Chapter 23: Revelations
"Who is that?" she asked him in an urgent tone, a concerned look on her face.
"You can see him too?" he asked her, the pain and anxiety in his eyes growing with each passing second.
"Of course I can see him," replied Arya uncertainly. "Why wouldn't I be able to?"
"Because I am supposed to be dead," a deep, gruff voice interrupted. Brom walked up to the couple and introduced himself. "My name is Brom, and I am Eragon's father."
Shock began to dawn upon Eragon once more as he struggled to formulate a response. "How... How are you here? I watched them bury your casket!" he stuttered.
"I know none of this makes sense right now, but I need you to trust me," urged Brom.
"Where have you been for the last 13 years? I needed you!" exploded Eragon.
"Ilirea. Ilirea is dying," elaborated Brom. "It's being overrun with crime, with corruption, with violence, with oppression. The city is dying, and the people are unable to do a single thing. They are oppressed by Galbatorix, the black tyrant of Ilirea. He is killing this city, and he is responsible for the murders of hundreds, including your mother."
"Where are you taking me now?" asked Eragon.
"This," Brom said dramatically, "is The Varden."
Eragon stepped through the frosted glass doors of the Varden, avoiding eye contact with his father. The opaqueness of the 10 foot tall glass doors lent an air of mystery and secrecy to the already tense situation.
As Eragon took a few steps farther into the lobby of the building, he was immediately bathed in a red, ruby glow. Glancing around, he tried to ascertain the source of the unnatural light. Finally, he craned his head directly above him and squinted at the top of the skyscraper. There, part of the ceiling hundreds of feet above his head, lay a blood red surface, made of glass or some other material.
Eragon was startled out of his reverie by the sound of chuckling next to him. Turning sharply, Eragon found Brom standing next to him, laughing at his reaction to the architecture.
"We call it the Isidar Mithrim. It's a gift from Beor Corp. As is the rest of the building," explained Brom, opening his arms and gesturing all around him.
Eragon's jaw fell open once again as he was left to gape at the astounding architecture of the rest of the structure. It was a perfect combination of old and new, classical romantic architecture with modern features. Columned arches surrounded him on every side, constructed out of stone. However, intertwined with the stone was plenty of metal, blending fluidly in with the earthen tones. Light also flowed in through the numerous windows, placed liberally throughout the structure as it spiraled upwards towards its peak.
"Come on, boy," interrupted Brom gruffly. He grabbed Eragon by his elbow and dragged him across the length of the lobby. Annoyed, Eragon shook off his father's hand, but continued to follow him. Soon, they arrived at a set of elevators. Stepping in, Eragon was pleased to discover that the entire elevator was constructed of transparent glass, allowing him to peer out at the rest of the building as they ascended. Brom quickly jammed the button for the 50th floor, and the elevator shot off.
Eragon continued to inspect the architecture as they rose. Such architecture seeming physically impossible from an engineering perspective, and yet he saw proof of how it was possible.
Moments passed as the ground continued to get smaller and smaller. Suddenly, the view of the ground was cut off by a red substance: the elevator had seemingly reached the Isidar Mithrim. But it did not stop there. Seconds later, the elevator came to a halt, and Eragon stepped cautiously out. He looked at the ground beneath him and was shocked to see the ruby-like gem underneath his sneakers. Above him, starlight shone in through a glass ceiling and streamed through the orifices of the gem.
When he looked up, he found Brom, as always, standing in front of him, waiting patiently for him to follow. With a scowl, Eragon did just that. Brom led him across the ruby floor to a corner office. As Brom took a seat at the desk in the office, Eragon stepped over to the window and peered out at the city of Ilirea. Bright lights illuminated much, from the individual cars, small as ants on the streets below, to the massive skyscrapers of East Ilirea that towered above even the tower of the Varden.
"Nice view, huh?" spoke Brom, trying to initiate a conversation.
Eragon, not in the mood for pleasantries, cut straight to the chase. "Why am I here?" he demanded bluntly.
Brom leaned back in his chair, pondering the question. He twirled a sapphire ring around his ring finger, seemingly lost in thought. Finally, he answered. "On the surface, the Varden is an import/export business. Our two major business partners are the defense contractor, Beor Corporation, with whom we share this building, and Du Weldenvarden. I believe you have met the CEO of Du Weldenvarden: Islanzadi," Brom explained.
Eragon was silent for a moment. He kept his gaze centered on the streets below, his eyes shifting from one set of headlights to another. After a while, he lifted his gaze to meet Brom's eyes. "You said the Varden is a business on the surface. What is it beneath the surface?" he asked through gritted teeth.
Brom flashed a mischievous smile. "Simply put, we are the resistance. We are the only thing that stands between Galbatorix and complete control of this city. We do whatever we can to protect the people of this city, and to thwart the plans of Empire."
"So you're a bunch of vigilantes?" confirmed Eragon in disbelief. "This just keeps getting better and better," he muttered to himself.
"If you had seen some of the terrible things that Galbatorix has done, you would not be so quick to judge," shot back Brom defensively.
"Oh, please, enlighten me, master," mocked Eragon with a sneer. "Please justify your criminal behavior."
Brom did not take the bait; instead, he sighed and paused before embarking on his explanation. "Years ago, this city was ruled by a group of great men. They were strong and powerful, but they were also wise and sympathetic to the needs of the people. Together, they formed the Council of Skulblaka. At the time, Galbatorix was just a young hot shot, gunning for more political power. He and his partner, Jarnunvosk, were extremely popular. They had graduated from Vroengard University and were determined to take the world by storm. And then one day, it all went wrong. Jarnunvosk was accidentally killed in a driveby shooting between rival Urgal gangs."
"Galbatorix descended into madness. He was determined to enact revenge for Jarnunvosk's death. For a year, he disappeared. When he finally returned, he was followed by the Forsworn. Together, they eliminated hundreds of political opponents, including the entire Council of Skulblaka. They would drag entire families out into the night, never to be seen again. He has killed hundreds, Eragon, and he won't stop. He can't stop; it's a part of who he is now." Brom finally concluded his speech, his eyes silently conveying the grim nature of the situation.
"Why does this matter to me?" questioned Eragon obstinately. "I'm just a teenage kid, trying to survive high school. This isn't my problem!"
Brom smiled grimly and shook his head. "You're wrong, my son. This is your prob-"
He was interrupted by a sudden knock at the door of the office. "Come in," spoke Brom. The door opened slowly to reveal a tall, heavy set man with dark skin. Like Brom, he wore an expensive suit and silk tie.
"Principal Ajihad?" Eragon gasped in disbelief. Nasuada's dad, the principal of his high school, was somehow involved in this entire conundrum. With his expensive choice in clothing, he looked every bit the part of the consummate businessman, cutthroat and conniving.
"It seems you have met," remarked Brom innocently, although the mischievous smirk on his face conveyed the exact opposite message. "Eragon, I would like to introduce you to Ajihad. In addition to being the principal of West Ilirea High School, he is also the chairman of the board of directors of the Varden."
Eragon was shocked into speechlessness. How deep did this conspiracy run? His dad, Islanzadi, Oromis, and now Ajihad. Who else knew?
Controlling his inner turmoil, Eragon ignored the entrance of Ajihad and turned his attention back to Brom. "You still haven't answered my original question," Eragon said with annoyance. "Why. Am. I. Here?" he demanded.
"I believe I can answer that question," interjected Ajihad suddenly. "The reason your father brought you here tonight is because he wants you to come into your inheritance," he explained. Seeing a confused look from Eragon, Ajihad specified. "We want you to help you lead the Varden."
"Are you out of your mind?" Eragon exclaimed suddenly, beginning to chuckle at the absurdity of the situation. "I'm a 16 year old kid, I haven't even graduated from high school yet. And you expect me to run a multi million dollar corporation?"
Brom looked completely serious, however. "Yes. That is the general idea. I admit, it is rather unorthodox for a teenager to lead a company, but if anyone can do it, it would be you, Eragon."
Eragon shook his head, and began pacing across the floor of the office. "Why in the world would you even want me to do this anyway? Why can't you do it?" he questioned Brom.
"Obviously, I can't lead because I died 13 years ago. It would be a little suspicious if a dead man returned from the grave," explained Brom. "As for why it has to be you, that is simple. The people will follow you. They look up to you, they admire you. And that is what this city needs: a leader to follow in the war that will inevitably occur."
"War?" exclaimed Eragon once again. "This is too much. I'm done. Please take me home, it's late and I have school tomorrow," he concluded curtly, leaving no room for argument.
Brom sighed. There was no way he was going to change his son's mind tonight. Only time would do that. Begrudgingly, he got up from his chair and nodded. "Okay. All I ask is that you consider the offer."
The next morning, Harry awoke suddenly to the blaring of his alarm clock. Yawning, he struggled to get out of bed. He had fallen asleep instantly last night, exhausted by the emotional turmoil he had endured due to his uncle's death. However, he was still running on fumes after only sleeping for 4 hours.
His rough morning foreshadowed a tough day to come. At 7:00, he and Roran clambered into their truck and drove off to school. It was only the day after Garrow's funeral, but they both felt the need to reestablish a normal routine; self pity would not help anything. They would never, ever forget Garrow, but they both knew they needed to move on with their lives.
Eragon soon realized that this was easier said than done.
As soon as he stumbled in the doors leading to the parking lot, he realized that everything had changed. Kids stole glances at him as he passed in the hallways, glances of pity. This annoyed Eragon to no end; he just wanted to be left alone.
Finally, he passed through the crowds and saw his group of friends, huddled in a group, talking. No sooner had he seen them than the memories of his conversation with Brom resurfaced. How much did his friends know about the Varden and Galbatorix that they weren't telling them? Nasuada's father was even the chairman on the board of directors. She had to know. Once he realized this, a new question formed in his mind. Could he trust any of them?
With this new resolution, he finally approached the group.
"Hey Eragon!" greeted Nasuada cheerfully, trying to seemingly make Eragon forget the fact that his uncle had just died. Eragon, with his new paranoia, saw straight through her attempts.
"Hey," replied Eragon coldly. Saphira, who stood nearest to him, eyed him with suspicion.
"What's wrong?" Saphira prodded, sensing something was amiss.
"Well, I did just bury my uncle yesterday," excused Eragon with contempt and sarcasm apparent in his voice.
Saphira continued to stare him down, analyzing his behavior.
"We will talk later," she replied. Eragon sighed. Saphira was his best friend and she knew him better than anyone else. Which meant she knew when he was hiding something.
Luckily, Eragon was spared from the interrogation by the sudden ringing of the bell. "I'll see you guys later," was all he said to his friends as he turned around and walked towards his next class.
The rest of the school day passed in a similar manner. His friends in various classes would all try to initiate a conversation, only to be shut down by Eragon's aloofness and apathy.
I understand now why Arya acted the way she did after Faolin's death, mused Eragon grimly as he headed to the last class of the day: art. She had acted very similarly to Eragon: not wanting to interact with anyone at all. It had taken all of Eragon's considerable patience to get her to open up to him. He realized that with their positions flipped, Arya would likely try the same tactic on him. Sighing, he accepted his fate and headed into the art room.
Immediately, he spotted Arya and headed over to her. When she saw him, she flashed him a small smile and wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.
"I haven't seen you all day," she muttered into his shoulder.
"I know. I'm sorry," whispered Eragon back. He had been so wrapped in his feelings that he hadn't seen her at all since the funeral the previous day. He wasn't necessarily avoiding her, per say, but he just didn't have the energy to go seek her out.
The couple was pulled from their embrace by the class bell, signaling the beginning of the period. Quickly, they took their seats and pretended to listen to the lecture of Mr. Solembum. Soon enough, he dismissed them to work on a project, at which point Arya began questioning Eragon.
"So are you going to tell me what's going on with your dad?" she inquired.
Eragon kept his eyes glued on his paper. "I don't really know," he admitted. "I'm so confused right now."
Arya didn't fall for his deception. "Eragon, you know you can tell me anything, right?" she said softly.
He finally looked at her, drawn in by her sparkling emerald eyes. He was so tempted to tell her everything. But then, his feelings of paranoia and distrust soon resurfaced, and he knew he couldn't tell her. So he merely nodded in response and said, "I know."
"So why won't you talk to me? I can tell you're hiding something," she insisted.
"Just stop, okay?" he said suddenly, in a much sharper tone than he intended. Immediately, he saw the hurt on her face and he instantly regretted his reaction.
"Okay. I get it," replied Arya coldly, returning to her own work.
"Arya," Eragon said, trying to apologize. When she didn't respond, he softly grabbed her hand, forcing her to look at him. "Arya, I'm sorry. It's just... I don't know what's going on. Everything is so crazy right now. I want to tell you, but I can't! I need to figure some things out on my own first, and then I promise I will tell you everything."
Arya's glare softened somewhat, but her anger was still apparent. "You promise?" she asked.
"I promise," Eragon confirmed. Arya nodded, satisfied for the present. The two went back to work on their projects, maintaining a silence between them. Eragon had apologized for his behavior, but it was obvious that Arya had not yet forgiven him...
"Okay, we are done for tonight!" yelled Coach Oromis. "No more sprints!"
The exhausted players sighed in relief as they struggled to breathe after dozens of sprints.
"Next game is on Friday night, here against Feinster. Start preparing mentally now," advised Oromis. "That's all I got. Now get out of here!"
Gratefully, the varsity players stumbled out of the gym towards the locker room. Eragon followed behind slowly. Practice had been horrible for him. Usually, his emotions affected his playing either positively or negatively. When he was upset with another player, he usually played fabulously. When he was fighting with Arya, his playing suffered. Today, however, had been different. He had no emotions to affect him. He was just numb.
The passion that he usually played with was conspicuously absent, and everyone noticed. As he sat down at his locker to get changed, he was interrupted by Oromis' voice.
"Eragon, can I speak with you in my office?" Oromis asked.
Sighing, Eragon nodded and stood up. He knew he was going to get a lecture for his performance today.
"Close the door," instructed the coach as Eragon walked into the office. Oh boy, thought Eragon as he complied and closed the door.
"I know what you're thinking," began Oromis. "You're here because of your poor performance on the court today, and I'm going to tell you to get it together. But that's not why you're here," he concluded.
Surprised, Eragon looked up. "You're here because there's something you need to see, and you're not going to like it," explained Oromis. With that, he opened his laptop and turned it so Eragon could see a video playing. It was footage of a game at East Ilirea High.
"Look at number 5," instructed Oromis. Doing so, Eragon's eyes widened in shock. The player was amazing, driving past defenders and hitting jumpshots like it was nothing. As he squinted at the screen, his stomach dropped as he saw the face of the player.
It was Murtagh.
Clenching his fists, Eragon backed away from the screen. He had known from the start that something was fishy with Murtagh moving away so quickly. And now, his suspicions were confirmed. Murtagh was playing for their rivals, East Ilirea, in the backyard of Empire.
Suddenly, an epiphany came to Eragon. He knew where Murtagh's dad had been transferred. He was working for Galbatorix.
Without another word, Eragon turned around and walked out of the office, and continued out of the locker room. He knew what he needed to do.
Brom and Ajihad were sitting in the corner office at the top of Tronjheim Building, headquarters of the Varden and Beor Corp, as they flipped through a stack of documents.
Without warning, the door suddenly flew open. There stood Eragon, a grim yet determined look on his face. Only two words left his mouth as explanation for his sudden arrival.
Hey guys, sorry for the little wait. I hope you enjoyed the new chapter. Thank you to everyone who reviewed or followed this story. A couple of you have had concerns about Saphira, and rightly so. She will have a much larger role in the story coming up.
Please review and let me know what you think about where the story is headed now. And thanks for reading!