NOTE TIME: Okay, that's it, this is the final piece! To Magma Fyre, sorry about the cliffhanger but thanks for the praise; I went back and changed a "damn it" to a "barzul" in Ch.7 because I realized you had a point, haha. Also thanks to Obliterator1519 and my other reviewers for digging this story. Who knows, maybe this will inspire some other writers to break out their pens and take a stab at Eragon/Elva; it really is an underrated pairing, they totally belong together. Please favorite/rec this if you enjoyed it so we can spread the E-Squared love! Anyway, it's been fun and I hope you like how I bring it all to a close.
UPDATE [4/21]: There might be a sequel coming in the near future. If there is, it's going to be called "Violets and Virulence". Ask your local witch-child for her predictions!
Violets and Violence - Chapter Eight: Silver-Bonded
"Don't," Elva pleaded weakly, as if she'd already resigned herself to his protestations. "Don't inflate this into a greater ordeal than it must be."
"But... but you just got here," Eragon said in disbelief. "Where will you go? How? You have yet to deduce how you transported yourself, so surely not in that fashion."
"I've arranged for one of the elves to ferry me to Surda," she confessed, the corner of her mouth turning upward. "Perhaps you know him, Narí? Quite a physical specimen, and ooh, that hair..."
"Forget Narí. Where... why would you... I don't understand, why are you going?"
"Because I must, Eragon. Because I gave my word." Her face took on a hollow look as she whispered, "Because if I turn a blind eye, Nasuada will surely be killed."
This news silenced Eragon utterly. In the past days, he had all but entirely forgotten her ability to predict impending doom. Seconds passed as he weighed her proclamation. "Then I shall go, too. If Nasuada is in danger-"
"No, you will not!" she shouted, and he flinched at her sudden anger. "You will remain here and train with Oromis-Ebrithil! That is of more importance than I or Nasuada, even combined!"
"But if she-"
"I will be more than capable of averting the danger without transferring it to myself," she told him firmly. "First of all, I have the foreknowledge. Atop this, I am now well-trained in a few simple spells that may be of use. I know when and where I must be to keep her alive, which means you will stay in this forest and complete your apprenticeship. Is that clear?"
Eragon felt faint, and his mouth ran dry. Desperately, he popped a succulent berry into his mouth and chewed, allowing its juices to soothe his parched throat. "Aye. But... must it be this way? You back to the Varden, and I trapped here?"
"What of it?" When he only shrugged, a bleak smile appeared in her features before petering out. "Yes, Eragon. It must. Once there, it would be far too inconvenient for me to return to further my studies with our master – the master of my master," she added with a smirk. "So I shall remain with the Varden in the care of Nasuada and... Greta, the doting old thing... until such time as we meet again. I doubt if even then we could truly be reunited but for a brief moment or two, a smile and a nod."
"This... is distressing news."
The familiar derisive tone laced through her next words. "What, are you going to say you'll miss me? Pah. You sound like a simpering housewife. Really quite pathet-"
"Of course I'll miss you."
Her attempt to use humor to soften such a blow vanished with the baldness of his statement. "Eragon... stop that. You stop that this instant."
"Making it harder."
Only now did Eragon truly grasp the full scope of her announcement; she went forth to perform a duty, not by choice but out of obligation. This was the correct path, even if it happened to be the most difficult. "I'm sorry."
"Do not apologize. Be mindful, that is all."
"When will you..." So close he came to asking when she'd leave him that he smiled at himself; he was growing attached. It was unwise to grow attached to anyone other than your dragon when you're a Rider, a mistake he seemed to make over and over again. "When will Narí come for you?"
"Dawn?" Quickly, Eragon mastered himself, forced calm to settle over him. "So soon?"
Her eyes shone with unleaked moisture, but she held it back. "If I leave any later, I may be too late. I'm positive I'll have at least a full day before the preordained incident comes to pass if I leave in the morning. That gives me ample time to avert it."
"Very well. When Oromis's alarm sounds, I'll wake you and bid you farewell."
"Yes, I would be glad of a sendoff. Will you and Islanzadí make arrangements for the parade?"
Eragon shook his head. "Small One, you are quite the astounding creature."
Her cheeks began to glow with a mixture of bashfulness and pride. "I am, aren't I?"
The remainder of the evening was elapsed by Elva training with stones – now multiple – as Eragon wandered the city, and also bathing Elva for the last time. Eragon sat outside the wash closet, conversing with her at length about many things both light and dreary until she finished. Saphira added the odd comment from his room, and also criticized her inefficiency; she was loathe to pay closer attention to areas she had neglected, earning laughter from both dragon and Rider alike.
This being her final night in Ellesméra, Eragon relented and allowed her to move her cushion to the corner of his own quarters; there was no real reason to force her into seclusion anymore. Saphira hummed a quiet tune that lulled her off to sleep with great ease. Once she was no longer awake to listen, he confided in his partner that he would sorely miss her presence.
I can understand, Saphira replied. Much though you resisted, she has become something like an offspring to you.
He found it hard to decry her observation. It is as you say. And in a strange way, she is, isn't she? I may not have sired her, but I'm responsible for the way she turned out. She's not such an awful child, all things considered.
No. All things considered, she is a remarkable fosterling.
Eragon cast a look over at Elva's slumbering form. Awake, she carried an eternal hint of her fractured soul in every word and action. In sleep, at least, those pains deserted her, leaving behind a modicum of peace, however brief. He found himself grateful for that, even as he marveled at how she endured the daytime hours.
Dawn came far too early. When Oromis's device roused him from his dreamlike state, Eragon woke and disabled it – and, of course, found Elva sleeping atop him. He was exasperated, but it didn't surprise him in the least. Instead of railing against the circumstances, he decided to enjoy her nearness for a few moments. There was little harm in it, and they would have plenty of time to lament each other's absence soon enough.
Such a small package to contain such an immense personality, he reflected, stroking her hair and staring over Saphira's back at the first pale rays of the morning. Right now, she seems as a normal girl, asleep and safe from all those cares that plague her life. Oh, but if I could change the course of history so she might truly enjoy her youth!
When he knew he could tarry no longer, he dressed quickly and buckled his belt, dreading the coming hour. It would be a mournful one.
Saphira was the one to nudge Elva with her snout, rousing the child. She grumbled and resisted, but eventually forced herself to her feet and made her way slowly to putting on her slippers. None of them spoke; it was as if a blanket of quietude had fallen, causing any speech to be a most arduous trial.
Alone, Eragon and Elva strode through the city. He had decided not to inform anyone other than Saphira of her departure until after it had occurred; it would save needless questions and refusals. The onerous task of explaining where she had gone would fall to him. He was sure that, once he'd detailed her reasons, none would question it further.
Soon they exited the city, and there were no elves in sight. She knew where Narí awaited her; it was a spot a half-league out. Eragon asked several times if Narí had packed sufficient provisions for the journey, and demanded she contact him with her mind once she was in his care and threatened to storm after her if she forgot.
"Do not torment yourself so," she grunted, chafing at his fretful demeanor. "I'm more than capable of flinging rocks at any predators that might think me a between-meal delicacy."
"You are now," he said with a lighter air. "Before, if I had left you in that clearing, I doubt you would have fared too well."
"Even so," she giggled. "And here we must break our fellowship, Shadeslayer. Take care."
His newly-angled eyebrow hiked. "What, is that all? No parting words of wisdom, no barbs or uncouth comments?"
"None that are appropriate to the occasion." A crafty smile stole across her rosebud lips. "Unless you want to return to your comfortable mattress for a brief-"
"Fine, fine," he said dismissively. "Foolish of me to go looking for peril."
"Peril, he names it!"
"There is one thing before you go," he said, reaching behind him. "A small token."
"I already have enough pebbles," she told him with a weary sigh.
"But you don't have one of these."
Both orchid-hued eyes widened as she glimpsed the tiny belt and the jeweled hilt protruding from a minuscule sheath. After glancing between both he and it a score of times, she reached uncertain hands out and found herself holding the treasure. "What manner of... oh, what have you done?"
"You said before that it wasn't your birthday when I gave you a stone," he said as she ran her hands along the handsome leatherwork. "But I haven't the faintest idea when that day is, so I may as well give this to you as a gift for the road ahead. To repay you for the fairth, partly... though I'd already thought of it beforehand."
"Where did you- I mean, how did you-"
"The leather was almost as difficult as the rest," he admitted. "Convincing elves to use animal hide is truly more trouble than it's worth. In the end, however, she relented because Orik provided it from some he already possessed."
"Rhunön-elda, the smith. This is her work."
Slowly, with an air of great wonder, she drew the dagger from its sheath. As soon as it caught the early morning light, she uttered a cry of shock. "The blade – it's violet!"
"It is." He grinned to see her made so happy. "When I explained to her that this was a weapon for the dragonless Argetbrun, she felt compelled to give it all the attentions she once lavished on the Rider's blades. It will never dull nor rust. First I asked her to make you a proper sword, but she refused outright based on her vow – and I too had to admit it would be entirely useless to one of your size. We reached a compromise."
"Indeed," she laughed, brandishing it several times, testing its weight in her hand. "It is as if it were made for me... as if I were born with it at my side. This gorgeous stone in the pommel!"
"I'm glad you like it."
"I more than like it, Eragon." Now tears were sliding down her cheeks; she had been keeping them at bay through sheer resolve, but his present had impacted her so greatly that she could no longer deny her feelings at leaving. "Thank you. With all of my soul, thank you. I'll cherish this weapon as if Morgothal, the patron god of smiths himself, entrusted it to me."
"Just be sure you make use of it," he said, eschewing her gratitude as the tips of his ears burned. "I expect to see you again one day, you understand?"
Elva wiped her eyes and nose with the back of her hand, carefully pointing the blade away as she did so. "I do, with great clarity. You wish this blade to watch over me from afar."
"If friends cannot do even that for each other, then what good are they?"
With hasty actions, she sheathed the weapon and slung the belt about her waist; it fit well and suited her. Her fingers played across the many additional notches that gave it room to grow along with her and smiled. "They are good for a great deal. Kneel, Garrowsson."
"I'm not truly the son of Garrow, you know," he protested quietly, but did as she asked. The moment he was on her level, she embraced him tightly, clawing at his back as she hiccuped. When she pulled back, her face was set, no longer full of despair; a display of courage. Eragon grinned at her despite the pain in his heart and said, "Watch over Nasuada... and yourself."
"Vel eïnradhin iet onr fricai," she swore to him in the ancient language. It was the surest way to convince him she would not fail, and he felt a measure of relief wash over him when he heard it. "My Master."
Eragon swallowed thickly, and pressed his hand against the side of her head. This time, when she leaned into it and closed her eyes, he was not disturbed by the action. "Gánga. We'll meet again soon."
"Sooner than you think," she breathed sadly; part of him wished to ask what she meant, but he could not bring himself to do so. "There is but one small matter, then – oh, confound this useless body! I'll have to make other arrangements."
She was at the door of his mind, not sneaking but knocking formally. Confused as to why, he dropped his defenses – and found her elder form advancing on his inner embodiment, clad in the blue gown of the night of Agaetí Blödhren but bearing the more human features he'd seen in her mind. Unable to react quickly enough to stop her, her hands slid around the sides of his neck as her lips met his, pressing with the exact amount of force to make it known that she did this willingly: neither with reluctance nor recklessness. Dismayed though he was, he could not feign anger at her effrontery. It was a perfect kiss. Ghostly and insubstantial due to the manner in which it was delivered, perhaps, but no less angelic.
As quickly, his thoughts were alone again, and he was staring at Elva's tear-streaked face beside his hand. Neither of them had moved a hair's breadth on the mortal plane. Her violet eyes were wide and despondent as she stared off and to one side. "I... can apologize for that, though I don't feel I should. However, I will if it has caused you undue stress."
"It has... and it hasn't." His voice quavered due to panic and uncertainty and regret and a myriad other emotions. "But I– please... why?"
Her bleary smile further shattered his heart. "Because it was the only way I could."
The staggering weight of what he was about to lose fell upon his shoulders, grinding into them, pressing the matter home: Elva and he were more alike than he'd have guessed. Both thrust into the mantle of adulthood long ahead of time, both linked by Saphira's mark, similarly outcast while carrying a grim destiny. Great things were expected of them, things that they would either have to accomplish... or die in the attempt. For ones such as they, few existed who could genuinely understand how their lots were cast and what it meant, if any. The far-seer was a kindred spirit – possibly the dearest one he might ever find in all of Alagaësia.
Furthermore, as he lightly caressed her silken black hair, something he had recently learned reached full bloom in his mind with jarring suddenness: Elva loved him, earnestly and without reservation. Deep though his affection for her had grown in the past days, hers ran yet deeper. Why, he couldn't say, or even precisely what that meant to either of them. These dual revelations rocked him to his core and threatened to send him careening into the depths of madness, but at the same time it showed him the folly of his own designs on Arya. He had been chasing after a woman who was scores of years older and could never in good conscience reciprocate. Elva had made a similar mistake in pursuing him. He vowed to himself that he would do what Arya had been trying to do for him and nourish the friendship without encouraging anything more. It was pitifully less than the girl deserved, but all he had to give.
"Elva Shiningbrow," he began in husky tones, pressing his gedwëy ignasia to her forehead and thus joining their marks. "You and I are forever silver-bonded. Always remember that you are to me as sister, daughter, and friend all at once; family, as Saphira is family. I'll never forget you, and never betray you. We are as one."
Lip trembling, she squeezed her eyes shut and whispered, "We are." And there was a sudden flare of magic heating both of them, burning into the marks. Eragon flinched and tried to take his hand away, but it was stuck fast; light emanated from between palm and forehead, brilliant and terrible and all the colors of the rainbow. Then it was gone, and he was released.
"Gods... did you feel that, as well?" she demanded, chest heaving.
"Aye. What do you make of it?"
Her eyes slowly opened and she smiled. "Eragon... oh, there you are."
Surprisingly, he no longer needed to ask; her meaning was brutally evident. The intimate connection of the minds he'd shared only with Saphira had swelled to include another.
"You- I don't understand. How is this possible?"
"It isn't," she replied in sober tones, though she was still smiling. "I'll have to think on this at great length to determine why we've been given this... boon. If that's what it is."
Eragon nodded slowly, staring away from her. "We swore an oath just now, I think. It wasn't even in the ancient language, so that wasn't my intention... but I suppose what's done is done. There's no sense crying over it."
"I won't if you won't," she laughed. Briefly fingering the hilt of her dagger, she whispered, "I must away, Eragon. Fate is a cruel mistress."
"I know." Hesitating for but a heartbeat, he bowed, twisted his hand over his breast and spoke unto her the full three ancient blessings the elves received from the dragons: "Atra esterní ono thelduin, mor'ranr lífa unin hjarta onr, un du evarínya ono varda."
Her fragile body shook as her composure wavered, but was quickly recovered. "Y-you can't- that is, you honor me above all others, my Ebrithil. That was a blessing I welcome for a change." Then she turned away, striding into the trees. She'd gone but a few paces before looking over her shoulder and declaring in a carrying whisper, "While my place may be with Lady Nasuada for the nonce... my heart eternally belongs with yours. Promise me you won't forget that."
"Impossible, Cursed-By-Blessing. Thoroughly impossible."
For an instant, as she smiled and again turned to depart, Eragon could see with his own eyes the woman she was destined to become, as if a wavering illusion superimposed over the reality. Yes, he decided, she truly is a vision. Then he blinked and there was only her miniature frame stalking through the underbrush, midnight tresses swishing to and fro. Two more blinks and even that was no more.
Allowing himself a shaky breath, he returned to his treetop chambers and bathed, then clothed himself again, all the while testing the strength of their altered connection. It grew weaker, but still it was there; he sensed her upon Narí's back, caught brief flashes of vegetation and wildlife speeding past. They were both shielding their stronger thoughts and feelings from each other, but once in a while he picked up a pang of sorrow so profound it halted him in whatever he was doing – and he suspected she felt a similar one when he made the mistake of resting his gaze upon her fairth as he dressed. Saphira wondered at that, but he ignored her questions; they could be addressed later.
At last, when he was on his way to do battle with Vanir, he felt his link to Elva flicker as if to gutter and vanish entirely; she was too far away by now to sustain it. In that moment, Eragon was blindsided by a single, urgent thought laced with such longing and desperation that a droplet was automatically loosed from his eye the moment it struck him:
Don't forget your promises, Shadeslayer... and don't forget me.