Arya has always fascinated me; it seems clear that her frostiness is only the outside, and her mechanical movements and way of fighting are simply ways of performing. She is a very introspective character, and we never quite find out what she's thinking, or even really who she is through anyone but Eragon's eyes.

But maybe I'm just setting myself up because I ship EragonxArya. xD

Pine needles make the sweetest noises when water drips off them.

So thinks Arya as rain traces her nose and high cheekbones. The clouds are black as a Shade's heart, and the drops of water are too loud in her ears.

Arya Shadeslayer, she thinks to herself. How novel.

But she is not a Shadeslayer, she is merely an assistant. If it had not been for Eragon, then Arya would have been the one slain, not the hateful spirit-demon. For this, and many other things, she is in debt to the Dragon Rider.

And she hates every moment of it, doesn't she?

Arya is careful not to look into Elva the witch-child's eyes. She is an elf, a master, a fighter of grace and skill and reason to a fault, and yet she is scared of what she might find in this child's violet gaze. Because Elva understands, understands everyone, and she knows things about Arya that Arya herself does not desire to admit, even in the confines of her well-guarded and ethereal mind.

Vaguely, she wonders how long it will be before her tunic is soaked through and her skin visible through it. Her hair is already plastered to her neck and, instead of feathering off her forehead like she usually wears it when not in imminent danger, has dropped itself in wet ropes over her eyes. Nasuada, her guards, and no doubt Eragon and Saphira are probably taking shelter from the violent storms raging through Surda. Arya herself took refuge in her tent, listening to the rain pitter-patter on the canvas but she could not shake the desire to be out, running through the free-flowing cloud-tears. Blödhgarm may well have seen her leave, but she does not care.

Eragon once asked her what it was supposed to feel like when you killed. Arya had given him her direct answer, and she still believes it to be true. However, she has never felt like this before—lonely. Out-of-place. Like a child, looking for his mother among trees two hundred feet tall.

You have destroyed me, Eragon Shur'tugal.

Oh, not literally of course. Arya could reduce the Rider to dust without so much as a perceptible drop in her strength. No, it's more the fact that she doesn't want to, doesn't want anyone to ever harm Eragon ever again.

I am one hundred years old, she tells herself. Eragon is only a man of seventeen, perhaps eighteen at this point.

He matches you in sharpness of tongue, in battle, and in personal affairs. He has little experience, and yet so much wisdom before his time, a small voice says in the back of her armored mind.

I am an elf, she tells herself. Eragon is not.

He is not a human, either.

Arya sets her jaw and plucks clumps of moss from a log. He is a Dragon Rider, she tells herself. I am not.

Ah, well now you're just being self-deprecating, aren't you?

What makes Arya want to strike Eragon down the most is the sheer fact that he makes her feel. She has spent the past quarter of a century learning to carefully build walls and conceal her feelings and emotions behind them. They were, she believed, impenetrable. Impregnable. Unable to be torn down by magic or catapults or men with laughing tongues. And what has Eragon made her feel? A shadow of the feelings she harbored for Fäolin, only these are less childish and more...complete.

He makes her feel that she is beautiful, though she knows that she is not the fairest of her race and can never hope to compare to her mother. He makes her feel that she is strong, though she knows many an elf that could beat her in a test of magical ability, though none in Ellesméra. He makes her feel as if there is more to the world than plants and killing, things like crushing your toes through warm sand and the feeling of plucking a harvest you have grown yourself out of the ground.

She hates him for it. But she doesn't.

"These thoughts will be the death of me," she says out loud, picking a cow lily that is dripping water like some natural funnel onto the ground below. She tips the flower back and catches that drops that fall between her lips—rainwater is sweeter and purer than any river water that one could ever hope to encounter.

"What troubles you, Arya Svit-kona?" a voice with smiles in it asks from behind her.

Instinctively, Arya tumbles into a striking position, hitting the stranger in the ribs with her fingers and sweeping his feet away from the ground. Her hair comes down with a wet splat as it falls back onto her spine, and she stands over her attacker, ready to kill if need be.

"You seem to be on edge," the voice garbles, and Arya's cheeks glow pink as she realizes that it is not Galbatorix or Shades or anyone of the Empire that has her foot on their neck.

"I apologize," she says, helping Eragon up. "You startled me."

"I figured as much," the Dragon Rider returns, twisting around to see the damage to the back of his own tunic. It is ruined to the human eye, but it is nothing that magic can't fix later. Angela can repair the tears with no effort. "That was an impressive reaction."

Arya has no response to this, so she does not grace it with one.

"You will get wet," she says, after a long pause where the lily gathers another mouthful of pure water in its throat.

"It seems it's too late to worry about that. Why are you out here, anyway?"

"I was...agitated."

"Saphira told me you weren't in your tent—I wanted to ask you about a spell that I've forgotten."

"Then ask, and do not waste words with questions of my well-being." Eragon looks rather like a dog that has been struck by its master when Arya's tone changes sharply. She cannot bring herself to regret it, though the expression on his visage troubles her.

He launches into his explanation, about switching locations of objects and the properties of their journey, but Arya is not listening. It is a simple manner of the ancient language, and is easily explained in a few words or so. However, she lets the Dragon Rider ramble on, merely because the sound of the rainfall that fills her ears when there is no conversation annoys her. She drinks from the bowl of the cow lily again and shakes a trickles of water out of her eye.

"It is an easily rectified problem," she begins when she thinks he is finished, and watches him listen with rapt attention as she explains the synonyms in the ancient language that he must use for an accurate representation of his wishes.

Eragon twists his hand over his sternum and bows his head, a gesture which he returns.

"Atra esterní ono thelduin," Eragon says.

"Atra du evarínya ono varda," Arya responds automatically. It unsettles her stomach that Eragon regards her in a higher position than himself; it is not true. She has worked for years and years to get to her position, and this boy has undermined her in less than a turn of the months, gotten a higher favor with the leader of the Varden and gotten more power and freedom than she has ever had.

She should feel bitter, she thinks, but she cannot bring herself to.

"Are you...are you well, Arya Svit-kona?" Eragon's words are choked out, as though he is afraid to say them.

"My well-being is of no importance." Arya is on guard immediately, twisting questions away like a flounder dodges a looming underwater boulder.

"But it is," Eragon says quickly. Arya's eyes pierce him immediately, bright green even through the still-pouring rain. "I only mean," he corrects himself, "that we will need your help to continue to fight this war. And your well-being."

That is not what he meant at all. The small voice has returned. And you know it.

"In that case," Arya says stiffly, "I am well." And then, because courtesy seems to dictate it..."And you?"

"I as well," Eragon says. "Quite damp and shivering, but well."

Inexplicably, this strikes Arya as incredibly funny. The air has addled her senses, no doubt, and though she tries to hold it in a short peal of musical laughter bursts out between her lips before she clamps them together and drinks from the cow lily to sooth her vibrating throat. Eragon seems momentarily stunned by the outburst, a smile touching his lips.

"I have not often heard you laugh," he says cautiously.

"I don't often find reason to."

Maybe one day, Arya thinks. Maybe one day the land will be free and she can speak openly. It will not do for her to be truthful as of late. Eragon regards feelings as things to be shown, a clear example being that Agaeti Blöhdren that had ended so terribly. Arya knows that she is wiser, and feelings must only be shown when there is no doubt that they will not be destructive in the end.

Thus, her face is of ice as she burns of fire somewhere in her heart.

Ah, love is an odd thing, the small voice says indulgently. But Arya tells it silently to be quiet and runs through the entirety of The Ballad of Du Orlder in her mind to keep herself calm.

To kiss in the rain, though, is a desire she can't quite rid herself of.

And my induction into the Inheritance fandom is now officially complete. I would love if you left me a review telling me how I've done!