A/N:This chapter's title is perfect for this chapter because it is exactly what I am working through. I hate my subconscious sometimes…
I know that according to the timeline from canon, Arya is about 101 years old when she and Eragon met in the books, only giving her about a year with her father, I am changing this to where she had a longer amount of time with her father, but not really making her any older. If it bothers you, then I am sorry for the rude awakening to the joy and freedom of fan fiction that authors, like myself, enjoy so much. :)
Unlike what I said on the last chapter, the poll is now closed, it was a pretty much a foregone conclusion by the numbers of votes.
A huge thanks to Necrain, Banedon, and the13thdragon for the criticism and advice on the poll options. Their perspective really helped with some of the different routes that are available with this…issue. Thank you all for reading, reviewing and voting on the poll. Happy readings!
Harry smiled slightly at those words, knowing that Eragon had moved forward once again in the training if he had truly begun learning more from the book. Harry clapped his hands before more questions could be asked. "I am sure these guests are cold and hungry and, as can be seen, quite wet. Why don't we finish up the rest of this later, shall we?" Harry questioned before turning and walking off, seemingly oblivious to the stares, and glares, that were being sent at his back.
He felt a weight settle on his mind and he opened his barriers slightly, knowing it was Saphira. "I smell Brom on you, small one. You have much to answer for." Her mental voice rumbled through his mind.
"I will answer your questions, Great One. I only ask that you keep quiet about it to Eragon." Harry replied simply and waited for a feeling of acceptance from the fierce dragon. Upon receiving it, he continued his easy gait towards the dining hall, intent on getting some food and mead to settle the day with.
"So why is everyone so…welcoming to me?" Harry questioned Arya as the pair moved through the tunnels after their meal. "I understand some that having your people vouch for me helps…but it seems like they accepted my presence and different things like that really easily for people who are in the middle of rebelling against the Black King."
Arya smirked, "Having my mother give her vote of good confidence in your favor definitely was a major help. The fact that you are a human that is trusted makes it even better. No one from the Varden, aside from Brom, has been considered 'Elf Friend' in many years. The other contributing factor is that the truth potion you let us use on the Twins. One of the Dwarves questioned whether they could trust the potion you had given, or if you were actually a spy for Galbatorix.
"Apparently one of the Twins heard the last part of it and said that they had never heard of you before and were sure that their 'King' would love to hear about you and your relationship with my people. We have made sure they can't contact him mentally while we hold them prisoner though so that secret is safe for now. After the battle, there is no telling how far the gossip will spread." Arya gave a small, frustrated huff. Gossip was something she did not enjoy much of.
Harry chuckled. "I know how rumors can spread. Six years in Hogwarts and there was very little that I did that someone did not hear about and, subsequently, ask me about it. I guess it makes a little more sense that they trust me, but I am still surprised."
Arya shuffled slightly. "You do carry yourself in a very similar way as Brom did while he was leading the Varden. Ajihad was his protégé and founded the Varden alongside Brom. I think you picked up enough of Brom's subtle habits and ticks that Ajihad feels a sense of subconscious comfort and safety around you."
Harry grimaced. "I have to speak with Saphira at some point. I forgot to hide my scent while I was with her and Eragon so my 'scent' reminds her of Brom. She questioned me about it and has loosely promised to not speak with Eragon about it, but I have to decide what to do with her. Part of me feels that I can trust her to keep the secret, but I fear that it would destroy some of her trust in me. If that slips over to Eragon any at all, then I will have a hard time teaching him a few different tricks that he wouldn't normally learn.
"I don't want to keep things from him, but there is absolutely no reason for me to tell either of them that I was impersonating Brom during my time with them. I did a few things differently, but I tried to communicate Brom's wishes and personality and anything else I could. It won't be exactly like it would have been if it had been Brom with him, but I did the best I could. Brom was Eragon's father, Arya. Even though it wasn't actually him that Eragon was with…he needs that in his life." Harry straightened his shoulders slightly and nodded with conviction.
"The letter I left with him is connected to a piece of parchment I still have. I can let Brom's memories and the things he wanted to teach his son live on through that, mostly unaltered by me, and then let it close with the conversation Brom wanted to tell his son whenever he grew up. While he didn't get to actually meet him, his son was already on his mind when he was killed. I have to make sure that Eragon gets what I never had: hearing from his father that tells him he is loved and wanted. I will just be the mouthpiece that the message is delivered through."
Arya walked in silence for a few moments next to Harry. "I can understand where you are coming from. I know I would have liked to hear my father tell me he loved me just one more time than I did. He told me often, and I knew without a doubt that he loved me, but I would not have minded hearing it again. I can't imagine growing up without having heard it during the first part of my life. I haven't been without him much more than I have been without my mother so it doesn't hurt much worse. It has been wonderful being back around my mother though.
"I think you should not tell them. It is sad that you have to keep that truth from them, but I think it will mean much more to Eragon if Brom stays as his own person." Arya finished contemplatively.
Harry nodded. "How should I explain having a similar scent to Brom though?"
Arya stared off into space for a time before shrugging. "I have no good answer. One path would cause great unrest with some, another would likely not appease Saphira, and there are probably many more that I cannot think of. I am sure you will come up with something though Harry. You usually do a good job at making things up as you go if any of the stories you have told of your past encounters are any indication."
Harry chuckled. "In that, you are absolutely correct. It will be a tough decision no matter what and I am sure that there will be some that will disapprove any choice if they were to find out. That is slightly the point of all this though, isn't it? To be sure they don't find out that I impersonated Brom for a time." Harry gave a small huff. "I think I will retire to my room for the time being. Umm, take this," Harry pulled a mirror from his pocket and handed it to her. "Speak my name while holding it and it will contact me, hopefully it will save some time if I am not around when the attack finally happens. Use this rather than sending a runner. Where do you think we will meet for the final preparations for battle? The throne room?" Harry questioned.
"For a short time, yes. Why do you ask?" Arya asked, though she nearly shook her head in shame as she came to the conclusion on her own
"I'll just apparate there when it is time." Harry stated with a smile, noticing that Arya realized the simplicity of the answer she would receive after she asked the question. "I hope you have a good rest of the day, Arya."
His smile stayed in place until his back was to her. The smile slowly slipped into a frown of concentration however as he made his way towards the stairs that led up to his room. He was wracking his brain, trying to figure out how to explain his scent to Saphira. Of all the things to be exposed by, it had to be his scent. Harry shook his head in embarrassed amazement. He was nearly to the bottom of the steps when Murtaugh exited from the food hall and nearly ran into him.
"Excuse me. I wasn't watching where I was going." Murtaugh said, a pale look on his face as he kept glancing back, over his shoulder into the eating hall.
"Everything alright in there?" Harry questioned, craning his head slightly to see into the place the dwarves often gathered for meals and feasts. He laughed lightly at the sight of Saphira ripping into the flank of a large deer and then swinging her neck over to the barrel of mead. She grasped it in her mouth and tilted it back over her head, swallowing the contents as they flowed out of the holes she made with her teeth. The dwarves around her were cheering madly and Eragon was shaking his head.
"I would have thought you would be used to their antics by now, Murtaugh, son of Morzan." Harry stated easily and gave a small smile to the young man as he tensed up.
"He was no father to me. I hated that man." Murtaugh spat, his eyes showing worry and he took a small step back from Harry.
Harry raised his hands. "Calm down, boy. No need to get defensive. For all of the evil deeds he did, he had a brilliant mind and was a strong fighter. Had his will been stronger, he may not have become a puppet of Galbatorix. I look forward to seeing what you do with your life, you have the drive and desire to correct the wrongs of your father, but are they truly yours to correct? Make a difference for yourself and leave those that would judge you for your parentage behind in the dust, they do not deserve your time or effort. Be the man you want to be out of respect for yourself, not out of some misguided attempt to get people to like you. You'll make friends well enough on your own, don't try to please people, trust me, it doesn't work for long."
Murtaugh stared at him for a few moments in thought. He nodded for a few moments before tilting his head to the side slightly. "You have a very jaded perspective of people."
Harry laughed, "Perhaps. Maybe I am being a little too harsh, but it is what I have experienced in the past. I had people who held me to a certain standard because of what they had heard about me. I tried to live up to that for a time, but they turned their backs on me, dragged my name through the mud, and then tried to act like they loved me all along a little while later when they had a problem they didn't want to fix on their own. Sure, I may be slightly jaded, so unless you want to end up like me, just be yourself and do things for your own reasons, not to make others happy.
I will say this, find you some more friends like that boy, Eragon. He seems to be the kind of person that will stand by you and will seethe best in you no matter what kind of person you turn out to be." Harry smiled at the teen. "I enjoyed our talk. If you find the time, we should do this again."
With a friendly pat on the shoulder, Harry turned and began his trek up the stairs, leaving a thoughtful and relieved teen standing at the bottom. Unseen to Harry a smile crossed the teen's face as he turned around to walk back into the hall where Eragon and Saphira were situated. He was thankful for the acceptance and advice the older man had given him. He stopped walking and spun around to see if the man was still there but found only empty stairs. His shoulders dropping slightly, he continued into the hall; he hadn't gotten the name of his new acquaintance.
Harry reached his room without any other stops and settled into a meditative state on the bed. Arya's statement couldn't have been truer; there were a large number of different options. He could tell Saphira the truth and ask her to not mention anything at all to Eragon, or work out a story to tell Eragon about how he knew Brom and see if he would be able to build a friendship from there with the young dragon rider. Or he could try giving half-truths to both of them, but that could be potentially dangerous if his half-truths were put to the test with absolute truths that could be mentioned to Eragon by other friends of Brom like Oromis or Jeod. The final option he had was to just ask Saphira to drop the matter entirely.
Harry crossed his legs and settled on his bed as he had done often times in the past, trying to clear his mind so that he could work out the issue he was facing. Saphira, oath or not, would likely not drop such a question and the Hogwarts motto weighed heavily on his mind after all these years. The only difference was that this dragon was not sleeping. So at the very least, that left Harry telling Saphira the truth. The problem that he would run into with telling her the truth though, would be trying to convince her to not tell Eragon what all was really going on.
Whatever he ended up telling the young rider, it would have to be very close to the truth for multiple reasons. He could not say that he knew Brom a long time ago, since there were still a few people around that could say otherwise, namely Oromis. The best cover for him would be that he met Brom sometime after he lost his dragon, Saphira, and got to know him during that period of time, leading up to the point where 'Brom' was in Carvahall.
While it wasn't a massive amount of time that Brom was more or less out of view, hopefully it was believable enough to pass. There was also a level of truth to his story if he went that route, because of the knowledge he gained from Brom. Even if he had experienced more things having to do with magic and life events than Brom did, Harry knew quite a few very new things because of the memories that he had gained from Brom. While it would be a decent stretch of the truth, there was still a very large chunk of truth to it.
Harry gave a small smirk as he continued sitting on his bed as memories from Brom surfaced. The rider, during his years of training and stay with elven riders had started a game with some of his closer friends, trying to tell some of the most fantastical stories in the Ancient Language while actually pulling from a true event. Some times they would move from events that they had found themselves in and start trying to see what they could do with a certain political topic and arguing different angles and give excuses for why they were a good idea to follow. The part that Harry was happiest about was that there were words that they used in speech that had been dragged out into meaning a wider range of things during his time, giving him a little extra wiggle room than normal. Harry was confident enough that he could build a convincing enough half-truth that would not be brought under scrutiny if done correctly, especially if he has Saphira on his side to help shunt away any extra suspicion.
Deciding for the time being that it was a good enough plan to go with, he settled on finding a portion of Brom's memories to put himself into more or less as Brom's…companion, there was still a little time for him to figure out what capacity he would be in as he 'travelled' with Brom supposedly, though being the apprentice to Brom wouldn't be too hard to pass off, especially if he treated it much like having a teacher for a specific field of study. While Harry knew a lot of different things, he learned a massive amount of things from Brom, the most important things being how to interact with the people in Alagaesia, for that alone, Harry would have happily been Brom's apprentice if that was what had been needed to learn the information. Brom had been well off the map for the first 30 years of Galbatorix's reign, doing a mix of projects like founding the Varden, tracking down and killing the Forsworn, and ultimately rescuing an egg and leaving it with the Varden and the elves to find a new rider. Most of the people that saw Brom during those times were dead, or wouldn't have remembered Harry even if he had been there with Brom. Brom was a very secretive person and would lie as often as not if you did not know the truth already or were not an ally of his. Jeod would be the only person who would likely actually remember Harry had he been there so Harry would tailor his story to having left before Brom met up with the scholar to find the egg. To add a little more cover to his backstory, Harry could say that he helped Brom with spreading the information of his death. While most would assume he had done that shortly after Brom rescued the egg, he would in truth be talking about the times he had told others about Brom's true death, or about the 'death' he had supposedly died at the hands of the Ra'zac.
Harry smiled, things were seeming to come together for his background. They hadn't told the elves much while in Ellesmera, so for the most part, he had a clean slate to build from with a few unchangeable boundaries. It was one of the better situations he had found himself in, all things told. Harry jumped up when the mirror he had in his pocket began to vibrate and began preparing himself for battle mentally. He flipped out the mirror, moving towards his armor.
"Arya. Is it truly time already?" Harry questioned, confusion filling his voice lightly.
"What? Oh! No, no, no. Kamunth and Destra, the two elves that accompanied Eragon and Murtaugh, are going to meet with the 'Du Vangr Gata'." Arya said with a great amount of disdain at the poor usage of the Ancient Language.
Harry laughed, "Take it easy. Not everyone is blessed with the ability to speak and use the Ancient Language like you elves do, nor have these magicians had the chance to learn it to any true extent. I suppose I can bump up my plans a little and see them sooner than planned. Are you going to be going with them to meet with these foolish mortals?" Harry asked in a mocking, playful voice.
Arya shook her head for a few moments, "Yes, though I doubt any of them are as bad as you can be sometimes."
Harry smiled proudly and made his way towards the door before pausing and looking at Arya through the mirror with a intrigued expression. "Possibly not, but that is me trying to cause problems. Or at least that is the story I am sticking to. Where are you at right now? Anywhere I have been yet?"
"I am next to the food hall. I was going to wait for you to get down before leading you to the place the Du Vangr Gata usually stay." Arya explained, "I guess I should expect you here sooner than you would have gotten here if you just walked, then?"
Harry flashed a smile and willed himself to appear next to Arya, a couple hundred feet below where his room was located in the mountain. "I think that would be a decent idea. Ready to go?" Harry asked a startled Arya with a smile.
"I don't know if I will ever get used to you being able to do that. Especially since I can't hear it when you arrive." Arya took a breath to calm herself and turned off in a direction that Harry had not traveled yet. "The group is this way."
Harry pushed out his awareness and gave a nod. "Yes, I can sense them." Harry faltered in his steps lightly and let out a low whistle. "Either the person I am feeling is a complete idiot, or is channeling their inner Slytherin. Someone in the group has a massive amount of power. It is like a massive well that is deep underground. See if you can sense them." Harry said.
Arya paused in her steps and turned towards Harry with a curious eye but did as he asked. A small gasp left her lips as her eyes widened and focused on Harry. "I can sense them. I felt Kamunth and Destra there, they were easily the most powerful in the room, but…for there to be a human of that power? I did not think it was possible. They are very powerful for a human. Still nowhere near your power or any elves I have known, but impressive nonetheless. What do you mean by the person channeling their inner Slytherin?"
Harry chuckled. "It was a house that you could be sorted into at Hogwarts. It was mostly for people that were cunning and ambitious. For this person to have escaped notice from the Twins while they were here is impressive. The only problem is that either they are getting complacent, or they aren't as smart as I gave them credit for. It was great that they were able to keep their power hidden, but there wasn't a reason for them to relax, the Twins being gone or not. They should have stayed hidden. The only reason I can think of for them not hiding it anymore is trying to impress someone, and that is not really a good reason to expose oneself so openly..." Harry trailed off and the pair began moving once more.
"I suppose this meeting won't be a complete waste of time after all." Arya stated with a thoughtful tone to her voice, "If this person can truly use the ancient language to their fullest potential, that is."
"You know, one of these days, I think you are going to realize just how much harder it is to keep the unimpressed, uncaring air about you like you have for the past…well, however long it has been that you have held to it. It may have served you well while it was just you, Fäolin, and Glenwing that were travelling together and watching out for each other's backs. You just might be pleasantly surprised how reliable people can be if you give them a chance." Harry stated, smirking slightly to the elf that walked beside him.
"Now, I'm not one to talk really, since I'm among the more skeptical group that inhabit the world, and there have been plenty of people I have turned away so that I didn't get caught out in the wind if or when they betrayed me. But I doubt you will be able to keep this persona for long." Harry gently grabbed her arm and pulled her to a stop.
"Your family and your people have known war, the Dragon/Elves War, and the war surrounding and following The Fall; but you have not experienced it. Do not turn away friends and allies now just because they do not impress you, they will be the ones you least expect to learn on when things get harsh; and you will rely on them much more than you think possible right now."
The pair reached the doors that lead to the room that the magic users were meeting in. "War is messy, long, and wears away every ounce of strength that you have in you, coming at you from every angle. I will stand beside you, your people will stand behind you, and many of the Varden will support you as well. If you slight some of them, however, no matter how barbaric or incorrect their beliefs and social systems may be, you will lose just that much more help in the end."
Arya watched as Harry spoke and saw a greater view of just how many years Harry had lived through. There was an overwhelming rush of loss and pain that swirled through his expression, weariness settling on his shoulders for a few seconds. "No one is prepared for the cost of war, except those too foolish and prideful to think on it, or those who are oblivious to its occurrence. One may set flight to a thousand, but two may set flight to tens of thousands… Upsetting a potential ally right now could possibly cost us the war. These beginning stages are so delicate."
Harry straightened and strode into the room with confidence and an aura of power. Arya was stunned in place for a few seconds by the unexpected and quick shift in her friend. She mostly understood what he was trying to convey to her in words, but she fully understood the message he was trying to send to the 'Du Vangr Gata'.
She gave a sigh. "I hate politics sometimes…" Arya muttered to herself before following Harry into the room.