The Significance of a Golden Lily
It was nearly a century since Eragon wrought the evil from the land, a century since his flaming blue sword plunged into the heart of the dark tyrant, a century since his sword needed to be set aflame. The parties, the accolades, the drinking, the celebrations, were, by the number, astronomical. A never-ending celebration, one that the Rider easily tired of. And so, in the dead of night, he left a note for his cousin, mounted Saphira, took the green egg, and rode to Vroengard.
But that was not all he did. He wished so…desperately he did not, yet so hopefully, he would have done more. Before leaving, he stopped at Arya's tent. No one was there, most likely, the Elvin princess was being showered with accolades of perfection and tributes during the surge against Uru'baen. And so the Rider sang a flower, the golden lily he had given her all those years ago, and left it by her tent. It was his form of goodbye, for a long time at least.
Vroengard was…in shambles to say the least. Luckily the men and women there had little want or need of being there and fled after a large burst of flames for the Sapphire Dragoness. The old castle was in pieces, but slowly and surely, Eragon rebuilt the foundation, and then the castle again. It took nearly seventy-five years, even with magic, but it was completed eventually. And now…well, now was the time to return to Ellesmera, give the egg back to the Elvin people, and hopefully another Dragon Rider would hatch. As much as the Master Rider wanted to leave the egg behind, he could not risk the politics of it. The egg would only serve as a divider among elves and humans, and even the dwarves and Urgals would pick sides. The truce between the races would be undone at the least.
Little one, are you ready to go back?
No, that was a question easily answered. How could he be ready to go back? Even after a hundred years he had not forgotten her scent of pinecones, or how she placed one hand on her sword when walking, or how her eyebrows furrowed when she was angry or annoyed, or even how her artistic fingers held his hand when she healed it all that time ago. Even after one hundred years, he could not forget her, or how much he loved her. It would only serve as pain to see how she was without him. A new Queen was needed, she would take a mate, and even mother children by now.
I know Saphira, we must go back.
He saddled the massive dragoness, heaved himself in place, and waited as her wings caught the wind. The ocean underneath their flying mass was soon to be gone, and the familiar mountains of the Spine would come into view. And past the Spine, the Leona Lake, and past that, the Hadarac Desert with the Beor Mountains in the distance. And even beyond that, the forests of Du Weldonvarden. And finally Ellesmera.
From his scrying, Eragon discovered the elves chose to remain in Ellesmera, leaving the rest under Nasuada's command. Human territory would remain as theirs, and the dwarfs had theirs, and the Urgals theirs. The only difference was that each and every economy was dependent financially on each other, and therefore served not to bicker.
Sleep Little one, it is late, and we are nearly there. We will contact them early in the morning.
Very well Saphira.
Eragon lolled his head over and drifted into the Elvin state of rest. Ever since the war had ended, he could lift himself up from his memories, or nightmares. Glaedr-elda was of a different matter. The gold eldunari wished to be destroyed once the city was rebuilt, and so nearly twenty five years ago, Eragon had smashed the golden stone, along with the other hoard a century ago. Besides the egg in the saddle, Saphira was the only dragon left.
In his rage at quickly losing battle after battle, Galbatorix took his punishment on Murtagh and Thorn too far, and both lost their lives in torture. Shruikan was killed by Saphira's attack, and Galbatorix by Eragon's.
But these are not what he dreamed of. To this day, Eragon still dreamed of Arya next to him, still dreamed that she had feelings for him. That she loved him the way he loved her, but that was not to be. It did not matter she had never loved him, ever, he would always love her. Another woman held no interest, not that many did not try their luck. Most other men would comment on how attractive a particular woman was, but Eragon could never see her beauty. The only elf he thought attractive was across Alagaesia.
We should rest here Eragon.
The Rider snapped his eyes open. They were by the Lake Isenstar, close to Marna, but not nearly close enough to be noticed. Saphira flew far past Elvin eyes, too close to the sun for their eyesight, and in the dead of night, they would not know.
I will contact them in the morning.
That is a good idea Little one. I would hardly think it becoming if you were to contact them this late in the day.
Was that a joke?
Nay, a compliment.
Am I so bad that I should need a compliment like that?
Oh Little one, you maybe over a century and a decade, but I am still ancient in thoughts.
In size as well.
She huffed a large cloud of smoke, but did not reply to his jest. They had a playful banter going on, Saphira would make fun of his age, and he would make fun of her size. Not wanting to risk the attention, Eragon opted for no fire, and slept instead near Saphira's belly.
The next morning was pleasant. It was the first time when Eragon did not wake up to the sounds of seagulls. Saphira had woken up and began the long task of preening herself. Apparently, the salt water made her scales dry, and fresh water in this lake was actually quite refreshing. Or some absurd justification like that. He walked to the lake and began the spell for scrying.
Immediately a large room came into view. He wanted to talk to Queen Islanzadi, if she was still around as Queen. But he was not expecting her to actually show up. Low and behold, the Elvin Queen was regally sitting across the mirror reading a scroll from the dwarves. The symbol had told him so.
He cleared his throat to get her attention. The Queen nearly jumped at making his presence known, but once he did, he began the traditional Elvin greeting. Islanzadi completed it, but stared at him with a renewed fervor.
"Who may I ask are you?"
"Your Highness, I doubt you could have forgotten the only Rider to roam these lands so easily."
She let a hint of a smile show through, "I believed it was you. She knew you would come back."
The last sentence seemed to fade away, as if the Queen was contemplating to herself.
"Forgive me for taking off so long ago, and without notice. I had to leave immediately, I trust my cousin gave you the message."
"Yes, Shurtugal. Yes he did indeed. Where are you now? If I may ask."
"Nearly a day's flight from the city."
"Good, you are coming back then."
"Of course, Your Majesty."
She nodded her approval, "Please make your way as quickly as possible. The elves will rejoice that the Riders have once again returned. I shall alert the people, you will have no problem entering the city."
"Thank you, Your Highness."
A slight bow, and Eragon ended the spell. He was having mixed feelings of returning, and he was sure the Queen meant Arya when she said 'she knew.' But that was besides the point. In any case, all his doubts would be cleared in a bit.
Are you ready to return home little one?
Home. That is a good word for it. Yes, Saphira, I am more than ready to return home.
Saphira took off towards Ellesmera. Once they crossed over the Du Weldonvarden forests, Eragon had gotten confirmation from Gilderian the Wise to enter. He had long forgotten the Menoa Tree incident when Eragon returned triumphant with the King's head on a platter. Well…not so drastic, but his dead body nevertheless.
I see it Eragon. I can see it.
Saphira's excitement shot through the link. It was a long time since she heard the praise of two legged, and elves were the best. In the center of their welcome party stood the Queen, but her daughter was no where to be found.
He lifted himself off the saddle and jumped down. Bowing to the Queen, he was engulfed a new round of praises. One elf hugged him, one he recognized as Vanir. Blodhgarm stood to the side, waiting his turn to greet the Rider he had protected all those years ago.
"Shurtugal, Crags has been prepared for you. It is your place now."
The Rider glanced at the Queen, bowing to her once again in a silent thank you. While Saphira was being showered with flattery, Eragon had stealthily weaved his way to the Queen.
"Your Majesty, I have come for business as well."
"I thought as such. What is it?"
"The last egg. It needs to hatch, and I want the elves to be the first to try. I need to speak with Arya svit-kona about ferrying the egg from city to city once more. Where is she?"
The Queen looked away, "If you can find her Shurtugal, you shall have all our gratitude."
His eyes bored into her in alarm. "What are you talking about?" His voice held a menace.
"Peace, she is not lost completely. We know where she resides, but she has placed herself in isolation. No one has been able to breach her barriers."
His eyebrow furrowed, "I do not understand. What brought on such actions?"
The Queen looked at him, "Something about a betrayal."
The Rider's throat dried, "Where is she now?"
"She is south of here, in a valley by the large hills. You cannot miss her. Others can, but you cannot."
His eyes were pulled into confusion. But he nonetheless told Saphira of his adventure and left the premises.
It was long since he had stretched his legs, a long time since he ran freely through the forests. A long time to meditate on his actions. Obviously killing the king was not enough to help him mature. Leaving Arya, one he considered his closest friend besides Saphira, without even saying goodbye was utterly idiotic. Something completely unnecessary, what he hoped to achieve by that was absolutely nothing. Of course she would feel hurt, betrayed even. Guilt rose through his like the waves during the full moon. The only thing he could do was fall to the ground and beg for her forgiveness. Even a century later, he was not above begging her for anything.
And what did the Queen mean by only he would know where she was? He glanced at his surroundings, the flowers taking effect. He was nearly at the valley, the flowers were getting more and more abundant. But one particular flower caught his eye, and he stopped.
On the ground was the unmistakable golden lily he sang twice before, and given to only one person. An identical copy, and a large amount of them where he was. Looking around harder, he discovered the lilies growing in abundance on a certain pathway, larger and larger to the center of a valley. It was a pathway, Arya had created a pathway of lilies. And each had been individually sung, and there had to have been thousands where he was. He ran faster, as fast as his legs would carry him.
The golden lilies were in the center, a large patch of them, shaped also in a large lily. He was an idiot, this would have taken years to complete.
Where was she? He looked around some more, and finally inhaled the air.
Pinecones. She was definitely here.
The scent grew stronger towards the waterfall. He approached carefully. A rustle of leaves brought his attention to a particularly large tree near the bank of the small lake that had formed. And there was a shadow next to it, the shadow in the form of a woman, her hair raven black, her eyes a striking emerald green, the most beautiful shadow there ever could have been.
She looked away, and began to speak.
"Do not discount me Shadeslayer, for weaving a pathway of lilies in your memory. Do not discount me for wallowing in your absence when none of our actions gave me the right. Do not discount my weakness for separating myself from the normal world. I assure you, it was personal, and because of you."
Her eyes met his, and he walked forward. Eragon kept walking until he stood in front of her, his face a foot from hers at the most.
"Do not give me credit Arya svit-kona, by calling me strong when I left. Do not give me credit for staying away for one hundred years against the pining of my heart. Do not credit me for separating myself from the world. I assure you, it was personal, and it was because I could not live in a life watching you be happy without being at your side."
Her eyes grew angry, "Then why did you leave? Did I mean so little to you?"
He shook his head, "You meant everything. I wanted you to be happy, without the knowledge that I was still around. I wanted you to move on when I obviously could not."
"You said nothing, you left me a lily, no note. Nothing, not even a word of goodbye."
Eragon swallowed, "Would you have let me go?"
"Of course not!" Arya turned indignant.
"I would not have had to strength to leave anyway. There was work to be done, you know that."
She looked down, "And you could not have done it with me?"
Her eyes turned shallow, losing their previous intensity. Her body slid down the large tree trunk, shaking from the tears that threatened to spill.
"It was my fault. Your departure. I should have let you know the truth. I told you once, that I was changing, becoming more able to feel. I neglected to tell you it was because of you. That part is true. What I kept a secret was that I felt for you. I was afraid, afraid that the king would use me to get to you. Once I was the death of the man I loved, I would not let that happen again. And you killed him, you saved the land, you saved me, and on the night I wanted to tell you…everything, you left. Left with the single golden lily you sang for me for my comfort. I went to Ellesmera after that. I could not scry you, contact you in anyway. I must have cursed the dwarves nearly a thousand times for giving you that horrid piece metal that prevents anyone from scrying you, and I isolated myself here. I sang the lilies over and over until I had lost my voice, and when I regained it, I began again. And for that century you were gone, I stayed here, waiting to tell you what I wanted to all those years ago."
He sank into the ground next to her, "What did you want to tell me?"
"Do you truly not know?" She fell silent once more. Her eyes were set on the golden lilies in the ground before muttering, "I always knew you would come back."
Her voice was so soft, so soft Eragon did not even think he heard it.
"When you gave me the lily, you told me you would always be there. And I knew you would come back…just to be there when I needed you the most."
Arya grasped his hand under hers, looking away so he could not see her tears. But the shiny liquid glistened in the sun nevertheless. He left her hand, getting up and crouched in front of her. He held her face in his gentle hands, wiping away the salty moisture that marred her face.
"I am sorry Arya, for what I have put you through. Leaving you was the hardest and most unnecessary act I have ever done. You are not at fault, that was mine, and mine alone. I could not face the fact that you would live on without me, fall in love again, and I would be alone. I love you, I always have. I never realized the pain I was putting you through because of my blindness, and for that I ask your forgiveness."
The princess ran a hand over his face, savoring the feel of his heated skin underneath her cool fingertips. So much had changed, yet nothing had. She was still a few inches shorter than him, her raven black hair ran straight down her body, luscious to the eyes, and her emerald orbs still penetrated deep within his own chocolate brown ones.
Her hand reluctantly dropped to her side, and she looked away from his eyes. Pushing against his hand, she turned in his palm.
"I would have handled your death better. I could not stand knowing that you had left me, made a conscious decision not to be with me."
"Why did you wait for me?"
"Because my heart refused to be with anyone else, because no matter how many times I cursed you, I always knew you would find your way back to me. You were stubborn, immature, naïve, psychotic in a sense, waltzing in the King's Chamber and demanding a duel not knowing if I had sent the eldunari away or not. But you were never one to let others down. You would never have disappointed me Eragon."
Eragon dropped his hands to his side, kneeling in front of her sitting frame.
"And where does this leave us?"
Arya's emerald eyes snapped back to his, her gaze now soft and loving.
Two simple words summed up their situation. They were in love.
His inhibition evaporating, Eragon leaned forwards and gently captured the princess's soft lips. He expected her surprise, her indignation, but she was kissing him back, desperately it seemed. He felt himself being pressured and pushed back farther and farther until he was lying on his back on the bed of lilies. She was on top of him, her mouth never leaving his, her legs intertwined within him, her arms tangled around his body, her lips attached to his. It was bliss for him, knowing that after all this time, he was loved, and loved by the one woman who captured his heart the first time he laid eyes on her.
"I am sorry for leavi-"
"Ssh." She held a finger to his lips. "It does not matter, you came back. That is all I care about." And she held his lips prisoner once again. The Rider did not care about his duty. His duty could wait, it had taken priority for over a century. It was time for his heart to seek its goal, it was time for love to fill his heart to point of physical pain. Eragon kissed her again, moved over her lips with fervor that could barely be matched. He was kissing her with the passion that built up within the hundred years of separation, without abandon.
The next generation of Riders could wait, the duty could wait. His time was hers from now to eternity.