Eragon sat on his cot, the tent above his head rustling softly. From a small crack between the entrance fasteners, the pale sky of early morning could be seen. Around him, faint glimmers of voices could be heard from the Varden soldiers at their duties.
To him, it was eerily quiet, Saphira's humming absent from the camp's din. Eragon fiddled with a hole in his legging, waiting for Saphira to return from hunting so their siege of Uru-Baen could begin.
As he waited, Eragon replayed his life since the gray morning he had found Saphira's egg in the spine. His memory jogged through bittersweet memories of Brom and Murtagh, the victory over Durza, His instruction with the elves...
Something made him pause as he carefully sifted through his recollections of his time in Ellesmera. His back being healed, training with Oromis. None of those perturbed him much.
Then, odd feelings washed over him as he remembered what had passed between him and Arya. Part of him felt shamed by the words he had uttered to her that night. Yet, another part of him wished that she could have returned the feelings he had for her.
Coming back to the present, Eragon thought about Arya as he had seen her the day before.
His feelings for her had not changed or dulled under the duress of time, nor did he suspect they would.
Maybe, just maybe, if he were to outlive the impending battle, he would ask her again.
A dull ache rolled through the young rider as he realized the weight of what he had just thought. There wasn't a likelihood that he would outlast the fight. Galbatorix and Murtagh would see they made it impossible for him to walk out of Uru-Baen alive and with his own wits.
Before he knew what was happening, Eragon pushed himself off the cot and dashed out of the tent, stepping into the midst of the camp. His feet began to trace the route to Roran's tent.
Halfway there, Eragon paused. He wouldn't disturb Roran now. His cousin needed the time to spend with Katrina and their unborn child.
A surge of jealously rushed through him as he thought of Katrina and the baby, which confused him. Aside from Arya, no woman had caught his eye before, though some of the Varden's concubines had almost tempted him.
Marriage and childrearing was a foreign concept to him, yet the more he thought of it the more he wished there had been time for such things.
"Shadeslayer?" A man's voice intruded on his internal revrie. Eragon jumped and looked around wildly, feeling slightly dazed.
"If you could move aside..." The man continued, and Eragon focused on a small group to his right that were carrying a heavy looking piece of machinery for one of the catapults.
"Forgive me" Eragon said, stepping well out of the way. The group of men trotted past, and Eragon suddenly felt very foolish for standing in the middle of the path looking like a moonstruck calf.
His mind returned to children as a small boy ran past, carrying a bucket. An even smaller girl came not far after, toddling along after her brother. A small dog chased after her, nipping her heels and the hem of her dress.
Eragon's eyes followed the little family as they went up the rows of tents. Suddenly, he heard shouts, horses whinnies, and the loud yip of a dog in pain. Not long after, a child began to scream.
Eragon raced the way the children had gone, shoving through the people as the little girl's scream grew louder. He rounded a corner, hearing shouts.
One of the horses had spooked, causing a herd to go whinnying through the camp and causing destruction. One of the catapults had toppled when a draft horse had stumbled and slammed into it, seeming the be the source of the child's screams.
Eragon leapt over a pile of rubble into the fray, desperate to save the little girl. As he ran, he searched for the little girl's mind. As he feared, it was buried beneath the catapult.
Uttering a few words in the ancient language, Eragon began clearing the rubble, splintered wood flying over his shoulders. The crowd gathered gasped as the scream died, and Eragon cursed. He renewed his chanting with fervor, scrambling to claw at the rubble as well.
At last, the rubbled cleared, leaving him exhausted. Eragon stepped forwards into the dust, searching for the girl.
Moments later, he came back successful, the girl in his arms. She was bruised and crying into his shoulder, but otherwise unhurt. Eragon felt relief flood him.
"Laega! Laega!" A woman's desperate cry came from the crowd. A middle aged woman pushed her way to him, Laega's brother at her heels.
"Mama!" Laega whimpered, reaching for her mother. Eragon surrendered the little girl, letting a smile break out on his face.
"Thank you, Shadeslayer" The woman sobbed, kissing the little girl's face all over. "How can we repay you?" Eragon bowed.
"Do not think yourself indebted to me. Your kindness and faith in the Varden are all that I ask" And with that, he left.
On his journey back to his tent, Eragon couldn't get the little girl's face out of his head. He had saved her without thought, without care to his well being...
Just like any father should. He realized.
Eragon shook himself, trying to rid his mind of Laega's angellic face and focus on the task at hand as leader of the Varden.
Their attempt at secrecy now utterly failed, the Varden must now hide all traces of readiness and go back to their waiting. They could easily repair the siege tower that afternoon and attack at dawn the next day.
Eragon sighed and walked to the leader's pavillion, wishing for the world that he could trade himself with any farmer in Alagaesia with a baby on the way.