The chapters now posted in this story have been revised as of Sept. 14, 2012. If you have read Legacy before then, I recommend that you reread it before continuing with any future chapters. If not, then please enjoy my story.

This story is meant to be my best attempt at creating a good book IV for the Inheritance Cycle. While I started this before the 4th book originally came out, I found the necessity to finish it after I discovered how disappointing Inheritance actually was.

If you have questions about anything in the story, you can always leave a review! I will do my best to respond to every review that goes beyond a simple "Good story!" or something of the like.

Please enjoy

Chapter 1: Cliffside

It was a concerning sight, the thirteen elves walking through Feinster only a few hours after the battle had officially ended. One elf, a female whom many of the Varden knew merely as Arya, and now as Shadeslayer, walked in front. The other twelve had taken to guarding her instead of their normal charge, whom had vanished earlier that morning without explanation. The elves themselves were not what was concerning, it was how they walked in a gloom of dismay and sorrow, as if a great tragedy had occurred and nobody but them had yet learned of it.

They seemed almost oblivious to those around them, and their path eventually led them to the castle, where Nasuada, the leader of the Varden, had decided to set up her command post. They entered the keep and made their way through a few dark and gloomy corridors until they approached the room which had nearly been destroyed by Arya and Eragon's fight with the shade. Arya wasn't sure why Nasuada had decided to use that room as her headquarters, but the thought of going back into it was depressing. It almost made her feel sick. The last time she was in that room she had been rendered helpless by Varaug, something she had only experienced three times before.

Arya had always prided herself in her ability to take care of herself, but even she could not deny that a shade was beyond her ability to handle. She found herself having to admit what a solid team she and Eragon made. She had helped Eragon kill Durza in Tronjheim, and he had helped her with Varaug. Such feats had never happened in all of recorded history, and especially not in such a short time span. This realization was what brought her to Nasuada. She wanted to know where Eragon was.

To her, he was a completely different person since his return from Helgrind. He had matured beyond what she thought would be possible in such a short time. Also, on a more personal level, she had begun to feel an odd sense of security when she was around him. She had a difficult time admitting it to herself, but in her heart she knew that he was the one person who would always be there for her. The others–Nasuada and her mother–would be willing to sacrifice her to achieve their objective, and rightly so. She knew that she was not any more important than their objective and she would willingly lay down her life if it meant that Galbatorix would be slain. Yet, despite her noble attitude, she couldn't help but feel warm inside knowing that Eragon would never stand for such a thing. She knew that he would protect her, even if it meant harm would come to himself.

Arya would have never asked for such treatment from anyone, especially the sole hope of defeating Galbatorix, yet at the same time she cherished how someone actually cared about her enough to put himself in harms way to help her. Few enough in her life had ever showed her kindness, especially of that magnitude. Once, long ago, she had experienced something similar with Faolin, but before she had gathered the courage to even admit it to herself, he was torn away from her.

She informed one of Nasuada's guards, or Nighthawks as they were known amongst the Varden, that she wished to speak with the leader of the Varden. A moment later a voice from inside called, "Let her in!" The captain of the guard grasped the engraved door handle and heaved the massive double doors open. Arya walked into the room, leaving her guards to wait outside.

She glanced around the room and was unsettled by what she saw. The only other people in the room were Nasuada and a young human boy that was cleaning up the mess from the Shade.

Arya ignored Nasuada and gazed towards where the boy was cleaning. Even from where she was standing she could clearly see the blood on the ground that he was trying to remove. She unconsciously reached up and cupped her neck in the spot where Varaug had cut her. Most of the blood was her own. The thought sent a strange shiver down her spine. To know that she had been that close to death only hours earlier was unsettling.

Her gaze drifted towards the nearby chair that hadn't yet been moved from its earlier position. She remembered that it was there where Eragon had healed her wounds and told her of Oromis and Glaedr's fate. It was there that her life changed once again. While she had only spoken to Oromis sporadically during her tenure as ambassador, she had come to admire and trust the ancient Rider. She always felt that she could go to him and seek counsel without him going to her mother or berating her for any mistakes she might have made.

There was also the hole that Saphira had used to enter, and the numerous pieces of wood and stone that had been scattered and broken by Saphira during their fight with the shade, and from their attempts to kill the magicians who were trying to create him. As she thought of them she turned her head towards the stairs and observed that the man whose skull they cracked had already been removed, but the blood still stained the edge of the lowest stair and the nearby floor where he had been. Everything in the room made her feel uneasy.

Her train of thought was interrupted as Nasuada waved her hand in front of Arya's face saying, "Arya…Arya! Is something wrong?"

Arya turned her gaze to Nasuada and said simply, "I was remembering what occurred this morning." She spoke in her normal voice, devoid of any emotion.

Nasuada turned to the cleaning boy and ordered, "Wait outside. We must speak in private." The boy bowed respectfully and left the room. She turned to Arya and said, "I'm glad you came. I was about to send for you."

"Why?" Arya asked, one eyebrow cocked curiously.

"I was hoping that you knew where Eragon was."

Arya shook her head. "I sought you out to ask you the same thing." She appeared thoughtful for a moment, and then added, "Why do you want to see him?"

Sighing, Nasuada slumped back into her armchair. "I just finished discussing the deaths of Oromis and Glaedr with your mother. There were some things said, which I'll tell both you and Eragon once we find him."

Arya considered her words for a brief moment, noting the hint of frustration. It was clear to Arya that Islanzadí and Nasuada had gotten into some sort of disagreement, and from the looks of things, her mother had won. Putting aside her observation, she pondered whether or not she should help Nasuada find Eragon. She could easily contact Saphira and inquire about their whereabouts, as she had spotted the sapphire dragon flying west towards the coast during their walk to the castle. However, she didn't want to interfere with Eragon and Saphira's mourning, especially not by bringing Nasuada to him only for her to hand him new orders.

Before Arya could decide what to do, Nasuada added, "And if I may ask, what is it that you need to see Eragon about?"

Arya glanced away, making her decision that it was necessary to find Eragon. In response to Nasuada's question she said softly, "It's...personal." She reached out with her consciousness, finding Saphira's vast mind and brushing against her barriers. After a moment of surprise, Saphira lowered her barriers and allowed Arya to enter part of her mind.

The inside of a dragon's mind wasn't something anyone but a Rider could easily become accustomed to. Saphira's ancient thoughts and instincts flowed across their bond. At the same time Arya could hear echoes of Eragon's thoughts and see fragments of his memories. At one moment she would feel like she was in Saphira's mind, and then an instant later she would seem to be in Eragon's. She was even able to make out some of the memories that Saphira shielded from Eragon's waking mind so that he wouldn't constantly be troubled by them. Arya immediately turned away from that section before she saw something that she was not meant to.

Most of the feelings and emotions vanished as Saphira blocked her inner thoughts from Arya. The dragon snorted softly and said not unkindly, What is it, emerald-eyes?

Nasuada needs to speak with Eragon. I would like to talk to him as well.

Arya could sense strong disapproval stemming from Saphira's mind. I will not have her giving Eragon new orders right now. He has been through enough, we all have. Arya waited patiently for Saphira to come to a decision. A minute later the dragon finally said, I will bring you to him, and Nasuada as well if she promises in the Ancient Language to not give him new orders.

Why is it that you trust me?

You are not blind to what we are feeling right now. Also...well...Eragon's trust in you influences my judgment.

Arya gave the equivalent of a mental nod. Thank you, Saphira. Nasuada and I are where we fought Varaug yesterday. There was clear surprise and confusion in Saphira's thoughts about their location, but she closed off her mind and jumped into the sky.

Nasuada, who had been waiting patiently as Arya stared off into the distance, finally asked expectantly, "Well?"

Arya turned her head back to Nasuada, staring her in the eye. She was trying to decide how to explain Saphira's condition without offending Nasuada. With a sigh, she said, "Saphira has agreed to bring me to Eragon. She will bring you as well, but you have to promise in the Ancient Language to not attempt to give Eragon new orders during your visit. Saphira firmly believes that it is not what he needs right now."

Arya waited with a guarded expression, hoping Nasuada did not take the request the wrong way. The dark skinned leader of the Varden sighed and leaned back further in her chair. "I'm disappointed that Saphira does not trust me enough to do the right thing."

"I hardly think that you can blame her," Arya pointed out. "If you consider what you did to get Eragon to go to the clanmeet."

"Perhaps not," Nasuada said softly, seeming almost depressed. "Regardless, I had no orders to give Eragon. My visit was for his benefit.." She paused for a long moment, and then nodded at Arya. "Tell me what I must say."

Arya quickly tutored Nasuada in the pronunciation of the words that Saphira had asked for. Nasuada was a quick learner and she was able to get the oath from her before Saphira arrived

Saphira's massive wings created concussions that jarred her ears. Before the mighty dragoness landed, Arya took the opportunity to run outside of the room and quickly tell Blödhgarm what the situation was. He objected, of course, to her leaving without a guard, but Arya silenced him and told the elves to return to their tents.

As Arya entered the room Saphira gracefully landed in the massive hole in the wall, pushing several objects aside to make room. She turned her enormous head towards Arya, and Arya responded with a very faint nod, confirming that Nasuada gave the oath that she had asked for.

Satisfied, Saphira lowered herself to the ground as far as she could, stretching out her left front leg so that Nasuada could climb up onto her back.

Arya mounted Saphira first, effortlessly jumping into the saddle. She noticed Nasuada approaching Saphira carefully, obviously apprehensive about riding a dragon for the first time.

She slowly climbed up Saphira leg and took a seat behind Arya. Arya turned her head towards Nasuada and gave her a few pointers, much the same as Eragon had during their first flight.

Apparently impatient, Saphira jumped into the sky and banked over the Varden, flying towards the coast. Arya grunted as Nasuada tightened her arm around her waist in obvious fear. "Not. So. Tight," she murmured. Nasuada gradually reduced her grip as the flight continued, but it was still quite a bit tighter than Arya would have preferred.

Saphira pressed against Arya's mind, and she lowered her barriers. The dragon had also knocked aside Nasuada's defenses. She said, Nasuada, understand that I said that I would take you to Eragon. I did not say whether or not he would speak to you. That much is up to him.

How long until we reach him? Nasuada asked, a hint of fear crept into her voice as she looked down at the ground.

What? Saphira asked, appearing hurt. Are you not enjoying my flying? I could make it more exciting if you find this dull.

No, please. Nasuada begged. Your flying is excellent, Saphira. I am just wondering how long it will take to reach Eragon. Privately Arya let out of a sigh of relief as Saphira relaxed her wings and transitioned into a shallow dive.

Saphira landed a few moments later near the edge of a small cliff that overlooked the sea. Arya marveled at the sight; small waves of crystal clear water splashed against the base of the cliff, some thirty or forty feet below. Arya assumed that Eragon and Saphira had come here to remember Oromis and Glaedr.

Arya dismounted and helped Nasuada off of Saphira. Nasuada immediately walked towards Eragon, who was standing a few feet away looking out at the sea. He hadn't moved at all since they had landed, not even to acknowledge Saphira's presence. Arya stayed next to Saphira, slightly leaning against her side as she watched Nasuada and Eragon.

Nasuada approached Eragon and knelt behind him as a subject would do for his or her king. Arya watched with curiosity and surprise, for she had never seen Nasuada bow to anybody except for Hrothgar. What is she doing? Arya asked Saphira.

Trying to be clever, the dragon said in an irritable tone. Just as Arya was about to ask what she meant Saphira said, Watch, you'll see.

Several long moments passed in silence. Arya quickly grew bored and took to staring at Eragon in an attempt to gauge his mood and level of distress regarding the deaths of his masters. However, such a thing was impossible without seeing his face.

Eragon finally acknowledged Nasuada. He said softly, "Normally it is I who would bow to you."

"Normally," Nasuada replied calmly. "However, you are now the leader of the Dragon Riders and are thus beyond the control of any king or queen. I bow out of respect for the loss you have suffered and to show that I intend to release you from your vow of fealty."

"Why?" Eragon asked simply.

"It is what is best for the Varden."

There was a forced laugh from Eragon, and then he said, "No, not what is best for the Varden. It is what you think is best for our political relationship."

Is this…wise? Arya asked Saphira hesitantly. It did not seem like a good choice to question Nasuada when she appeared willing to release Eragon from his bonds.


"What do you mean?" asked Nasuada.

"When I swore fealty to you I know that you had no idea there was another Dragon Rider. For all intents and purposes you knew I was the leader of the Riders. The only thing that has changed in your world is that I assume Queen Islanzadí is now pressuring you to 'release' me from my oath." An edge crept into his voice, "You knew full well that you had no authority over me except that which I gave you. That is why you had to resort to threatening me when you wanted me to go to the dwarves' clanmeet."

"You have become adept at politics," Nasuada said, surprise clear in her voice.

Arya hadn't even considered it from that point of view, likely because she had known about Oromis and Glaedr from the start. She knew Eragon had grown over the past months, but she didn't realize he had matured enough to handle politics effectively. She had always considered it to be a subtle art.

Eragon faced her and said, "Understand, I am not mad at you, nor do I resent you. I can accept that you did what you had to do in your situation. In the future, though, please don't try to manipulate me as you tried a few moments ago."

Nasuada rose from her kneeling position and laughed slightly, obviously embarrassed. "I suppose I am used to trying to use every situation to my advantage." Eragon nodded in understanding. "I can publicly announce your release tomorrow or the day after, if that is acceptable."

Eragon nodded. "That's fine." A brief silence reigned over their conversation, and then Eragon added, "Was there anything else you needed to see me about?"

"Yes," Nasuada confirmed. "Queen Islanzadí told me that she would like for you and Arya to contact her today if possible. Also, I wanted to personally convey my sympathy for your loss. It is never an easy time."

"Thank you," Eragon said. Arya could tell by his expression that he was generally grateful for her support, and somehow that made her feel almost...jealous. She immediately pushed the emotion aside, denying that she had ever felt it. Jealousy was not something that she allowed herself to experience.

Nobody spoke for a time, but, as usual, Eragon was the one to break the silence. He said to Nasuada in as strong of a voice as he could come up with, "You are a strong leader. Even though I am no longer bound by fealty, I will still support most of your decisions. If you need me, you have only to ask and I will help, assuming I generally agree with you." Nasuada nodded in response with a small smile on her face, clearly grateful for the compliment. "If you would like to return to the Varden now Saphira is willing to take you."

"Thank you." Nasuada glanced up at the sky. "As much as I would love to take the day off, things must be done." Eragon nodded.

Nasuada bade Eragon and Arya farewell, then walked over to Saphira and carefully climbed up one of her forelegs into the hollow of her neck. Saphira immediately took off and flapped back to the Varden, leaving Eragon and Arya alone on the edge of the cliff.

Arya noticed Eragon's expression soften slightly as he glanced at her. She wanted to smile at him, but could not bring herself to do so. He turned his back to her and resumed staring out over the edge of the miniature cliff. Arya joined him, feeling nostalgic as she remembered standing on the Crags of Tel'naeír with Oromis so many times.

Before she quite knew what she was doing, Arya found herself saying in a soft whisper, "I still can't believe they're gone. It just doesn't seem real."

Eragon responded in an equally quiet tone. "I feel the same way." She saw his eyes dart to her own for a split second, but that was all that he needed to see her distress about the situation. He gripped her hand loosely, she did not resist. "Come, sit with me. I have something to show you."

Arya allowed him to lead her to a nearby tree. He sat down and she joined him a moment later, leaning against the rough bark and doing her best to relax. He sighed. "When we were leaving Du Weldenvarden Oromis told me many things about himself and his past. One particularly special thing he gave me was for you." She looked up at him, interested in what Oromis could have possibly left for her. Eragon looked down, and Arya felt the sadness in his voice increase. "Before Brom died he left a memory telling me about himself with Saphira so that I could know who my father was when I grew up. Oromis was there when Saphira showed me, and he did the same thing for you. Would you like to see the memory? I do warn you, it is very personal."

Arya nodded dumbly, shocked that Oromis had done something so kind for her. She felt Eragon press against her mind, and she immediately lowered her barriers, granting him access to her thoughts.

Her world faded to black and was replaced by Eragon's own senses. Before her sat Oromis. He, Eragon, and the two dragons seemed to be in a glade somewhere near the edge of Du Weldenvarden. The ancient Rider leaned against his dragon and stared her, or Eragon, directly in the eyes. He began by saying, "Arya, where do I begin?" He sighed. "If you are seeing this memory, it means that I have fallen. I saw what Brom did for Eragon through Saphira and knew that I would regret it if I didn't do the same for you."

"You were like a daughter to me. We may have only spoken a few times each year, but I was happy to be able to help you out and give you advice when you needed it. I imagine Eragon has already told you about the Eldunarí and that Glaedr entrusted his heart to him and Saphira. As such, Glaedr will still be around if you need counsel or comfort, although if I have died I'm not quite sure how long it could be before he moves past the pain."

Oromis glanced up and a frown formed on his face. "It seems it is time for Eragon and I to be off. I meant for this to be something more, and if I have a chance I'll add to this at another time, but for now I'll leave you with two pieces of advice." Oromis cleared his throat. "In Ellesméra you came to me and asked what the death of Faolin meant, what it would mean for you and your future. I know you believed strongly that you and he were destined to be together, but fate had a different idea of how the events should play out. You are fortunate, though. There are many more opportunities for happiness. Just because you love someone or think you love them does not mean you cannot move on if they die."

Oromis stood up and began gathering a few things around him in preparation to leave. "One of your greatest strengths is your ability to push aside all emotions and focus on the task at hand, but it is also one of you greatest weaknesses. You can't ignore your feelings forever. Eventually they are going to catch up with you; eventually you will have to face them. My second piece of advice is that you do not try to do that alone. Do not be afraid to seek comfort from someone close to you." Oromis fastened a pack to Glaedr's saddlebag and Eragon got up in preparation to mount Saphira. "Goodbye, Arya."

Arya slowly opened her eyes. She wiped away the few tears that had escaped from them, doing her best not to cry for her friends. She stared at the sea laid out before with an odd sense of comfort. After a moment she realized that she had unconsciously grasped Eragon's hand. She made to pull away, but hesitated. Something about the connection felt oddly comforting and secure.

Saphira returned a few moments later and curled up next to them, resting her head so that she had a clear view of the sea. Together the three of them sat in silence for the better part of the day, simply finding comfort from each others' presence.

A few hours later, when the sun was barely still above the horizon, Eragon finally stirred and said, "Nasuada did say that your mother wanted to talk to both of us. We should probably contact her before it gets too late." She simply nodded in approval, unsure of what exactly her mother wanted with them.

Eragon pulled out a small mirror and muttered the scrying words, adding the extra lines to include sound. The mirror faded to a picture of a group of eight elves sitting around a table, all of which Arya recognized as her mother's advisers. Her mother was at the head of the table speaking about who would be the best to lead the humans that wished to join the elvish forces.

When the queen noticed Eragon and Arya in the mirror she stopped mid sentence and immediately began the traditional elvish greetings, first with Eragon and then with Arya, showing her respect for them by speaking first.

Before Islanzadí could speak again Eragon said apologetically, "I hope we aren't interrupting anything…"

Islanzadí waved her hand dismissively. "No, we were just going over a few things. Actually," she placed her hand on her chin as she apparently thought of an idea. "Maybe you could offer your input on how we could best manage the humans in Gil'ead. They have been rather hostile to us, even the ones opposed to Galbatorix."

Eragon shifted slightly, indicating his nervousness. "I'm not sure. I grew up in a small village not populated by the types of people that live in a major city such as Gil'ead. I suppose the best thing I could recommend would be that you do your best to make it clear that your people are there for their benefit and don't have any sort of malicious or imperialistic intent. They will probably cooperate much more willingly with anything you might need if they understand that. Most humans, at least the ones I knew, only know elves as the fair folk. Galbatorix, as I'm sure you know, spread rumors around the Empire of how you supposedly are and the average person would likely believe them. You should try to show them otherwise."

Arya said, "I would add that the humans that wish to join you could prove to be an important symbol, a symbol that it isn't just a bunch of foreign folk that are willing to stand up to Galbatorix. The more allies we make now the easier it will be to make more in the future."

"Well spoken," Queen Islanzadí complimented. "We shall take your advice into consideration, thank you."

"Was there anything else you needed?" Arya asked. "Nasuada informed both of us that you wished for us to contact you today."

"Ah, yes." The queen gestured to her guests and said, "Give us the room please." The elves quickly got up and made their way out the overly large tent. Once everyone was gone Islanzadí approached the mirror and said, more to Arya than to Eragon, "I was wondering how you were doing after the deaths of Oromis and Glaedr."

Arya flicked her eyes to Eragon quickly and before she could speak he said, "I could leave if you wish."

"No, it's fine." Arya paused for a moment to decide precisely what she would tell her mother. Their relationship was complicated. Publicly they had reconciled, but personally she still wasn't sure about whether or not she had forgiven her mother and if she was really interested in re-bonding as a family.

Arya decided to keep it brief but still leave an opportunity for her mother to respond properly. "It has been…difficult. I spoke to Oromis when I returned home with the egg each year. We had become friends. I suppose I'll be fine, though. I'm no stranger to losing people that I care about." She was aware of Eragon's eyes widen slightly at her words, mostly because of how sharp her tone was.

Arya watched with interest as her mother's eyes softened and she thought she could make out a hint of regret in them. "I am sorry, Arya. I never was that close to him, but I did know that he was a good person and he always told me positive things about you when we did speak. I am actually quite relieved that you managed to confide in him, at least while I've been….away." Arya inclined her head in response.

When no other response was forthcoming from Arya Islanzadí added, "Since his and Faolin's passing do you have anyone left that you can confide in?" A second later the queen added quickly, "You can always come to me if you want. Although, by the look on your face I doubt that is very likely right now."

Arya nodded, acknowledging her mother's offer, but also confirming that it was not a possibility at the time. She said, "I do have two people left, but that is all."

Islanzadí frowned, and then asked, "If you don't mind me asking, who?"

Arya glanced to her side, where Eragon was listening quietly, not interfering in their conversation at all. She smiled at him slightly and said, "Eragon and Saphira."

"Good," the queen replied, almost appearing relieved. "At least I can rest with the knowledge you will have the logic and wisdom of a dragon and Rider at hand." Islanzadí paused, glancing down briefly before asking, "What must I do to prove to you that I regret how I acted, that I was wrong?"

For the first time Arya actually felt that her mother was sincere about trying to mend their relationship. Still, she held back and only said, "Perhaps when next we meet we could discuss it."

"You could die before then," the queen retorted. "Or I could. I don't want you to die thinking that I don't love you, and I don't want to die without fixing my mistake."

"It's not that simple," was Arya's only response.

Islanzadí let out a long, defeated sigh. She turned to Eragon and said, "It seems that my daughter has put her trust exclusively in you and Saphira, and thus the responsibility to protect her falls upon you."

Eragon's eyes widened and Arya said thickly, "I am not some human female in need of protection."

"I don't expect Eragon to guard you with a sword. I just want him to keep an eye out and do his best to make sure you return to me alive. Is that acceptable, Eragon?"

Arya clamped her mouth shut and turned to Eragon, waiting for his reply. He said slowly, nervously, "Arya is wise. I would not see her harmed, but if she set her mind to something there would be little I could do to stop her. I'll do my best to make sure she is safe though."

Islanzadí laughed softly. "Trust me, if anyone understands how tenacious Arya is, it would be me." She waved her hand dismissively, changing the topic. "In any event I am sending an extra six elves to join your guard, Eragon. I'm also redefining their purpose to guard not only you and Saphira, but Arya as well."

"Is that really necessary?" Arya demanded.

"Yes. It would help ease my mind about your safety. At least do this for me," Islanzadí insisted.

"Very well," Arya grumbled. "If it puts you at ease I will agree to it."

Islanzadí stared at Arya for a long moment, as if deciding whether or not to pursue the topic any further. Arya was relieved when she did not and instead said, "I am going to proceed with this meeting that we were conducting here. Thank you for contacting me. Stay well Arya, and you too Eragon. Please convey that to Saphira as well."

"May the stars watch over you," Arya responded.

"And peace live in your heart," Eragon added.

Islanzadí broke the contact and the mirror faded back to its original reflective surface, replacing the image of Islanzadí with her sitting next to Eragon. She studied his reflection for a moment, noting his uncertain expression.

She sighed and turned towards him. "I just don't know what to think about her."

"She seemed sincere to me," he said slowly.

"Yes, but I'm just not sure whether or not I want to have a relationship with her again. Our previous one didn't work out too well."

Eragon frowned at her. "I know this isn't about me, but I never got to know my mother. I never got to see her or talk to her. I don't think you truly understand how lucky you are to have a second chance with her."

Arya tilted her head slightly, thinking through his words. She hadn't considered it from his point of view, the point of view of someone who didn't even have a mother to think about having a relationship with. She nodded, trying to imagine what it would have been like for her if she had grown up without her mother. "Perhaps you are right."

Saphira stood up and yawned beside them. Eragon smiled at her and asked, "Are you ready to return to the Varden? You look like you're about to fall asleep, Saphira."

Yes. The flight here was quite exhausting, and I haven't really gotten a chance to rest since the battle. Arya was acutely aware of how Saphira and Eragon allowed her into their thoughts when they were having a mental conversation. The level of trust that the action revealed was quite high, and she was grateful for it.

Eragon and Arya stood up a moment later, brushing the dirt off their clothes and stretching their legs. Arya took one last look out over the cliff as Eragon climbed into the saddle before joining him on Saphira's back.

Saphira quickly ferried them back to Feinster and began to circle the city at a low altitude, searching for their bodyguards as they didn't know where Nasuada had decided to set up their tent. Arya noticed Eragon shift slightly and only then did she realize that she had been pushed out of his and Saphira's minds. They must be having a private conversation, she concluded. But about what?

Arya tightened her grip on Eragon as Saphira abruptly jerked to the side and began to dive downward towards the castle courtyard. Only then did Arya notice the twelve elves standing next to a group of tents. Saphira landed in a clearing beside a sapphire blue tent that was pitched directly next to an identical emerald green one. Arya concluded that the elves had already been informed of their new goal to protect not only Eragon and Saphira, but her as well.

Eragon dismounted and then extended a hand to help her down. She smiled at him and jumped down on her own, embarrassing herself slightly as she landed at an awkward angle and almost lost her balance. Eragon just shook his head and turned to Blödhgarm. The fur-covered elf said with a hint of irritation, "Shadeslayer, you must stop vanishing without explanation. We will gladly honor your desire for privacy, but it is important that we know where you are in case something happens or we need you."

"I'm sorry, Blödhgarm. I know I told you in the battle that I would stop forgetting. I'm still not used to having guards all the time. We'll do our best to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Blödhgarm nodded in response but didn't respond verbally. Arya took the opportunity to say, "I see that my mother has already informed you of her wish for you to guard me judging by my tent being pitched next to Eragon's. Did she also tell you about the six other elves that will be joining you?"

"She did. We are honored to be able to guard not one, but two Shadeslayers and a magnificent dragon." Arya inclined her head, privately doubting that she would ever get used to being called a Shadeslayer.

As Blödhgarm walked away to rejoin the other elves, Arya turned to Eragon and bade him goodnight. They stared into each others' eyes for a full minute, and then she hesitantly turned around, making ready to leave. However, instead of walking towards her tent, she found herself turning back to Eragon. "I'm glad you're back, Eragon." She pulled him into a light embrace, and then hurriedly returned to her tent, a faint smile on her face and a sense of satisfaction in her thoughts.

Arya walked into her tent and examined her surroundings to see if everything was in order. She widened her eyes as she noticed that there was a real bed in the tent for a change. The last time she had slept in a real bed was back in Ellesméra. She plopped on the bed and sighed in relief when she felt how soft the mattress was. Normally she would change out of her day clothes and put on something lighter to sleep in, but at that moment she didn't feel like getting up and walking over to her bag so she just kicked off her leggings and slipped out of her shirt.

Arya tucked herself under her blanket and closed her eyes, willing herself to fall asleep. She faded into her dream world thinking about how much she had enjoyed spending her day with Eragon on the cliff.

It had been quite some time since she had felt happy spending her time with someone.