AN: Hi! Here's another one. :) I know that some of you are waiting for 'Rumors' to be updated, and I ask that you please be patient. I have it partly written, so it should be done and posted soon enough. In the meantime, however, I have tons of one-shots that are calling to me, and since I actually know exactly that those are going to say, they come first. But I promise that the update shall be done soon. At the moment, however, I hope you all like this. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own the Inheritance Cycle. CP does.
A soft, slow breath passed through Eragon's clenched teeth as his opponent's sword fell to the floor between them, the formerly gleaming weapon now nothing more than a pile of twisted metal. Slowly raising Brisingr so that its shimmering blue point was nestled gently in the hollow of the opposing warrior's throat, he held the position for a few more seconds before nodding at the almost man before him, acknowledging his improvement from the week prior before stepping down, a wide smile crossing his face as he did.
"Well done, Farven," Eragon said encouragingly to the fifteen-year-old as the young man in question slowly made his way back to the edge of the sparring arena, his body already stiff and aching from the multitude of bruises he had gathered. Turning to face the rest of his Advanced Sparring class, he couldn't help the mix of pride and disappointment that swelled within him as he closely examined the seven youths that had joined the Riders' ranks just five years prior, both proud of the progress each and every single one had made over the few years they had been his students, yet disappointed at the daydreaming he saw within many of their minds. Quickly searching their faces for the indicators he wanted, it was with a definite nod that Eragon found his next prey.
"Elvina, explain to the class, in detail, why Farven's sword bent and what measures could be taken to counteract it. And please, do it without trying to contact your dragon. Spador is flying three leagues due west of here, and while I am sure you would eventually make contact with him, I would not advise it. Saphira and Bromilious are teaching diving techniques, and I doubt Spador would appreciate it if you interrupted him and broke his concentration while he was pulling out of a dive."
Her face flushing, Elvina quickly shot the knot of friends that she had been centered in a series of pleading glances, each one becoming more desperate as she realized that none of them would be able to supply her with the answers through the mental links they almost always shared. Rising with a half whispered "Yes, Master," she slowly shuffled to the center of the arena to stand before him, her eyes locked firmly on the ground as she started to mutter a series of excuses in hopes of appeasing him. Leaning forward slightly onto the pommel of his sword, Eragon let out a soft sigh of exasperation as he turned towards the window that showed the world outside of the dimly lit practice hall he had been trapped in for the better part of the morning, watching as class after class of new Riders-some soon to be granted the title in full, some with their newly hatched partners still wrapped around their necks-battered away at each other under his all-seeing eyes. The warm summer day had distracted them all, a distraction Eragon knew he would soon give in to, allowing both the students and teachers he had trained over the years the rest of the day off.
If five hundred years of teaching new Dragon Riders had taught him anything, it was that not even the sternest teacher could recapture what the sun and heat had stolen away, and really, he had no wish to even try.
Lifting his head from where it had fallen onto his chest during Elvina's explanation, Eragon quickly waved her back to her seat, the relief at being out of the spotlight obvious upon her ruby face. Drawing in a breath, Eragon quickly reviewed the statement she had given before slowly shaking his head, his face calm despite his racing thoughts. "You had the basic concept correct, Elvina, but your specifics were off. While it is true that Farven's wards were worded to protect against someone of lesser or equal strength, not greater, his problem laid in how he fixed them to the metal. Had they been properly set, his sword would not have been so badly damaged, even with the limitations he had woven into his spells."
Pausing for a moment, his head turning almost longingly towards the balmy breeze that blew through the opening, Eragon flicked his hand towards the door even as his mind reached out as far as he could, encompassing both teachers and students in his proclamation for miles around. Finish your lessons for the day. Class is over. Smiling as a euphoric buzz from both groups flooded his mind along with multiple choruses of Yes, Master, and Thank you, Master, it wasn't until a couple minutes later that he noticed the familiar and well-loved pressure at the back of his mind that demanded his attention. Cutting off all of the other communications, Eragon tore down the barrier within his mind and quickly accepted the almost overwhelming presence of the partner of his heart.
Little one, Saphira crooned into his mind, both pleased and amused by his announcement. Is there a reason why my class has abandoned me? If I hadn't heard you for myself, I would have thought the Halls had been attacked, they disappeared so quickly.
That's actually a good idea, Eragon said slowly as he sheathed Brisingr, rolling the thought around within his mind. Attacking the Halls, I mean. It's been awhile since we've had an aerial combat class, but that can be for another day. It's summer Saphira, and you know just as well as I do that we'll never get them to focus.
You mean you can't get them to focus, Saphira retorted with a chuckle as Eragon quickly made his way out of the arena, his leather boots falling with soft thuds upon the stone floor. My students have been nothing but attentive, at least until you called them away.
That's because you're their elder, and they would be sorely remiss if they crossed you,
Eragon laughed as he entered the central courtyard, the stifling heat of the indoors fading away as the wind blew through the gardens that encompassed the main clearing. Will you be here soon?
In a couple of minutes, little one. Bromilious wishes to discuss something with me. Even as she spoke, a blurred image of her purple eldest son flashed across his eyes, along with a jumble of information about strange cloud patterns that might or might not cause problems with classes for the next few days. Once I am done, shall we spend the rest of the day in flight?
If you're not too tired, Eragon replied, a chuckle drawing itself from his lips as amusement at the idea of being too tired to fly passed from Saphira to him, an idea that was about as absurd as the idea of a dwarf deciding that he would rather forsake the mountains for the sea. Allowing their connection to fade as Saphira returned to her conversation, Eragon sighed as he slowly walked through the gardens, smiling and greeting the teachers he had once taught and the students that were currently his as he made his way towards a tall tree that towered over the walls that made up Rider Halls. Angling himself so that he met the staircase that wrapped around the outside of the sung to tree, it was only a few moments more before he came to the door that entered into his private quarters. Pausing for just a moment more, Eragon turned as the wind gently blew across his face, causing the leaves of his home to rustle pleasantly in a musical symphony only nature could create. Gazing over the walls and towers that encompassed him, it was with a deep sense of peace and happiness that he examined at his world.
Three years. It had taken him and his companions almost three years to reach this still nameless land they had all come to call home. Half the size of Alagaësia, the island was almost completely surrounded by mountains on all sides, except for the one natural port where they had built their city. Immediately after landing, he and the handful of elves that had accompanied him had gone to work to shore up this one weakness in their defenses, determined that all who wished to set foot upon their land would either have to have a dragon to fly over them with or would have to pass through their halls and gain entrance with their permission. The mountains that protected them had also proven to be riddled with caves that in the coming years would house the wild and the bound dragons alike once they had completely their training, and the vast differences in the climate as they moved from one end of the island to another had also proven to have something for every dragon, no matter their environmental preferences. Luckily, there had been no signs of human or other intelligent creatures that might have crossed them and demanded their departure, nor had extensive searching of the island through both physical and magical mean revealed differently. Except for huge herds of deer and wild buffalo, as well as other prey Saphira quickly found as suitable for the coming hatchlings, they were completely alone.
It was perfect.
Much to his and the elves' delight, the wild dragons had quickly sensed that they were home and that it was finally safe to enter the world that had so long await them. Within months of them claiming the island for themselves and the dragons, all but the twenty-four eggs that had been bound to riders had hatched for them, filling the air with their musical screeches as each demanded its mouth filled and its scales admired, taxing all of them to the max of their endurance as they tried to fulfill all the hatchling's demands at once. It didn't help that, once he had told Nasuada about their success in finding a home, the first Dwarven and Urgal Dragon Riders had set off to join them for their training, their journey cut down to a mere few weeks of travel as they were guided by memories implanted and fed by the energies of the Eldunari he had sent them upon the news of their departure to return with. Although their dragons had proven useful in catching enough food to feed the young, having to plan and teach the lessons that both parties needed were made that much more difficult by the cries that had echoed night and day as the young ones grew.
But grow they had, and the dragons had begun to revive.
After the wild ones had grown enough to be able to take care of themselves and to join Saphira and her two apprentices in classes, a steady routine had quickly fallen into place for them, one that had kept them for the last five centuries as they thrived. It was simple enough, really. Every year, as the clutches of eggs were laid and some were given to the Riders to be bonded, he and the elves would send an equal number of eggs to the leaders of each of the four species for their riders to be found, though it had fallen to those same leaders to work out any conflicts that arose over eggs that refused to hatch for them. Then, until each dragon was large enough to make its way to them, about the time they were ready to begin breathing fire, Rider and dragon would go to Ellesmera to begin their training. When they were ready to begin the journey, he sent an Eldunari to each pair, after which they would leave their old homes for a more permanent new one. Once they had reached the island, the process began again.
It was simple, it was perhaps not quite as foolproof as they would have liked, but so far it had worked. And for that, they were grateful enough.
Shaking his head to clear it of thoughts that had long since past into history and tradition, Eragon forced himself to return to the present as a voice called his name, hailing him with a request for a moment of his time. Placing his hand on the edge of the door that led into his study, Eragon stood silently as he listened to the pattering of bare feet across the cobblestone walkways that wound through the gardens, coming closer and closer as their owner rushed to meet him. Half turning so he could see the messenger as he rounded the corner closest to his tree, a smile broke out across his face as he recognized the young boy that was fast approaching.
"Hail...Argetlam," Cerius panted as he stumbled to a halt halfway up the staircase that led to Eragon's office. The child of two Urgal riders, although he himself had yet to be bonded to a dragon, he had shown a great proficiency in magic at quite a young age, a talent not normally known amongst his people. To quiet the concerns that had risen over his ability, Eragon had taken him under his wing as an assistant and his student, teaching him everything he needed to know about magic in exchange for performing some of the many minor tasks that needed to be done by the leader of the Riders, but that Eragon himself could find no time for. Even if it was just filing papers and helping to keep his office organized, Cerius had proven extremely valuable during the past few years he had been working for him, and Eragon, despite his earlier misgivings, had grown fond of the boy. "I have...a message...from the guards."
Motioning for Cerius to follow him in, Eragon slowly made his is way through the opening chambers that led into his office, the half light that filtered through the many small cracks in the bark of his home that acted as windows for him cool and inviting. Pausing just long enough to pour drinks for the two of them in the alcove that had come to be his kitchen, Eragon finally came to a stop as he settled himself down behind the large oak desk that dominated most of the front room, blocking the stairs that led to his private chambers above. Placing one of the mugs he had filled on the far side of the desk, he motioned towards the padded chair that sat directly before him, his eyes meeting Cerius' as he gave his suggestion. "Sit down Cerius. After your run, you must be thirsty. Tell me, how have your studies been going?"
"Master," Cerius said, his voice a mixture of reprimanding and awe. "We have no time for this. A ship is headed straight towards the port, and it's not one of our fishing or trade ships. It's unlike any of the others we've seen, and no one has answered our requests for identification. What's more, it sailed straight through our wards! We don't know whether the crew is ill-intentioned or not, but you must go meet it! You must!" Stamping his foot in a childish fit of anger, the Urgal child fixed him with a steely gaze that few would have been able to hold, despite his comparatively small size and lack of horns.
"Sit down Cerius," Eragon said again, though this time it was a demand instead of a suggestion. "Until Saphira returns, there is nothing I can do about the elven ship that is approaching directly from our west, which I was informed of by our route watchers three days ago. Because it did not stop at our trading post a day out, which, as you know, is the closest we allow any ship that is not ours to come, I have already taken into consideration that nefarious purposes might or might not be involved. Saphira and I have already decided upon a plan of action that we shall put into play once the ship has come closer." Letting out a sigh, Eragon closely examined his student as the Urgal sheepishly lowered himself into his chair, his eyes locked upon the floor as he reached out to take his drink. "However," Eragon said softly, raising a finger to cause the child to pause for a moment, "you are right about one thing. Once Saphira has returned, the two of us shall leave to confront the ship and determine its true intentions. The farther we keep it from our shores, the better for all. Now tell me, have you finished reading that book I gave you?"
"Yes Master," Cerius mumbled under his breath as he turned to gaze out the window, his eyes obvious in their search of the sky. Almost without realizing it, he began to regale Eragon with questions and observations he had gained from the book, his many ideas running together into a twisted mass that Eragon couldn't help but believe that few others would have been able to untangle. It was in this manner that the two passed the time, he answering Cerius' questions while at the same time helping to smooth the wrinkles within his logic that only time and experience could completely destroy, all while the boy searched the distance for the telltale glittering blue. So, it was no surprise to Eragon when Cerius finally shot up from his seat, his feet slapping against the wooden floor as he raced to watch the imminent landing.
Little one. Saphira's voice echoed in his head as he headed after Cerius, a small smile plastered upon his face as he watched the boy dart out from between the trees that surrounded the gardens to reach the central clearing, his eyes sparkling in excitement as the blue dragon came to a rest. Bending her head, she gently prodded the Urgal boy with the tip of her snout, just hard enough to force him back a step so he was out of her way. Seeing that her actions had caused his smile to somewhat dim, she playfully flicked his chin with the tip of her tongue, causing a peal of laughter to burst from the child. Happy that his good spirits were restored, Saphire turned her gaze to her Rider, the love that shone from eyes returned in equal measures from his own. Are you ready to go?
"Of course," Eragon replied with a smile as he made his way towards her, fixing her saddle to her back with a quick spell to save time. Once the spell was finished, he swiftly jumped from the ground to the top of her leg before finishing his journey, nestled comfortably within the seat in the hollow of her next that was specially for him. Turning towards his apprentice as she was preparing to take off, Eragon called down to the boy, capturing his attention from the shimmering dragon below. "Cerius! Perhaps once I return, you would like to go for a flight?"
Although his answer was lost in the howl of wind as Saphira took to the sky, Cerius' glowing smile of excitement was answer enough.
Where to, little one?
The boat, Eragon responded with his mind, sending her the image of the ship that had plagued their minds for the past few days. I want to get this over with before it gets too close and poses a threat to the hatchlings.
If any of them wish to harm my younglings,
Saphira snarled, her lip curling to bare her dagger-like teeth, then they will find that wishes can get you killed. Letting loose a roar of challenge, the Rider and dragon turned towards the sea, prepared to take on any and all who dared to oppose them.
The chilled ocean wind wrapped itself around Eragon's form, cocooning him in an almost insufferable blanket of insubstantial ice. Muttering the spells softly under his breath as the ship came into view, he quickly dispelled the freezing touch from his skin as well as double checked that the many wards he had placed around himself and Saphira still held, a nervous reaction from his early days of battle despite the fact that he knew his magic was still protecting them. Satisfied that neither would be harmed in any battle that might ensue between the pair and the boat, Eragon turned his eyes to search the water below, his keen gaze quickly picking out the feature he wanted.
There, Eragon thought to Saphira, his hand releasing the spike before him so he could point it out to her. I can see the ship.
Have you made contact yet, Saphira asked as she banked to the right, following Eragon's lead to keep them on the correct course. As she turned, she slowly allowed herself to lose altitude until she was just skimming the the waves below, her every movement enough to send a shower of sea-spray into the sky around her.
Not yet, Eragon replied, a shiver running down his spine as the icy water brushed against his face. I'm not sure if there are any magicians on board, so I want us to be close enough so that I won't have to strain myself if I have to break into their minds. Plus, Eragon continued on in a teasing tone, a wicked grin stretching across his face as he brushed his knuckles against Saphira's spine, it's been too long since our last bonfire. Feeling a savage rush of joy at the prospect of a battle, one that had laid dormant for far too long within the dragon, Eragon loosened his sword in preparation for the coming fight.
Deeming that they were finally close enough, Eragon allowed the steel walls that normally surrounded his mind to fade, casting out his awareness in search of the magic tainted minds he was sure were on the ship. His eyes widening in shock as he concluded his search, Eragon quickly withdrew back into his own mind, his fist already pounding on Saphira's side to get her attention even before he was even aware of himself. "Saphira, rise," he yelled, his tone leaving no room for argument. The great sapphire dragon swiftly gained height with each beat of her wings as she circled the ship, never once letting it out of her sight.
There's no one on the boat, Eragon responded, his eyes flickering across the ocean below as he tried to make sense of this newest development. The boat itself is being operated by magic, but I can't find the person responsible for the spells. For a single moment, a deep chill clenched at Eragon's heart as a thought crossed his mind, sending shivers down his spine as the hairs on the back of his neck rose. You don't think it could be a Ra'zac, do you? We never did find the last of their eggs, and if they were to have the ship enchanted, then kill the magician...
A deep, guttural growl tore itself from Saphira's lips as she entertained the idea for a moment, her deep hatred for the species tainting her vision red before she threw off the notion, calm already settling itself over her as she slightly shook her head. I cannot smell their taint, she informed him rationally, though her teeth were still barred in a dangerous grin. Even if that was the case, our wards would have stripped the ship of its magic, marooning them. No Eragon, we are facing a powerful foe, one well versed in the magics from which we thrive.
But then wh-
A deep, challenging roar shook the air around them, knocking Eragon's teeth together as his jaw snapped shut, cutting off his words before he could ask the question that bothered him so. Flattening himself as Saphira turned her rise into a dive towards the sea, his eyes watering from the rushing wind, it was only a moment later that she pulled back into the air, her body twisting to snap at the creature pursuing her, his sword ready and willing to fight whatever battle had finally found them.
It wasn't until a moment later that he recognized the mass of green heading their way and heard the joyful laughter that sounded more then out of place for the situation. Lowering his sword, the spell that had been on his lips dying away to nothing, it was with his own overjoyed grin that Firnen pulled up short and twisted to show the rider upon his back.
Greetings Argetlam, Arya's voice whispered as it brushed against his mind, the familiar yet still haunting tones that resounded underneath drawing him like a moth to the flames. Forcing himself to focus as she started the traditional greeting that courtesy demanded of them, it was with a slight bow towards her that he responded, his tone simple so as to hide the multitude of feelings that had welled up within him. Formality quickly giving way to the awkwardness between friends after a long absence, it was he that finally broke the silence that hovered between them, allowing both his and Saphira's confusion to leak into his question.
Queen Arya, what are you doing here?
Looking for a moment as if she was about to respond, it was with a shake of her head that the elven queen motioned to the ship below, making her desire for them to land clear within her movements. Wondering even more at her actions, Saphira slowly followed them to the deck, careful of her claws so as to not gouge the wood. Loosening the straps that kept him in place, it was with a slight thud that Eragon fell the ground, his hand grabbing onto one of the many spikes that lined Saphira's foreleg for balance. Turning so that he was once again facing the other Rider and dragon, it was with a tilted head that he reiterated his question, keeping his voice calm and unreadable as he questioned his old friend.
"Queen Arya, forgive my forwardness, but protocol demands that I gain answers for the council. By refusing to stop your vessel at the trading island a few days back, you have placed me in a precarious position. By our laws, I should have killed you on sight. As it is, I still consider you one of my closest companions, and so have decided to give you a chance to explain why it is that you seem set on sailing an unmarked ship to our shores." Almost losing his balance as Saphira twitched, her displeasure at his choice of words clear through their connected minds despite the silence maintained, it was with a smooth face that he ignored his dragon and focused upon the elf before him.
"Your directness shows that not much has changed about you Eragon," Arya said dryly, her eyes flickering between him and Firnen as a unheard conversation took place between them. "I thank you for that," she said a moment later, much to his surprise, "and please, do not worry yourselves with titles. I have given up my position as Queen, and so it is I who should be apologizing to you." The harshness in her face giving way to a gentle smile, it was with hope in her voice that Arya continued, her eyes soft as she gazed upon them. "Once, long ago, you offered me a home with the Dragonriders. Eragon, if that offer still stands, I would like to finally join you."
"You are a Rider, Arya," Eragon said slowly as he released Saphira's spike so that he could come to stand next to her, his eyes locked upon her own. "One of the three original Riders of the new order. There is no need for you to ask, only for you to tell me that you have decided to come." Offering his hand, the smile upon his face grew as she took it with her own, tightening her grip into an accepting squeeze as each continued to watch the other. For a long while, as the ship continued to sail closer and closer to the shores of his island, the two Riders continued to examine the other, taking in and refreshing their memories of features that had long since become blurry from the passage of time. It was finally Eragon that broke the silence, the words falling from his lips before he could realize that they were being spoken.
"I missed you, Arya," Eragon whispered softly, his look tender as he continued to gaze at her even as his mind caught up with his mouth and began to curse him. "But in according to our laws, I still have to destroy your ship."
"I've missed you too Eragon," Arya replied just as softly, her hand twisting so that their fingers were intertwined even as a smile began to play upon her lips. Releasing him, it only took her a moment to gather the pack she had brought with her, the only items from her past life that she had decided to bring into her new one. Mounting Firnen, it wasn't long before the two dragon riders were hovering above the pale ships, its sails finally slack as if it had realized that it was at its end. Drawing his sword, it was only with the slightest of sounds that the spell burst from his lips, shredding the wards that had been placed upon it and allowing his flames to catch hold of the dry wood waiting for them. Before long, the ship had begun to tilt and, slowly, make its way to its watery grave.
With the sinking ship behind them, the last of their ties to their homeland were cut, leaving the two Riders adrift on the slowly rolling ocean. Turning their dragons towards the island that was his and would become her home, they set off in a joyful burst of energy, their glittering friends reveling in the power that was theirs and theirs alone. For some, Alagaësia was still to be their goal, their final destination once their training was complete and they could return to their lands.
But for Eragon and Arya, Alagaësia was an ending that they couldn't wait to be rid of. Let others concern themselves with the world they had left behind. For the two of them, the destruction of the craft that had carried the former elf queen marked the beginning of a new adventure, one that, perhaps, the two could finally spend the rest of their lives sharing together.
AN: Sorry if the ending seemed rushed. I actually started this a couple of months ago, and only recently decided to finish it. I hope you still liked it anyway. :)