First off, I'm sorry it's taken so long to post the last few chapters. I'm running a week behind on each, and for that I apologise.

Secondly, wow, last book out today! Well, technically yesterday, 'cause it's 2am for me right now. I don't have it yet, my day is sending it to me... from another state... after it gets forwarded from his old address... umm... so it may be a week or more before I can start reading, and I'd appreciate it if people didn't spoil anything. I'll say in the author's notes when I've read it (expect me to be a few days late on that posting too... haha). As for you guys, hope you enjoy reading hopefully awesome book four.

Thirdly, I wasn't sure how I've done on this chapter... I think good. It's a little shorter than norm... but perhaps the quality is worth it? I admit, I've had to alter my original plan a little to make the chapter flow, and even then it's gotten jarred a bit cause of things that need to happen. ...Suppose it wouldn't be a drama if things went straight then though, would it? Heh.

Enjoy people.

Sleep had come easily that night. The constant use of magic through the day sapped at his energy. He'd fallen asleep with Saphira by his side, like a hawk at vigil.

Missing a night only seemed to make his dreams more vivid.

It felt as if a hand was on his back as he stepped through the ash. He knew the feeling would strengthen if he stopped walking, just as he knew it would hurt if he turned. And so, he did not, not today.

Gil'ead was his limit now. He could not stray any closer without pain. It had been Dras-Leona only two months ago, and already he was being hedged further.

In a month, Teirm. In three, he wouldn't even be able to set foot in Carvahall anymore. In six... Ellesmera... and the entirety of the Hadarac Desert. A year? What... half of Alagaesia?

And even here, he could barely think anymore.

...It didn't matter, he decided. He'd long since emptied Gil'ead of its secrets, and he had no desire to visit. He didn't want the worship... and especially not the blame.

The latter was more common. ...What could he have done? How could he have known? Galbatorix had been evil, yes. But who would have thought he'd be so petty.

And they blamed him. Blamed him for the hunger, for the darkness, for the cold. And then, the final straw, they blamed him for the loss.

The last he could take, accept even. He'd known that he'd have to kill in the war. Deaths were on his hands in the thousands. Did they think he liked it any more than they did?

Eragon ran a hand through his hair and sighed. Better he get on his way. He wouldn't want the guards to recognise him... that would just raise new issues.

So, he turned and marched east, towards a sun that didn't shine anymore.

Waking was rarely as pleasant as that morning. Escaping his dreams, alone, was enough for that.

Eragon's chest felt strangely light as he woke. After a moment, he realised it was because Saphira wasn't asleep there for once.

Shaking his head, he looked around. He could feel her presence, close, but he couldn't see her.

Where was she?

Suddenly, a shadow covered him, and he fell to the floor as a something hit his shoulders. He spun as he fell, landing on his back.

Once again on his chest, Saphira grinned. There were dark lines under her eyes, but she flared her wings and suddenly leapt into the air. Her wingbeats were clumsy... weary... but she shot across the cave.

Had she been up all night? Eragon mused. All night... practicing...

Regardless, Eragon laughed and cheered for minutes, until she landed smoothly in his arms and curled up, exhausted.

The rest of the day blurred together. After moving himself to the warmth of sunlight, Eragon let Saphira sleep in his lap until dusk. He spent his time collecting and transmuting pieces of brightsteel.

The next few days passed in a similar fashion. Saphira, once she had learnt a little, took to the sky with such an enthusiasm Eragon found it hard to not smile. Indeed, it soon became hard to get her to land at all. Her body, once soft and rounded, became sleek, and every one of her movements spoke of their strength.

But Eragon was worried. At two weeks old, she barely looked older than a few days. She was, frankly put, quite small. Eragon fed her until she was full each day, but it didn't seem to matter. The little dragon would not grow any faster.

...Nor would she speak. She understood every word he told her, but never did she reply in kind. Once, he had queried her about it, but she had not given an answer, not even in her own way.

Saphira, it seemed, enjoyed mystifying him.

At a month old, Saphira was three feet long. Half of that was her tail, which was currently wrapped around his neck, just light enough not to choke. She'd taken her spot on his shoulders, which seemed to the only place she ever deigned to land, expect if it was in his arms. Eragon had become thankful of two things. The strip of leather he had secured to his shoulders, and Saphira's growing flight expertise.

Even if she didn't speak, their talks got longer and more descriptive, as she shared her views on the ground, the sky, him, plants, their food... and well, everything. Her personality was delightfully mysterious. Some days she almost seemed to writhe with energy, others she would become quiet and subdued, staring into the sunlit distance for hours on end. Even with his knowledge of her thoughts, her moods were unpredictable, and Eragon found he didn't mind at all.

Every day they roamed, sometimes leagues from their home. Mostly it was for food; Saphira had taken to hunting like she had taken to flying, with great skill. Eragon survived half on meat and half of the desert plants he collected for their nourishing roots. The other reason for their explorations was no reason at all... not really. Eragon would walk the dry lands and Saphira would fly above, so high she was barely a dot in the sky, and she would revel in the flight and the warmth and Eragon... in a hidden corner of his mind, would remember the past, and smile.

Scrying attempts come and went as the days passed. In Eragon's mind, they became part of the scenery, just things that happened, no more. At the end of each day, they would make their way back, the moon having risen by the time they took the last steps. Most nights he would turn his attention to his growing pile of metal. At five weeks, he was sure he had enough, and then spent two days creating a forge in the corner of the cave.

It was about this time, as he automatically began collecting strange materials for his creation, he realised something.

He knew how to make swords.

The words did not do it justice. He knew how to make swords. And armor. And a thousand other little things that a blacksmith would know. More than Horst knew. More than any mortal man or dwarf did.

What Rhunon and he had done in their creation of Brisingr apparently had... unexpected... side effects.

The project took four days. Eragon used the exact same methods Rhunon had, delayed part due to his sheer supply of magic- Saphira's flame had sped the process greatly- and his inexperience with, ironically enough, his new skills. Saphira spent most of the time looking over his shoulder, questioning this and that. She was the most curious on the nature of the hot coals, and Eragon spent a whole hour explaining how things burnt. After that, she looked at the fire with new respect. Occasionally she snuck closer and basked in the heat, and he had to remind her not to let herself get too warm.

When, finally, he dropped the blade into a makeshift tub of water, Eragon let out a tired sigh. The day following he scrubbed and polished the blade, and made a hilt. He hid the final result from Saphira, even in his mind, and she constantly tried to divert his attention enough to get a good look.

On the morning of the next day, he unveiled it.

It was identical to the sword he had once known. The hilt felt the same, and he swung it a few times for good measure. The hued lines rippled in the same way, the same pattern.

Saphira was astonished. She prodded it with her nose first, then remarked on the pretty colour. She took Eragon on his word about the sharpness. She tried scratching it with her claws out of curiosity, and was even a little dismayed when they didn't leave a mark. She licked the gem in the pommel, once again appreciating the colour. Finally, she gave it a long sniff, but said nothing, and her thoughts slipped his grasp.

Just as she was about to walk away, Eragon drew her attention back. He held the blade high, then in commanding tones exclaimed "Brisingr!"

Nothing happened.

Saphira gave him an amused look, and wandered over to the pool to have a swim. Eragon paused then, staring at the frozen tongues of flame that rippled across the sword.

What had happened? He'd crafted it in the same way, and it had come out the same... what was missing?

Understanding escaped him, and once again, Eragon felt like he had lost an old friend.

It was only late spring now, and the desert was already unbearably hot. Each day his cloak was drenched in sweat, then boiled dry. It was only his growing magical strength that allowed him to get enough water to make trips out.

Saphira, by comparison, had never been happier. She loved the warmth, loved the fact that her wingspan now eclipsed that of the desert scavengers, and especially loved the fact that despite his discomfort, he accompanied her anyway.

She'd taken to hunting the hunters, something that Eragon was wary about, but she proved herself the better flyer... and fighter, every time. In the end, he came to appreciate it. He and Saphira upset the balance with their presence, restricting the food supply. The few falcons she had brought down helped.

Still, no matter how she denied it, she was still small. The road led to disaster.

The day had been like any other. The sun bore down on him harder than he could ever remember. His footsteps felt heavy, and his boots almost sloshed with sweat. To top it all off, he was dragging a heavy lizard behind him, the catch of the week. Still, his mood ran high, if only because Saphira's did. He looked to the ground, observing twisting shadows at his feet. The young dragoness had been attempting to cover him with a constant shade, but it had been more difficult than she expected. She just moved too fast to maintain it. Still, she tried, and had reasonable success by gaining altitude at an angle.

Eragon's eyes drooped shut as he walked. He felt no need to keep them open, as the desert offered nothing to trip upon anyway. He let his mind rest as his body toiled, only vaguely aware Saphira's attention being diverted to chase another predator.

Then, a great screech split the air, and his eyes flashed to the sky. Saphira had begun hunting an eagle. It was out of place, Eragon had no idea what it was doing in the desert. They were stronger, faster, and a lot bigger than what his dragoness was used to. He called out with his mind, but he was not fast enough. She came up behind the eagle, and just as quickly as she would do, it spun in the air and raked her with its talons.

Eragon screamed as she fell from the sky, her wings and chest bleeding. He felt her fear, then terror as the eagle proceeded to dive after her.

Rage clouded Eragon's vision, and his hands curled into claws as he raised them to the sky.

"Thrysta!" Eragon bellowed, his hands tightening into fists.

The eagle faltered, its wings suddenly compacted against its sides. Its legs snapped, and there was a spurt of blood as its chest imploded.

Just as quickly, Eragon's hands sprung open, palms to the sky.


Saphira's falling abruptly slowed, and Eragon abandoned his burden as he raced forward to meet her.

She shuddered on the sand as he approached. There was a deep furrow across her belly, and her right wing had been torn up to the bone. Both wounds bled slowly, the pace beginning to quicken as her breath sped.

Stay still. He urged, and he again reached for his magic. "Waise... heill."

He closed his eyes as he remembered all he knew of dragon anatomy. Trying his best to relax, to focus, he muttered a poem from the days he had spent as a healer, and his emotions slipped away. He touched her chest, which was slick with blood, and reached into her body with his magic. Superficial... mostly. Secondary flight muscle damaged... priority. He healed them first, sealing up the arteries flowing into them. Using his other hand, he pressed the two sides of flesh together, and with a brush of thought, sealed the gap. Saphira squealed in pain, her mind pressing against his, looking for comfort. He pressed against her mind in return, and he forced a soothing state upon her. She relaxed for a moment longer as her mind was lost to confusion, the pain deadened.

Eragon shook his head slightly, and grasped her wing. The soft flesh was rapidly loosing colour, and Eragon felt a stab of agony run through their link as he grabbed both sides of wing to pull them taught. Muttering another spell, he wing flared, and he pulled the skin together, where both sides connected seamlessly.

He examined his work for a moment, and his vision span. He realised how much energy he had expended, and a great ravenous hunger ran through him. His knees buckled, and chaos returned to his head as he stumbled to his rear.

Saphira panted, but she was whole. The blood on their bodies was the only proof it had ever happened. She raised her wing slowly, but she felt no pain. Still, her eyes were wide, and the horror of what had happened began to come into realisation.

"I told you to be careful."

The little dragoness shuddered, and she averted her eyes. Her head was low, but she prodded him slowly, her thoughts begging for comfort.

Eragon ran a hand down her spine, and then, reaching around, pulled her against his chest. She shook, and let out a single hiccup. He was then witness to something he had never seen before.

A string of tears ran down Saphira's cheeks, each like a little crystal, tinged with blue.


Eragon's eyes widened.

I'm sorry... won't... do it again. Sorry.

Eragon ran a hand across her wings, across the new flesh, and he felt something cold run down her spine. She shuddered again, her tears spilling into his lap. He paused then, and softly, but firmly, pressed his lips to her forehead.

It's okay... you're young, you get to make mistakes. That's what old people like me are for, to make sure you're okay.

There were no thoughts for a long time then, as he held her close and she cried and cried. After nearly an hour, she worked up the strength to say something else.

...Safe with Eragon.


She shivered one last time then, and went still.

Don't let go?

Eragon smiled softly.

Not today... my little one.

Uru'baen was a majestic as it was horrible. Eragon remembered the fairths he had seen of it, of its original grandeur in the age of the elves. Of later, in the time of man... even the day before Galbatorix's arrival.

What was there now resembled none of those. The city was black, as if burnt, made of stone and mortar built high. Practical, purely. When he took a closer look, it seemed not even that at times.

It looked like a city built on nightmares, and the walls had twisted to reflect it.

"Horrifying, isn't it?"

Eragon's head darted to the side. He'd never expected Arya to say something so... blatant... but the elf just stared into the distance, her eyes filled with sorrow.

"It is indeed." Eragon muttered. "I imagine it's worse for your kin, the ones who have seen what it once was."

Arya shuddered. "You're probably right."

Eragon turned, his attention fully on her now. "What's wrong? You aren't yourself."

"Am I, Eragon?" She sat down then, and like she had once before, drew her knees against her chin. Her hair splayed about in a dark halo, obscuring her features. "I've begun to wonder... I... I know how the elves feel. It leaks into their thoughts, their words, their very movements... and yet..." She shook her head. "I... don't. I don't feel it like they do. They are not a reflection of me, nor I of them. There is only one who acts as I do... and I..."

Arya looked at him, desperation in her eyes. Silently, he crouched behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. They stayed there for a long time then.

Eventually, her muscles relaxed.

"What have you done?" Her voice was hoarse then, and it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. She turned to stare at him, and suddenly her face was black, trimmed with ash. Her hair covered her like shadows which surrounded her glowing eyes.


Eragon jerked awake, his muscles twitching and his blood pumping. He forced himself not to stand, and slowly moved a sleeping Saphira from his chest to his lap.

Arya... Had he really buried everything that much?

Yes, he concluded, he had. He put away all of the painful memories, hidden them under the folds of his mind to be forgotten.

But he couldn't ignore the past. Not forever, not anymore. The world would move along with or without him.

...And whether they knew it or not, he still had friends. If there was to be any hope for him, of being worthy of this new chance, of Saphira and the gifts he had been given, he had to prove it now.

Somewhere... far away, Arya would still be being tortured.

If for only one day more, Alagaesia would have a dragon rider by its side.