Violets and Violence
an Inheritance fanfiction, set during Eldest,by... "Mushroom Scribe"?
Characters/Settings © Chris Paolini; Story © Author. All rights reserved or something.
Chapter One: Intrusion
The dappled light under the canopy of trees in Du Weldenvarden beckoned to Eragon again. More and more as he furthered his training under his master Oromis, he began to feel its draw; peace could be found there, away from Saphira and her designs on Oromis's dragon, away from his jumbled feelings for Arya. Out there, no one could force him to endure training that would cause Durza's scar to tinge, nor dwell on the most grievous error in judgment he'd ever carried out - but he would not think on that today. Nothing could be done, and he could not bear to shred at his own soul over it any longer.
But how could he have been so careless? The sorrow tore at him for a brief eternity. Neither he as a new Rider nor Saphira as a dragon hatchling had the knowledge or experience to execute more than the basest magics. So to presume... ah, but he was breaking his promise to himself. Tomorrow he could uselessly wallow in self-pity. For now, he contented himself to indulge in the wonders of nature.
The glade he found today was beautiful as it was desolate. Exotic flowers of all shapes and colors blossomed there, lichen hung from eaves of mighty pines filtering the light in greens. It was a place of magic; a place he could feel whole at last.
Alas, it was not to be this day. His head swiveled toward the minute sound, and instantly he implemented the training he'd received; his mind reached out in all directions, open scarcely enough to welcome the minds of any insects or wildlife that might be out there. If he came into contact with a more sentient mind, he would sense its presence and little more.
This turned out to be a misstep.
Instantly, he found his consciousness assailed by such a torrent of horrific imagery that he staggered and fell. Lying on the mossy forest floor, hand unable to even claw its way toward Zar'roc, his blade, he curled into a fetal position. Of course his wound began to ache; he'd failed to brace his impact in any way. This on top of the other sensations - oh the agony, the desperate sorrow, wretched and sulfuric - caused his meager supper to burst from his mouth. No constitution could weather this.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he slowly pushed to his elbow; this was all he could manage. As he did, systematically shutting off his mind from all outside forces, he crawled forward a meter or two, hoping to use a hearty trunk to force his feet underneath himself... and instead found himself nose-to-nose with a little girl.
Where on earth did she come from? At first, he thought she must be one of the elves, but he noted the lack of points on her ears and decided this wasn't the case. But those eyes... the deep violet hue was unlike any human he'd ever seen. Certainly she was no dwarf or urgal. Shade? Was this actually a child who'd somehow become a Shade in the first few years of her life?
"I see you do not recognize me, Eragon Shadeslayer," she tittered - and the voice brought all the insufferable pain back upon his heart, gnashing and ripping it apart. The mind within her was no child's. "Perhaps this will help."
The very instant her hand drifted to her forehead, Eragon knew what he would see. There it was, revealed from beneath her messy black fringe: the gedwëy ignasia. This was the poor soul he and Saphira had so recklessly given a blessing.
"NO!" he cried out, unable to stop himself.
"AIGH!" she screamed, dropping to hands and knees and clutching at her stomach. So surprised by her reaction was Eragon that his own disappeared as if a candle flame snuffed. "P-please, I'm sorry, but I must beg of you not to!"
"To what?" he inquired, confused. "What's happened? I don't understand."
"Your... your pain," she whispered, panting and snarling. "With you so near, the connection is... it eviscerates... oh, Eragon, you mustn't, not with such..."
Slowly, it crashed down on his shoulders; Oromis had been entirely correct in his assessment. The poor baby had not been shielded from all misery, as he had intended, but instead bore the brunt of everyone else's. That accursed mis-wording! Such a welling surfaced in his heart that she fell again, curling into a ball much the same as he had scant seconds ago.
"I'm sorry," he said earnestly, tears rolling down his face. "Honestly, I cannot- what do I do? There must be-"
"Stop feeling sorry for me!" she screamed desperately, limbs twitching. "I shall surely expire upon this hour!"
It was more than Eragon could provide for her; seconds elapsed with her shrieks echoing into his bones, which only served to deepen his pity. How to break such a vicious cycle? Steeling his mind, drawing upon his meager experiences with altering his own temperament and focusing his mental fortitude, he shut off all empathy and pretended - forced his mind to fool itself into thinking she was no more than a child throwing a temper tantrum. Fretting over it would only serve to egg her on.
"Thank you," she whispered shakily, still unable to stand. "I... I c-can't endure your remorse for any extended period, or I'll lose the last threads binding me to the realm of the sane."
"Please, don't thank me," he said softly, struggling to keep his mind from straying from its constructed illusion even as he spoke. "I... it is my fault in the first place."
"HNG," she grunted, twitching. "Shadeslayer, please, try and keep it at bay for the remainder of our conversation!"
"Sorry!" he said, feeling more foolish than depressed for a brief moment. At this, she actually laughed. "Forgive me, I'm... not as well-trained as I ought to be by now."
"Too well do I know." Now she was able to force herself to a sitting position, bare, dirty feet folding under herself. "There is much you must understand; I will be succinct. You are not to blame for your words-"
"But I so thoughtlessly-"
"NO!" she warned, eyelid twitching from the brief flare of sympathy. "No. How quickly you adapt, though." She took a deep breath, and he was struck by how aged her movements seemed, like those of one of the elves or a village elder. "Now you shall listen, and then we may speak about it at length.
"Your curse upon my infant head is something I rejoice within. If only you might fathom how much suffering among others I have ended with my pitiful, disposable life! Had you not placed your half-formed blessing on me, I would likely have died in days and no more would have come of me. Another orphan who faded into oblivion. Perhaps your gift was not the one intended, but it was a gift - a burden I can bear gladly because I understand its purpose. I am more than I ought have been, thanks to you."
Eragon gaped at her. Such wisdom, such compassion... and still, he felt his skin crawling as he looked upon her, at the feral hunger in her purple eyes, the hollow note in the breast of every word. His best description of what he was seeing would have to have been a vile demon, bridled and forced to do the work of angels. "I... I am honored by your words, small one. Even if I cannot agree."
"You-" She paused to clutch at her chest before Eragon could rebuild his defenses. "What you did in Farthen Dûr... it was no malicious act. It was a righteous bestowment upon me. Why would you ever doubt that? I am gladdened to be what I am - to aid others, to be a boon to my people. Never again question this, or look back in regret at your blessing. Learn from your miscalculation, but do not dwell."
"Oh..." The more she spoke, the more he wanted to flee in terror from this unholy cur, but at the same time he felt drawn to her, to protect and foster her into safety and peace. The person inside the vessel was noble, even if tormented beyond recognition as a human being. Moreover, her words to ease his suffering, though at first he had railed against the very idea, stripped away all misgivings he had about his past actions and brought him to a juncture where he could accept his error as something that cannot be changed. This, as he knew, was her power and lot in life... but she was no less virtuous for utilizing it toward his benefit. When he placed a trembling hand to her cheek, she leaned into it, closing her eyes; this gave him some momentary relief, and the calm within him deepened. "I would know your name, Cursed-By-Blessing."
"Elva," she told him, providing no further embellishment. "It is a footnote in your history, yet you would be aware."
"Why are you here in Du Weldenvarden, Elva?"
"For you," she said, as if he should have known that. "To be with you. I am as much a part of you as Saphira now; we are branded with the same sigil by the same dragon. Linked forevermore."
That frightened him, more than most of his training, more than facing down a Shade. The child spoke as if to court and marry him, no matter that she was scarcely old enough to walk. "I..."
"Do not fret," she said with a knowing smile. "I'm well aware of where your heart lies, and it is nearby in Ellesméra. Still, if ever you grow weary of waiting for her... on a lonely eve..."
"P-please," he told her frantically, "you mustn't speak of such matters, young one!"
"I could be older for you," she urged, eyes hungrier than he'd yet seen them. "Within days, I could match your age. Look at how many years I've circumvented since you blessed me!"
"Cease this!" he shouted. "It is improper, and I- and I shall consider it no more!"
"Hush," she bade him, finger at her lips. She was still smiling. "I understand. I am not an ignoramus. Despite our conversation thus far, have you yet to grasp that I am no ordinary fledgling human?"
He nodded, swallowing to hopefully coat his dried-out voice. "That much is clear, but even so... I'm unwilling to even entertain the notion. Say you'll not raise it again."
"I'll not," she promised.
"Good." For a long moment, they regarded each other; the desire she'd shown for him had grown from nonexistent to raging in the span of seconds, then vanished without trace. Now that he had mostly relinquished his pity for her and his sorrow over what he'd done to make her this way, she was mostly at ease, sitting back on her feet and calmly observing him and the surrounding forest alternately. "I... I have something for you, if you desire it."
Her reply was mild - amused, even. "Oh?"
"But... I'm not sure what it might do."
"You needn't attempt it," she told him wearily.
"What? Then you- you already know what I was going to do."
"Werg!" he cursed in Dwarvish. "Then what is the point of it all?"
"Careful," she said in shaky tones. "I was just beginning to enjoy the peace and quiet."
"Very well," he whispered, mastering himself once more; Elva stilled. "Then... would it be allright if I attempt...?"
"Only because I know it will make you feel better," she said, amused yet again.
Slowly, as if worried she would attack or dissipate if he made any sudden moves, he unfurled a scroll that he'd hidden in his tunic. She waited patiently, a coy smile playing at her lips as he whispered the ancient language, invoked the words he'd painstakingly chosen. Nights of tireless research had gone into this, and he'd be thrice-damned if he fouled it up now. When at long last he had finished, he felt such a rush of magic leaving his body that he fell backward, dazed.
"Oh!" she gasped, hand reaching out for him involuntarily. "Eragon, are you-"
"I am fine." Slowly, he peeled himself from the forest floor. "My question is... how are you?"
All at once, he dropped his mental barriers, and felt such a relief to be plunged headfirst into the sympathy he'd been walling up in there. This poor, accursed creature! How could anyone have borne such atrocity? He ought to be hanged for what he'd done for her - hanged, drawn and quartered and roasted, all while still alive!
And she merely blinked at him. All of his sympathy vanished, replaced by triumph.
"I did it!" he crowed, sweat pouring off of him in buckets as he fell back once more, unable to move. "Gods... I knew it would work, it had to."
"As did I." He turned his head slightly to observe large, glistening tears falling from her haunting eyes. "But I wouldn't have dared asked it of you, nor welcomed it. You've taken my power from me, repeating your previous action; both blessing me and cursing me. Now I will be as useless to the Varden as a lame steed, but... but you have eased my suffering. This is my first moment since my birth... that I have... that I have felt whole."
She buried her face in the crook of his arm, and he held her there, not knowing what else to do. After a time, he whispered, "I... I don't understand... it did work, and yet... you have not changed."
"I have!" she sobbed, clutching at his chest. "I have changed, I... I can feel my own sorrows now, and all others do not impale me without my consent. Never has sadness felt so exquisite now that I control what I do and do not mourn!"
"But I... I thought by removing my curse that I might... that you would perhaps become-"
"Normal?" she scoffed, even through her tears. "A foolish dream. I adore you for it, ever so much, but... that ship has long sailed, Eragon. I am Elva Cursed-By-Blessing until my time comes. But now, at last, I am not a slave to others' misfortune."
"No," he said, crying himself. "Then... then it didn't work, and all was for naught. Blast!"
Elva pushed herself up and kissed him on the cheek - which nearly caused him to retch again. "Poor, simple Eragon. Lifting my curse could in no way erase what has already transpired, don't you see? I have endured much, been changed, become something... something even I cannot comprehend. This is true and real, and will never alter or diminish. But the insanity that rapidly approached me will now cease its advance, because I can shut out the minds of others. It is a gift for which you have my deepest gratitude - even if," she began loudly when she felt him tensing, "even if your gift was only to mend your initial mistake. I still thank you for finding your way to do so."
As she continued to speak, something changed within her voice. It still haunted and unsettled, hearing such weary wisdom from one so young, but the ravenous need and desperation had faded to a mere speck in the face of what it had been. Perhaps he had truly lessened the evil he'd perpetrated upon her back at Tronjheim.
"What will become of you now, Elva?" he asked her quietly. "Now that... you are no longer blessed."
"But you did bless me." When he frowned at her, she smiled again. "Or Saphira did. Your spell to shield others from sadness may have lifted, but I remain dragon-marked, and mentally enlightened from my experiences."
"You despise what I am."
He considered lying, but somehow couldn't bring himself to that point. "Yes."
"Which proves we are more closely linked than I thought. I despise what I am. Learned as I have become in such an accelerated period, I understand that I am a strange abomination, and I detest it because others have detested it. Abhor and scorn me if you will, even as you continue to feel pity. It's understandable."
Instantly, his arms were wrapping around her small head and thin shoulders, holding him to his breast. "No! No, I... I cannot hate you. You are beyond hatred."
"Eragon," she sighed into his chest; when she felt him tense, she chuckled. "Still so nervous around the topic of women and relationships with them. What are we to do with you?"
"Who said anyth-"
"You tense merely because a female says your name with the tiniest hint of emotion behind it. What would become of you if one of them actually made to woo?"
His cheeks began to grow red with embarrassment as he pushed her away roughly. "A pox on you for such callous words!"
"Again, and so soon?" Instantly horrified, he sat upright to apologize but found her laughing. "Your apology should be mine for making a joke in such poor taste. Our wounds must heal more fully before light can be made of the past."
For the first time since meeting this strange being, a grin split Eragon's face. "Perhaps. But I'm not sure that day shall ever come."
"You smile upon me," she said quietly. Now when she smiled, there was less cynicism or hidden agendas, and he was struck by how much more she looked like a normal child - even if only for an instant. "Only you among the many who would not. It warms my heart."
"Which, in turn, warms mine." After a moment's pleasant silence, he said, "But you haven't answered my question. What shall you do now?"
"I would be with you," she answered immediately - and then sighed when she noticed his apprehension. "Yes, it is an unappealing notion for you, I can imagine. But I cannot deny it's my first instinct. You blessed me and gave me purpose, even if only briefly. Through Saphira and the silver mark, our fates are hopelessly intertwined. Where else could I go but to your side?"
"I... no," he said immediately. "No, this is... you ought to return to the Varden. There, you can be safe, and-"
"And what? Sit on my laurels? Play with the other children and have them inquire as to my unnatural eye color?" She shook her head. "A chance at a carefree life is no longer mine to attempt. I am changed. I would go where I can be of the most use."
"Perhaps that is still with the Varden," he said slowly, thinking. "I admit you may not find much pleasure in the company of your... peers," he said, placing emphasis on the word to convey that he meant those of her apparent age. "But what of Nasuada? She could use your council; you can understand so much of others through their fears and sorrows, I would wager."
"She loathes me," Elva told him flatly. "Partly because of me... partly because she distrusts magic to begin with. Any aid I might render would be met with every opposition beforehand."
"How... how did you even come to be here?" he asked her baldly, glancing around. "Caravan? What could manage to purvey one so tiny all the way through Du Weldenvarden?"
Elva's face became something between embarrassed and yet more despairing. "I am unsure myself - because it was magic, which is a force I wield without expertise. Only... because it is you, Eragon, I..."
"Your sorrow, once you realized what you had done to me," she told him, tears welling up again. For a moment, she reached up and touched them, fingers playing across the wetness as if it were made of gold. "It was like a beacon. Because you had blessed me in the first place, your sorrow greatest of all played upon my blessing. And being that yours was as a direct result of my existence..."
"You felt called to me?" he ventured, and she nodded. "And then?"
"And then I was in this clearing," she whispered. "The rest is as unclear to me as it is to you, be certain - all I am sure of is that I was led directly to your side by our bond through the gedwëy ignasia and your sympathies toward my plight. It was... magnetic."
"Well, one thing is for sure," he said decidedly as he pushed to his feet. "You shall be accompanying me back to Ellesméra. The dead of forest is no place for one so-" He stopped short of saying "young" and changed his mind. "One so small."
"I agree," she said nervously. "Except... from what I've gleaned from you and others, this is a city of elves, correct?"
"Then... I shall not be welcome," she fretted, panting with sudden fear. "I... we are both in danger now, for you have brought an unauthorized human to a sacred land. I must go."
"How shall you go?" he inquired with some amusement of his own now. "Leap through the ether into Surda, back the way you came?"
"That would be ideal if I had the faintest idea how I had to begin with," she grunted. "But in absence of this, you might call Saphira to us and fly me there."
"I cannot," he said helplessly. "Until my training is complete, I... I am bound to the elves and this forest. As is Saphira."
"It is so," she sighed, placing a hand on his knee. Only with this action did Eragon suddenly find it unsettling how much taller he was than the youngling who spoke with more weight and age than he. "Then... I shall wait patiently in this glade until I am eaten by the first beast who happens upon me."
"There aren't many more options, I'm afraid," she said morosely.
"I won't hear of it!" he snapped, impulsively picking her up from the forest floor and holding her to his chest. The action was simple, like carrying any other small child - yet they both tensed and held their breath. "I..."
"So meretricious," she teased him, and he nearly dropped her - but steadied his hand. Her voice softened, filled with affection. "Eragon... thank you."
"For what? I've done little but make your life a maelstrom of evil."
"You've cared for me in a way few would," she insisted, laying her head upon his shoulder. "In fact, there is none other. I sense it in you."
"My magic remains. It is within my control, but one does not endure bombardment from every member of the Varden for countless days without learning the inner workings of the mortal mind. I... it comes with some difficulty, and goes when I wish it. This latter aspect is my new favorite," she confided in him.
"Given what you've been through, I can appreciate that." He heaved a deep sigh, then strengthened his hold on the tiny, dragon-marked magician. "Off we go to the elves. Nothing else can be done; we'll merely accept whatever choice they make. I'll not leave you to the wolves."
"Be it on your head," she replied glumly. "If you should change your mind, the nearest hollow log will do."
But she giggled as he began running through the woods. After a few minutes, they stopped and she shifted around to his back, and Elva - unlike most children - strove to clasp her hands down near his pectorals instead of around his neck, which cuts off the breath needed for life and its heavier exertions. As they ran, he glanced down at her dirty feet and wrinkled his nose. "When's the last time you bathed?"
"Bathed? What is... ahh, that ritual in which a fool immerses themselves in water." Her distaste was clear. "Silly waste of time."
"I assure you, it isn't."
"Then you bathe me and prove your opinion to be factual."
Normally he would have agreed, but the adult mind inside her body upset him. "I should think not! I'll ask Arya to instruct you."
"Perhaps the three of us...?"
"It's quickly becoming your refrain," she observed bemusedly. "Elva, Elva! In the dead of night, even, I expect your neighbors shall soon hear-"
But her peal of laughter delighted him, even as he cringed at her flirtatious nature. He'd succeeded; he'd mended his greatest mistake. Perhaps it was too late to undo every scrap of damage inflicted upon the poor girl, but she was at least moderately better off now than she had been the day previous. It was something to be celebrated in a time when precious little called for celebration.
To Be Continued...
NOTE TIME: I was just reading Eldest and I was struck by how incredibly tragic the idea of Elva is; she has to feel everybody else's pain? Terrible... but terribly interesting. It's set during the latter half of Book Two in the weeks leading up to the Blood-Oath Celebration. That makes it really AU, I know, but I'm trying something and having fun with it.