The Return of the Riders
Chapter 1 A Reason to Be
200 years after the fall of King Galbatorix
An elf-human hybrid sat precariously on an edge of a cliff overlooking the lands he had become so familiar with.
"On the precipice of fate…" He wrote on a kempt piece of papyrus scroll. His calligraphy in the Ancient Language remained undiminished over the years, even though he had no one to write to…or really, no one he could write to. The artistic movements, instead, glided into poetry. It was one of the interests he never had enough time to pursue - the war his main cause of concern.
And now, now all he had was time.
He glanced at the writing on the papyrus, articulately scratched the one line through, and remained focused on the scene before him.
Talita, the beautiful boat built by the elves…a pang of separation pulled on his heartstrings…had taken them miles away from Alagaesia. The river continued down and down, the land around them uninhabited save for the growing wilderness in which beasts grew to massive proportions with no man to hunt them. It stopped, however, the river. Stopped far past the trees of Du Weldonvarden, far past the ability of his elf eyes to see the tallest peaks of the Beor Mountains, far past any sight he looked upon familiarly.
But the scene before him was something to behold indeed. The river had joined a lake, bigger than the Leona Lake, thousands of times bigger, but a lake nevertheless. And dead center of that lake was an enormous island, filled with beasts to hunt, and plants to eat. The perfect place to raise a new batch of dragons. The perfect place to let the race of the dragons rise again.
He stood on the tallest cliff of the tallest peak on the magnificent islands and saw the dragons, aged from toddlers to over one hundred fifty years fly around him and at once he was overwhelmed at the sight. Never in his life did he imagine the flashing colors of red, green violet, yellow, blue, pink, purple of every shade…majestically staking claim to what was theirs, the sky, the land, even life itself.
I have longed to see the home of the Riders.
Those words struck his heart like a lightning bolt, and he suddenly felt weak in his knees. He buckled under his own weight, grabbing a rock for support. He dared not say her name, true or otherwise. Saying her name would open a door he spent years locking, years forgetting, and even longer hammering shut. A single tear rolled down his cheek.
The despair across his ever deepening link rushed through him. Saphira had returned from her hunt. His hair whipped back in an effort to run away from the regal dragoness, she had flown straight up, parallel to the cliffs, her blue body so grandiose it covered half of the rock. She rose above him, her sapphire eyes pinning him down, concentrating on the trail of salt his tear had trekked down his cheek.
Oh, Eragon. She repeated.
What can I do? His swift answer.
She gently touched her feet to the ground, lowering her snout to his forehead, nuzzling his neck.
But she did not reply.
They remained silent, before locking their gazes into a rapidly approaching green color. The direction was too direct, too focused in their position to be anything but one who sought them out.
A young woman of elven descent jumped from the saddle and bowed deeply. Her voice was heavily accented, but she spoke the common tongue with a certain finesse.
"Ebirthil, Blodhgarm – elda and the others have requested your presence."
"Very well, Kyra, I shall be there shortly."
She bowed again before mounting her green dragon, Hjarta. Kyra was one of the first elves to have arrived to their little island away from Alagaesia. She came with three other Riders, two human and one elf. Hjarta had hatched for her almost instantaneously, and since then, she was constantly pushing herself to be the best among her peers.
Hjarta was a kind hearted, pliant, almost sweet dragon. He had soft voice, soothing, and almost silly demeanor about him. Proud, yes, that he was. Hjarta was a dragon after all, but he possessed little of the aggression the males his age had. He reminded Eragon of himself when he was far younger, Eragon in his childhood years, innocent and sweet.
Saphira looked longingly after the green dragon. His scales were deeply hued, like the trees of Du Weldonvarden itself.
I doubt he would ever deny you, Saphira. Not one dragon would reject you, you are the fairest of them all.
Her eyes fixed on him, in there was longing, desire, and dare he say it…a hint of sadness.
What is it, Saphira?
It is not his consent that troubles me. Had he asked, I would have denied him.
His scales are too dark, his voice not deep enough. His demeanor, not aggressive enough. Far too shy. He does not take command, only waits in the shadows. He had neither the confidence or the presence he…I desire.
Not the confidence or the presence who had, Saphira?
After all this time.
Of course, after all this time, and until time itself ends.
I thought you said you could hardly expect you to mate only once.
Had love not been a factor, I suppose.
You loved him?
Love him. Eragon, I love him. He is the only dragon I have ever felt a desire for. And you are not one who should be talking.
He chuckled darkly.
I know. What a pair we make. History may illuminate us as those who bow their heads for duty, but it will never show that every second spend thereafter was one in hell.
We must be off, Little one.
He grasped the leather saddle, heaving himself into place. Saphira took off to the skies, heading over to a small clearing with a tower built from the trees and roots sung into place by the elves.
The humans and elves gathered around the clearing, the eldunari glowing brighter than usual. Eragon felt their presence and let them enter, at once he felt the surge of power return to his fingertips.
"Arya Drottning of the elves sends word. It is most urgent."
Eragon stiffened his jaw and stood stoically in notice for her words. He tried not to, but he could almost feel the movement of her hand as she painstakingly wrote each word down on the papyrus scroll, as if he was the paper himself.
"The eggs have been received safely and have hatched all over Alagaesia. Although it has taken a considerable time, we have finally had a dragon hatch for an Urgal. I would have sent all the new Riders as soon as possible, however, they are still too young to travel. And I have a feeling the impending news may prolong their departure for quite some time. I write bearing ill news of Alagaesia, the times of peace and prosperity, the times of friendship and bonds are not lost to us. We have faced no trouble with ourselves, but our growing prosperity as a land has put us in harm's way. Foreign lands have set their greedy eyes on our wealth, threatening to reduce all we have sacrificed for to ashes. The four races, while united, are failing to hold back our common enemies. They have come from the sea, their eyes hostile, and their gazes sharpened. Surda is on the brink of falling, they have taken the Southern Isles, Aroughs and Dauth have fallen. They remain there, their walls unbreakable, only to determine to set their sights upon the Beor or Feinster. We cannot hold them for longer, they come bearing a power we have yet to see. Our magic is met with their own, their language foreign to us, their power far more vast than ours. We need aid, we need the Riders."
A murmur went through the crowd. Those who had come most recently immediately broke the silence.
"We cannot leave them to die, we must go back. Whether we have left or not does not mean they are not our people."
"I agree with the elf," a dwarf piped up in his deep booming voice, "where we live does not change who we are. We are Alagaesians, and we must go to their aid."
But Eragon had tuned out their words, his conversation rested with Umaroth and Glaedr. Only the elves who had initially accompanied Eragon remained silent. After a while, he held his hand to silence the crowd.
His deep voice caused another murmur through the crowd, but they dispersed. Only Blodhgarm remained. Their friendship ran deeper than most, they had been through the most together.
"I must have your opinion Blodhgarm, before you leave."
"Shadeslayer," his name for the Rider had never changed, "regardless of my feelings on returning to Du Weldonvarden, Alagaesia needs help. We left because Alagaesia was better off without us, now, there is no doubt that Alagaesia is not the same. She has different threats, and she once again, needs us."
"And in regard to your feelings of returning to Alagaesia?"
"Shadeslayer, Alagaesia was, is, and will always remain home. Neither you nor I can deny the desire to return home."
"Thank you, Blodhgarm."
The wolfish elf bowed and returned to the thick mass of forests, most likely to contemplate the news. It was always more complicated.
Glaedr-elda, Umaroth-elda, what do you think we should do?
Eragon Shadeslayer, you have come farther and done better than anyone expected of you. That does not mean nothing more will be expected of you.
You would have me return? I cannot do that.
There is a prophecy. I am fated never to return to Alagaesia once I leave.
Umaroth was the one who answered him.
If your entire life was based on prophecy, destiny, and fate, you would be waiting for someone to read your palm to tell you what to do next. The future is fluid – ever changing events based on the present. There is a strong inclination that what Angela said will come true, but that does not mean all shall remain true. At that time, had you remained the Eragon who first listened to it, had your true name not changed, then perhaps it would remain true. The Eragon the prophecy was for is of a different name than the Eragon who you have now come to be. The prophecy does not hold true any longer. In any case, those who believe the words of prophecies will no doubt see to it that those words come true, but for those who take charge of their destiny, fight for what they believe using their own mind and judgment, they make their own future. That is always the case. A great man is greater than his stars, but the greatest man chooses his own stars to follow. The future is what you and only you make of it.
And of the reason I left Alagaesia in the first place?
Your work here has been completed. They are protected, now we have a race of nearly fifty Riders, spanning across all races, finally, and just as many wild dragons. It is time to return home. Eragon, you should know better than anyone, Alagaesia will not be safe without the dragons there. Alagaesia is not made of only dwarves, Urgals, humans, and elves. Older than history itself, the dragons were there. There are five races in Alagaesia, and it is time for the fifth race to return.
Eragon listened as the powerful words flew through him, they were right. Dragons are Alagaesians, not this other place, wherever this was. Indeed, it was time to return home. His mind set out complete and perfectly determined. It was his heart that was lagging behind.
What is it, Little one? You should be bouncing out of joy for this news, why carry a heavy heart?
Two centuries have past, Saphira, not once did I try and make contact with her. I thought if I did, I would not allow myself to move on. And even since, I have not moved on. But she, what if she has, what if she has a mate, and children? Can you imagine the pain I will feel then?
'History may illuminate us as those who bow their heads for duty, but it will never show that every second spend thereafter was one in hell.' Is that not what you told me? Our duty is always above our hearts, our loyalties are always above our feelings. We will return, and hell we will brave if we find ourselves alone even then.
Eragon nodded, but stopped abruptly as a small, folded boat approached him hesitantly. He bent over, picking it up, and deftly unfolding it. Only one person had ever sent him a letter this way.
I cannot imagine if this letter falls into someone else's hands besides yours. And I will not say your name if happens to do so. I cannot risk this knowledge to become commonly known and I only pray to fate that wherever your travels may have carried you, that this finds you and only you. Alagaesia is troubled, as I am sure you already know, but far more troubling is our inability to fight back. We, as Alagaesians, are lost without the most integral part. I am lost without my most integral part, and I fear that you have taken it with you. Please return, there is nothing we can do, there is nothing I can do. I have not felt this helpless against an enemy since Gil'ead. If returning to save the land you once fought for cannot persuade you to return, than I cannot gamble away a chance to make you understand that I am not who I once was, and I fear neither will I be unless...
One who many times fought by your side.
It is Arya, little one. I can feel her soul through her words.
He clutched the papyrus to his heart. If had doubts, they were erased, he must return.
Opening his mind to the inhabitants around him, all five races, he spoke deliberately and clearly.
There has been news of a foreign threat to Alagaesian soil. Many of us once called Alagaesia home, many of us still do, and yet some of us have never set eyes upon the land at all. And for those this message is intended for. Alagaesia is and will always remain the home of the five races here on this island today, the humans, the elves, the dwarves, the Urgals, and most importantly, the dragons. There are those who dare disrupt the peace we have fought and sacrificed our lives and families for, and those who dare stand before us, the race of Riders, will undoubtedly fall beneath our feet. Our pledge to the land, our pledge to ourselves, was never to separate ourselves from Alagaesia, but to protect the land we originate from. We will return to Alagaesia, warriors and Riders of old, as is their pledge and pact. Those free dragons that have never set eyes on Alagaesia, you are just that, free. Free to choose your own path as I have come to choose mine. In two days time, those who accompany me will leave and set sail for the land we once set sail from. At the turn of the tide, those who desire to accompany me shall return home.
An excitement past through the island, dragons leapt into the air. Most were excited for the change in scenery, only Saphira remained calm.
What is it, Saphira? Are you not excited to return home?
She huffed, I fall pray to my own insecurities as well. I doubt a male dragon like Firnen is in the same boat as I am.
She looked at him, Figuratively speaking, that is.
Eragon chuckled, before glancing at the letter once again. He wrote his reply in his quarters, the dim light ample for his eyes.
To the one who holds my essence,
You know of what I speak, and you will know when this letter finds you that the longing of separation is only increased as the distance is increased. We are returning, as Riders of Alagaesia once more. We shall aid in the fight against these sea faring foreigners, but even more so, we are returning home to Alagaesia, the Riders are returning home to Alagaesia.
As for you, know that myself resides somewhere around you, therefore I can never be lost, as long as I know where you are. You, more than anyone, know exactly who I am, every intimate detail regarding me, and know exactly what you are to me, what you mean to me. I hope this letter finds you in the exact manner it found me, successfully.
It pains me to hear of your troubles, and I would have come, if only for that reason.
I shall see you within the next weeks. Despair not, your losses, both of them, will no longer trouble you. Our record of leaving sentences unfinished will no longer plague us. Of that, I promise you.
-One who would have fallen many times for you
Deftly refolding the boat, he chanted the spell, uttering her true name, letting it wash over him as he directed it to her, kept afloat by the tiny bit of energy each life form donated to its destination.
A knock resounded on his cabin, just as watched the boat sail away past his vision. Tearing his eyes away from longing shores, he opened the door.
The elf initiated the customary greeting, another sign of where exactly home lay for them both.
"We have all received your message, Shadeslayer, and we will be ready to depart. The ships will be packed for the journey, the dragons will fly alongside, west along the banks as long as they can. Talita and the other ships, are of elven make, they will hold the weight."
"What do you miss most about your home, Blodhgarm? If I may ask."
"The smell, Shadeslayer, that unique scent of the forests of Du Weldonvarden and its abundance of fragrances, somehow colliding into one unique scent."
Eragon nodded, silent once more.
"I would ask you the same question, Shadeslayer, but I already know the answer."
The old Rider looked at him, "Oh? And what would my answer be?"
"You may fool your charges, or those others, but we know, we who have fought by each other countless of times, we who know each other, we who have braved the worst times and celebrated the best together, we know you. You miss our Queen, Arya Drottning, the most. We can see the longing in your eyes when her words transpired through us, the sadness and despair that has lurked in your frame the moment we left, that peace that resided in you, simply because of your resignation at never seeing her again. We know, and we saw, the depth of your relationship, perhaps, before you both even did."
A wry smile ghosted over his features, before settling into a more permanent one.
"Do not let my secret out." He glanced warily about, "Saphira might be a tad jealous."
Blodhgarm chuckled, his head thrown back into the disarmingly beautiful laugh that was distinctively his.
"I am glad, Eragon, that if I had to spend two centuries away from the forests I grew up, it was for a person like you. And I am equally glad, that years of isolation and your experiences have not made you bitter as many others, undoubtedly would have become. It is honor to call you my friend, and an even greater one to have accompanied you on this journey as you complete the last task the dragons of old have asked you to."
He bowed deeply, and left the premises.