders did to further their training or gain more power.
"You must understand, I am not asking the elves for more power for my own means, however, even you must admit that I am not strong enough in my current state. I am strong Arya, but not enough, I have a good chance against Murtagh if the king does not interfere, however, the king will always interfere, and there is no doubt that with all the eldunari the king has, I have no chance against him even if all the elves were to give me their power." Eragon stated truthfully.
"It was never my intention to seem like I was doubting your character Eragon, I know you and I know you would never look for more power because of your own means. It is the most admirable trait of yours, that you cannot be corrupted by your power. Most people, human or elf, are unable to keep away from that desire."
"Thank you for your kind words Arya svit-kona."
"It was merely a truthful observation from a close friend. As to yours and Saphira's previous question, I have heard that there are records of the Riders, however I have little knowledge of them other than the history. As a princess, I should have known the secrets Islanzadi has kept, however, my duties as an ambassador did not allow me to have the time to sit and listen to her teachings."
Eragon noticed that Arya said her mother's name with a certain bite reserved only for when she uttered it. Nevertheless, he let it go unnoticed.
"Since we are going to Ellesmera for Oromis's and Glaedr's funeral service, I assume you going as well." Eragon weakly nodded, and quickly looked away to hide his tears. Arya walked up to him, gently raised his chin and wiped his tears away, "It is quite alright Eragon, you do not have to be strong all the time."
"Yes I must Arya, Saphira and I cannot afford to break, especially now." Eragon replied with the strength and conviction returning to his voice.
Arya simply nodded and looked away from his simmering blue eyes, lest she be transfixed under his gaze. She continued, "Since we shall both be going, I suggest you talk with the Queen about your predicament for more information."
"Of course, when is the funeral service supposed to be held?"
"In a month."
"When were you planning on leaving?"
"In two weeks, but there is nothing important that holds me here. Why do you ask?"
"I need to leave early to arrange a proper Rider's funeral for my master."
"Ah, is there no one else to do it in your stead? The Varden needs you now more than ever for their morale."
"I am afraid that only another Rider can know of the protocol that goes into preparing a funeral for another Rider. And so, I am the only one who can perform the proper service for Oromis and Glaedr."
"I understand, when will you leave then?"
"Tomorrow morning, Arya, can you accompany us for the journey?"
Arya narrowed her eyes. Eragon quickly stated his reasons, "I need help finding the correct materials for the funeral, most of which must be found on the ground from here to Ellesmera, and if I am to ask to Queen to reveal secrets of the Riders that have stayed secrets then I do need all the help I can get."
And, you are far more entertaining company than my Rider. Saphira added.
Arya let out a small laugh and said, "Certainly, I shall be ready by tomorrow morning. It would be my pleasure to accompany you two to my home."
With that she left leaving Eragon gazing after her longingly.
Eragon turned to Saphira grudgingly and asked, "Is she really that much more entertaining than me?"
No, but watching the two of you together is.
What, the only source of entertainment I have is provided by two legged creatures, it's not my fault. You are the only one I don't feel sorry harassing to get my entertainment.
I can give you that.