Chapter 36

Eragon grew more and more concerned the longer that his students remained silent. The pain of not knowing of his student's health, of whether or not they were style alive, was eating at his insides. Twice Saphira had been forced into defending her rider from the coming onslaught of an enemy soldier.

He wanted to run to them, to see for himself why they could not respond to his calls, to discover whether or not his students, his family were still alive. But he knew that he could not. It would dishonor them if he did not trust them enough to believe that they could take care of themselves. They were each more competent, more prepared for this then he had been at their age. They'd been trained far longer then he had been, far more thoroughly then his masters had trained him when had last fought.

No. He thought to himself. They do not need me to cuddle and protect them, not any longer. They are Riders in full, today shall be their final test. We can no longer guide them. From now on they shall forge their own paths, create names for themselves besides student and apprentice.

They shall become the protectors, no longer the protected. Saphira added as she roasted a soldier that had thrown a small dagger at Eragon's head.

He nodded even as he dodged a strike from one of the Laughing Dead, and then pierced him through the chest and ripped his sword upward, cutting the man in half. Our roles, our meaning in life is changing. The story, it is theirs for the taking. We are only the forward in their tales. He chuckled even as he drove a man back with the force from his shield, causing the mans eyes to grow wide in slight fear. He swiped the man feet out from under him, then drove Brisingr into the socket of his shoulder, causing him to drop his sword in pain as his tendons were cut. I quite look forward to a day when we are no longer needed for events like this. Where our only rule will be to lead and teach. Where we will be respected not for our prowess in battle, but for our knowledge and teachings.

While I respect your desires, and look forward to one day sharing them with you, I believe it would be prudent to focus your attentions on the here and now. Instead of on the future. Perhaps then you would live long enough to see those desires become reality. Arya said through their link, a hint of exasperation, yet also of understanding in her voice.

Eragon blocked an attack at his back, retreating a step as Saphira lunged forward and chomped down on the man attacking him. She threw her head back, tossing the man around before throwing him twenty feet away into a group of men that were assaulting a number of elves. He grunted in acknowledgement, knowing that she was right, but also taking a small amount of satisfaction in the fact that she too looked forward to the same future that he did.

Just as he was making his way through a small path that Saphira had made of the soldiers, sidestepping or even jumping over a small pile of dead Surdan soldiers he heard a noise that made him pause. He turned his head so fast that he was sure that he had given himself whiplash. There was the unmistakable sound of three dragons roaring in unison, causing the air to ripple in response.

They're alive. He thought, and couldn't help but to smile in happiness at the thought that his students lived.

Master. The tired, worry filled voice of Vancir spoke into his mind.

Almost instantly the nerves and worry that he had been feeling for his students returned as he heard the slightly frantic tone of the usually calm elf. Vancir, what is wrong? Have you or Gastakv been injured?

Vancir seemed to be reluctant to answer, but when he did, his voice was lower, and seemed to be choosing his words with great care. Almost as if he feared what Eragon would think if he wrongly described the situation that they found themselves in. Helen and myself, as well as our dragons are fine. But Gastakv has lost his arm, I had to cut it off of Tellus' neck spike before his injury became worse.

Eragon blanched, but remained within the fight, though he desperately wished to go to his students side and examine Gastakv's wound for himself. With a growl he unleashed his frustration on the man before him. He sheathed his sword, and reaching out pulled the man to him and punched him in the breastplate, cracking the armor and breaking the mans ribs. He began to wheeze, desperately trying to catch his breath as he clutched at his chest.

How is he? How is his condition? Saphira asked.

I was able to stop the bleeding, and he seems to be fairing well. But, we have another problem. .. Vancir then went quit, and Eragon waited on baited breath for him finish, but no reply seemed to come.

When he was about to respond Helens voice, the gentle and sweet tone that she always seemed to speak in gone. In its place a gruff and tired tone had replaced it. We have found him master, or one of them. Vancir and Gastakv are battling him now. She went quit for a moment, then continued, though this time she seemed to have lost some of her edge and sounded far more nervous. How are we supposed to beat him Master? How can we beat him?

Eragon didn't spare a second in responding, wanting to give her the information that she needed as soon as possible. He wanted to give her the support that he knew she needed at that moment, knew they all needed. You beat him together. Together, you can do anything. It is why I brought you all. Alone we are powerful, but together, together we are near unbeatable.

We are unbeatable brother, there is no near about it. Go Helen, work with your brothers, and tonight when this is over we shall all celebrate. Murtagh said, and Eragon was pleasantly surprised to hear the pride in his brothers voice, as well as the determination and faith that they could win.

"Hahaha!" Eragon turned, expecting to see a man coming at him, a sword protruding through him, or a missing limb slowing him down. But all he found was a pale being garbed in black. His hair was a dark as midnight, and his were as red as Thorns scales. The mans pale face was scared, red angry lines were running up the left side of his face, only to meet at his eye where a long angry looking slash ran across his eye.

"You broadcast your thoughts louder than an angry dragon. Tell me, how is it that someone like you, someone who worries so much leads the Dragon Riders?" the being said, a sneer covering his face.

Eragon turned his body so that he could be face to face with the being. He rested his hand upon the pummel of Brisingr, ready to unsheathe the weapon at a moments notice. "It is not worry that I feel, but compassion and love for my students, and all those that I protect. It is a trait that I believe you used to possess."

The being laughed again, and spread his arms wide. "And look at what that compassion has brought me. My brothers and I live on, while those we once wished to protect have passed into the void. Our order destroyed, and we have been transformed into monsters. Ask yourself Rider, is it so beneficial to feel compassion for another?"

Saphira growled, and shot a puff of smoke at the being. "If you dislike what you have become, then why are you doing this? Why threaten the land that you once defended? Why not end all of this madness and let all of the pain go?"

The being threw his head back and the laugh that he emitted was so insane that Eragon had to question whether or not he had ever been sane at all. "I never said that we did not enjoy, or relish in our new identities. The power that we now possess, it is unimaginable. It is our right, our duty, as it once was to show the people of his land a better way to live."

"You would rule them fear, and anger, and greed! That is no way for a people to live! I won't allow you, or brothers to destroy everything that we have accomplished over the years since Eragon killed Galbatorix! I would rather die, than see that happen again!" Murtagh yelled from Thorns back as they dove at them.

The being smiled, his sharp teeth showing between his black lips. "Then you shall die!"