Main Eragon

Eragon

Categories: Fiction
Year: 2007
Language: english
ISBN 13: 9780440240730
Series: Inheritance 1
File: EPUB, 845 KB
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            [image: cover]

     
 
 
 
Eragon
 
 

 
 
 
Christopher
 
 
 Paolini
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

[bookmark: endpapers]  

 
 
[image: map]

 
 
 

 
 
[image: map]

 
 
 

 
 




 
 
 
 
 
 

[bookmark: c07] 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442292]AN AME OFPOWER
 
 
On the way home 
Roran said, “There was a stranger from Therinsford at Horst’s today.”

 
 
“What’s his 
name?” asked Eragon. He sidestepped a patch of ice and continued walking at a 
brisk pace. His cheeks and eyes burned from the cold.

 
 
“Dempton. He 
came here to have Horst forge him some sockets,” said Roran. His stocky legs 
plowed through a drift, clearing the way for Eragon.

 
 
“Doesn’t 
Therinsford have its own smith?”

 
 
“Yes,” replied 
Roran, “but he isn’t skilled enough.” He glanced at Eragon. With a shrug he 
added, “Dempton needs the sockets for his mill. He’s expanding it and offered 
me a job. If I accept, I’ll leave with him when he picks up the sockets.”

 
 
Millers worked 
all year. During winter they ground whatever people brought them, but in 
harvest season they bought grain and sold it as flour. It was hard, dangerous 
work; workers often lost fingers or hands to the giant millstones. “Are you 
going to tell Garrow?” asked Eragon.

 
 
“Yes.” A grimly 
amused smile played across Roran’s face.

 
 
“What for? You 
know what he thinks about us going away. It’ll only cause trouble if you say 
anything. Forget about it so we can eat tonight’s dinner in peace.”

 
 
“I can’t. I’m 
going to take the job.”

 
 
Eragon halted. 
“Why?” They faced each other, their breath visible in the air. “I know money is 
hard to come by, but we always manage to survive. You don’t have to leave.”

 
 
“No, I don’t. 
But the money is for myself.” Roran tried to resume walking, but Eragon refused 
to budge.

 
 
“What do you 
need it for?” he demanded.

 
 
Roran’s 
shoulders straightened slightly. “I want to marry.”

 
 
Bewilderment and 
astonishment overwhelmed Eragon. He remembered seeing Katrina and Roran kissing 
during the traders’ visit, but marriage? “Katrina?” he asked weakly, just to 
confirm. Roran nodded. “Have you asked her?”

 
 
“Not yet, but 
come spring, when I can raise a house, I will.”

 
 
“There’s too 
much work on the farm for you to leave now,” protested Eragon. “Wait until 
we’re ready for planting.”

 
 
“No,” said 
Roran, laughing slightly. “Spring’s the time I’ll be needed the most. The 
ground will have to be furrowed and sown. The crops must be weeded—not to 
mention all the other chores. No, this is the best time for me to go, when all 
we really do is wait for the seasons to change. You and Garrow can make do 
without me. If all goes well, I’ll soon be back working on the farm, with a 
wife.”

 
 
Eragon 
reluctantly conceded that Roran made sense. He shook his head, but whether with 
amazement or anger, he knew not. “I guess I can only wish you the best of luck. 
But Garrow may take this with ill humor.”

 
 
“We will see.”

 
 
They resumed 
walking, the silence a barrier between them. Eragon’s heart was disturbed. It 
would take time before he could look upon this development with favor. When 
they arrived home, Roran did not tell Garrow of his plans, but Eragon was sure 
that he soon would.

 
 
 

 
 
Eragon went to 
see the dragon for the first time since it had spoken to him. He approached 
apprehensively, aware now that it was an equal.

 
 
Eragon. 

 
 
“Is that all you 
can say?” he snapped.

 
 
Yes. 

 
 
His eyes widened 
at the unexpected reply, and he sat down roughly.Now it has a sense of 
humor. What next? Impulsively, he broke a dead branch with his foot. 
Roran’s announcement had put him in a foul mood. A questioning thought came 
from the dragon, so he told it what had happened. As he talked his voice grew 
steadily louder until he was yelling pointlessly into the air. He ranted until 
his emotions were spent, then ineffectually punched the ground.

 
 
“I don’t want 
him to go, that’s all,” he said helplessly. The dragon watched impassively, 
listening and learning. Eragon mumbled a few choice curses and rubbed his eyes. 
He looked at the dragon thoughtfully. “You need a name. I heard some 
interesting ones today; perhaps you’ll like one.” He mentally ran through the 
list Brom had given him until he found two names that struck him as heroic, 
noble, and pleasing to the ear. “What do you think of Vanilor or his successor, 
Eridor? Both were great dragons.”

 
 
No,said the dragon. 
It sounded amused with his efforts.Eragon.

 
 
“That’smy 
name; you can’t have it,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Well, if you don’t like 
those, there are others.” He continued through the list, but the dragon 
rejected every one he proposed. It seemed to be laughing at something Eragon 
did not understand, but he ignored it and kept suggesting names. “There was 
Ingothold, he slew the . . .” A revelation stopped him.That’s the problem! 
I’ve been choosing male names. You are a she!

 
 
Yes.The dragon 
folded her wings smugly.

 
 
Now that he knew 
what to look for, he came up with half a dozen names. He toyed with Miremel, 
but that did not fit—after all, it was the name of a brown dragon. Opheila and 
Lenora were also discarded. He was about to give up when he remembered the last 
name Brom had muttered. Eragon liked it, but would the dragon?

 
 
He asked.

 
 
“Are you 
Saphira?” She looked at him with intelligent eyes. Deep in his mind he felt her 
satisfaction.

 
 
Yes.Something 
clicked in his head and her voice echoed, as if from a great distance. He 
grinned in response. Saphira started humming.

 
 
 
 
 
 

[bookmark: c08] 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442293]AM ILLER-TO-BE
 
 
The sun had set 
by the time dinner was served. A blustery wind howled outside, shaking the 
house. Eragon eyed Roran closely and waited for the inevitable. Finally: “I was 
offered a job at Therinsford’s mill . . . which I plan to take.”

 
 
Garrow finished 
his mouthful of food with deliberate slowness and laid down his fork. He leaned 
back in his chair, then interlaced his fingers behind his head and uttered one 
dry word, “Why?”

 
 
Roran explained 
while Eragon absently picked at his food.

 
 
“I see,” was 
Garrow’s only comment. He fell silent and stared at the ceiling. No one moved 
as they awaited his response. “Well, when do you leave?”

 
 
“What?” asked 
Roran.

 
 
Garrow leaned 
forward with a twinkle in his eye. “Did you think I would stop you? I’d hoped 
you would marry soon. It will be good to see this family growing again. Katrina 
will be lucky to have you.” Astonishment raced over Roran’s face, then he 
settled into a relieved grin. “So when do you leave?” Garrow asked.

 
 
Roran regained 
his voice. “When Dempton returns to get the sockets for the mill.”

 
 
Garrow nodded. 
“And that will be in . . . ?”

 
 
“Two weeks.”

 
 
“Good. That will 
give us time to prepare. It’ll be different to have the house to ourselves. But 
if nothing goes amiss, it shouldn’t be for too long.” He looked over the table 
and asked, “Eragon, did you know of this?”

 
 
He shrugged 
ruefully. “Not until today. . . . It’s madness.”

 
 
Garrow ran a 
hand over his face. “It’s life’s natural course.” He pushed himself up from the 
chair. “All will be fine; time will settle everything. For now, though, let’s 
clean the dishes.” Eragon and Roran helped him in silence.

 
 
 

 
 
The next few 
days were trying. Eragon’s temper was frayed. Except for curtly answering 
direct questions, he spoke with no one. There were small reminders everywhere 
that Roran was leaving: Garrow making him a pack, things missing from the 
walls, and a strange emptiness that filled the house. It was almost a week 
before he realized that distance had grown between Roran and him. When they 
spoke, the words did not come easily and their conversations were 
uncomfortable.

 
 
Saphira was a 
balm for Eragon’s frustration. He could talk freely with her; his emotions were 
completely open to her mind, and she understood him better than anyone else. 
During the weeks before Roran’s departure, she went through another growth 
spurt. She gained twelve inches at the shoulder, which was now higher than 
Eragon’s. He found that the small hollow where her neck joined her shoulders 
was a perfect place to sit. He often rested there in the evenings and scratched 
her neck while he explained the meanings of different words. Soon she 
understood everything he said and frequently commented on it.

 
 
For Eragon, this 
part of his life was delightful. Saphira was as real and complex as any person. 
Her personality was eclectic and at times completely alien, yet they understood 
each other on a profound level. Her actions and thoughts constantly revealed 
new aspects of her character. Once she caught an eagle and, instead of eating 
it, released it, saying,No hunter of the sky should end his days as prey. 
Better to die on the wing than pinned to the ground.

 
 
Eragon’s plan to 
let his family see Saphira was dispelled by Roran’s announcement and Saphira’s 
own cautionary words. She was reluctant to be seen, and he, partly out of selfishness, 
agreed. The moment her existence was divulged, he knew that shouts, 
accusations, and fear would be directed at him . . . so he procrastinated. He 
told himself to wait for a sign that it was the right time.

 
 
The night before 
Roran was to leave, Eragon went to talk with him. He stalked down the hallway 
to Roran’s open door. An oil lamp rested on a nightstand, painting the walls 
with warm flickering light. The bedposts cast elongated shadows on empty 
shelves that rose to the ceiling. Roran—his eyes shaded and the back of his 
neck tense—was rolling blankets around his clothes and belongings. He paused, 
then picked up something from the pillow and bounced it in his hand. It was a 
polished rock Eragon had given him years ago. Roran started to tuck it into the 
bundle, then stopped and set it on a shelf. A hard lump formed in Eragon’s 
throat, and he left.

 
 
 
 
 
 

[bookmark: c09] 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442294]S TRANGERS INCARVAHALL
 
 
Breakfast was 
cold, but the tea was hot. Ice inside the windows had melted with the morning 
fire and soaked into the wood floor, staining it with dark puddles. Eragon 
looked at Garrow and Roran by the kitchen stove and reflected that this would 
be the last time he saw them together for many months.

 
 
Roran sat in a 
chair, lacing his boots. His full pack rested on the floor next to him. Garrow 
stood between them with his hands stuck deep into his pockets. His shirt hung 
loosely; his skin looked drawn. Despite the young men’s cajoling, he refused to 
go with them. When pressed for a reason, he only said that it was for the best.

 
 
“Do you have 
everything?” Garrow asked Roran.

 
 
“Yes.”

 
 
He nodded and 
took a small pouch from his pocket. Coins clinked as he handed it to Roran. 
“I’ve been saving this for you. It isn’t much, but if you wish to buy some 
bauble or trinket, it will suffice.”

 
 
“Thank you, but 
I won’t be spending my money on trifles,” said Roran.

 
 
“Do what you 
will; it is yours,” said Garrow. “I’ve nothing else to give you, except a 
father’s blessing. Take it if you wish, but it is worth little.”

 
 
Roran’s voice 
was thick with emotion. “I would be honored to receive it.”

 
 
“Then do, and go 
in peace,” said Garrow, and kissed him on the forehead. He turned and said in a 
louder voice, “Do not think that I have forgotten you, Eragon. I have words for 
both of you. It’s time I said them, as you are entering the world. Heed them 
and they will serve you well.” He bent his gaze sternly on them. “First, let no 
one rule your mind or body. Take special care that your thoughts remain 
unfettered. One may be a free man and yet be bound tighter than a slave. Give 
men your ear, but not your heart. Show respect for those in power, but don’t 
follow them blindly. Judge with logic and reason, but comment not.

 
 
“Consider none 
your superior, whatever their rank or station in life. Treat all fairly or they 
will seek revenge. Be careful with your money. Hold fast to your beliefs and 
others will listen.” He continued at a slower pace, “Of the affairs of love . . 
. my only advice is to be honest. That’s your most powerful tool to unlock a 
heart or gain forgiveness. That is all I have to say.” He seemed slightly 
self-conscious of his speech.

 
 
He hoisted 
Roran’s pack. “Now you must go. Dawn is approaching, and Dempton will be 
waiting.”

 
 
Roran shouldered 
the pack and hugged Garrow. “I will return as soon as I can,” he said.

 
 
“Good!” replied 
Garrow. “But now go and don’t worry about us.”

 
 
They parted 
reluctantly. Eragon and Roran went outside, then turned and waved. Garrow 
raised a bony hand, his eyes grave, and watched as they trudged to the road. 
After a long moment he shut the door. As the sound carried through the morning 
air, Roran halted.

 
 
Eragon looked 
back and surveyed the land. His eyes lingered on the lone buildings. They 
looked pitifully small and fragile. A thin finger of smoke trailing up from the 
house was the only proof that the snowbound farm was inhabited.

 
 
“There is our 
whole world,” Roran observed somberly.

 
 
Eragon shivered 
impatiently and grumbled, “A good one too.” Roran nodded, then straightened his 
shoulders and headed into his new future. The house disappeared from view as 
they descended the hill.

 
 
 

 
 
It was still 
early when they reached Carvahall, but they found the smithy doors already 
open. The air inside was pleasantly warm. Baldor slowly worked two large 
bellows attached to the side of a stone forge filled with sparkling coals. 
Before the forge stood a black anvil and an iron-bound barrel filled with 
brine. From a line of neck-high poles protruding from the walls hung rows of 
items: giant tongs, pliers, hammers in every shape and weight, chisels, angles, 
center punches, files, rasps, lathes, bars of iron and steel waiting to be 
shaped, vises, shears, picks, and shovels. Horst and Dempton stood next to a 
long table.

 
 
Dempton 
approached with a smile beneath his flamboyant red mustache. “Roran! I’m glad 
you came. There’s going to be more work than I can handle with my new 
grindstones. Are you ready to go?”

 
 
Roran hefted his 
pack. “Yes. Do we leave soon?”

 
 
“I’ve a few 
things to take care of first, but we’ll be off within the hour.” Eragon shifted 
his feet as Dempton turned to him, tugging at the corner of his mustache. “You 
must be Eragon. I would offer you a job too, but Roran got the only one. Maybe 
in a year or two, eh?”

 
 
Eragon smiled 
uneasily and shook his hand. The man was friendly. Under other circumstances 
Eragon would have liked him, but right then, he sourly wished that the miller 
had never come to Carvahall. Dempton huffed. “Good, very good.” He returned his 
attention to Roran and started to explain how a mill worked.

 
 
“They’re ready 
to go,” interrupted Horst, gesturing at the table where several bundles rested. 
“You can take them whenever you want to.” They shook hands, then Horst left the 
smithy, beckoning to Eragon on the way out.

 
 
Interested, 
Eragon followed. He found the smith standing in the street with his arms 
crossed. Eragon thrust his thumb back toward the miller and asked, “What do you 
think of him?”

 
 
Horst rumbled, 
“A good man. He’ll do fine with Roran.” He absently brushed metal filings off 
his apron, then put a massive hand on Eragon’s shoulder. “Lad, do you remember 
the fight you had with Sloan?”

 
 
“If you’re 
asking about payment for the meat, I haven’t forgotten.”

 
 
“No, I trust 
you, lad. What I wanted to know is if you still have that blue stone.”

 
 
Eragon’s heart 
fluttered.Why does he want to know? Maybe someone saw Saphira! 
Struggling not to panic, he said, “I do, but why do you ask?”

 
 
“As soon as you 
return home, get rid of it.” Horst overrode Eragon’s exclamation. “Two men 
arrived here yesterday. Strange fellows dressed in black and carrying swords. 
It made my skin crawl just to look at them. Last evening they started asking 
people if a stone like yours had been found. They’re at it again today.” Eragon 
blanched. “No one with any sense said anything. They know trouble when they see 
it, but I could name a few people who will talk.”

 
 
Dread filled 
Eragon’s heart. Whoever had sent the stone into the Spine had finally tracked 
it down. Or perhaps the Empire had learned of Saphira. He did not know which 
would be worse.Think! Think! The egg is gone. It’s impossible for them to 
find it now. But if they know what it was, it’ll be obvious what happened. . . 
. Saphira might be in danger! It took all of his self-control to retain a 
casual air. “Thanks for telling me. Do you know where they are?” He was proud 
that his voice barely trembled.

 
 
“I didn’t warn 
you because I thought you needed to meet those men! Leave Carvahall. Go home.”

 
 
“All right,” 
said Eragon to placate the smith, “if you think I should.”

 
 
“I do.” Horst’s 
face softened. “I may be overreacting, but these strangers give me a bad 
feeling. It would be better if you stay home until they leave. I’ll try to keep 
them away from your farm, though it may not do any good.”

 
 
Eragon looked at 
him gratefully. He wished he could tell him about Saphira. “I’ll leave now,” he 
said, and hurried back to Roran. Eragon clasped his cousin’s arm and bade him 
farewell.

 
 
“Aren’t you 
going to stay awhile?” Roran asked with surprise.

 
 
Eragon almost 
laughed. For some reason, the question struck him as funny. “There’s nothing 
for me to do, and I’m not going to stand around until you go.”

 
 
“Well,” said 
Roran doubtfully, “I guess this is the last time we’ll see each other for a few 
months.”

 
 
“I’m sure it 
won’t seem that long,” said Eragon hastily. “Take care and come back soon.” He 
hugged Roran, then left. Horst was still in the street. Aware that the smith 
was watching, Eragon headed to the outskirts of Carvahall. Once the smithy was 
out of sight, he ducked behind a house and sneaked back through the village.

 
 
Eragon kept to 
the shadows as he searched each street, listening for the slightest noise. His 
thoughts flashed to his room, where his bow hung; he wished that it was in his 
hand. He prowled across Carvahall, avoiding everyone until he heard a sibilant 
voice from around a house. Although his ears were keen, he had to strain to 
hear what was being said.

 
 
“When did this 
happen?” The words were smooth, like oiled glass, and seemed to worm their way 
through the air. Underlying the speech was a strange hiss that made his scalp 
prickle.

 
 
“About three 
months ago,” someone else answered. Eragon identified him as Sloan.

 
 
Shade’s blood, 
he’s telling them. . . .He resolved to punch Sloan the next time they met.

 
 
A third person 
spoke. The voice was deep and moist. It conjured up images of creeping decay, 
mold, and other things best left untouched. “Are you sure? We would hate to 
think you had made a mistake. If that were so, it would be most . . . 
unpleasant.” Eragon could imagine only too well what they might do. Would 
anyone but the Empire dare threaten people like that? Probably not, but whoever 
sent the egg might be powerful enough to use force with impunity.

 
 
“Yeah, I’m sure. 
He had it then. I’m not lying. Plenty of people know about it. Go ask them.” 
Sloan sounded shaken. He said something else that Eragon did not catch.

 
 
“They have been 
. . . rather uncooperative.” The words were derisive. There was a pause. “Your 
information has been helpful. We will not forget you.” Eragon believed him.

 
 
Sloan muttered 
something, then Eragon heard someone hurrying away. He peered around the corner 
to see what was happening. Two tall men stood in the street. Both were dressed 
in long black cloaks that were lifted by sheaths poking past their legs. On 
their shirts were insignias intricately wrought with silver thread. Hoods 
shaded their faces, and their hands were covered by gloves. Their backs were 
oddly humped, as though their clothes were stuffed with padding.

 
 
Eragon shifted 
slightly to get a better view. One of the strangers stiffened and grunted 
peculiarly to his companion. They both swiveled around and sank into crouches. 
Eragon’s breath caught. Mortal fear clenched him. His eyes locked onto their 
hidden faces, and a stifling power fell over his mind, keeping him in place. He 
struggled against it and screamed to himself,Move! His legs swayed, but 
to no avail. The strangers stalked toward him with a smooth, noiseless gait. He 
knew they could see his face now. They were almost to the corner, hands 
grasping at swords. . . .

 
 
“Eragon!” He 
jerked as his name was called. The strangers froze in place and hissed. Brom 
hurried toward him from the side, head bare and staff in hand. The strangers 
were blocked from the old man’s view. Eragon tried to warn him, but his tongue 
and arms would not stir. “Eragon!” cried Brom again. The strangers gave Eragon 
one last look, then slipped away between the houses.

 
 
Eragon collapsed 
to the ground, shivering. Sweat beaded on his forehead and made his palms 
sticky. The old man offered Eragon a hand and pulled him up with a strong arm. 
“You look sick; is all well?”

 
 
Eragon gulped 
and nodded mutely. His eyes flickered around, searching for anything unusual. 
“I just got dizzy all of a sudden . . . it’s passed. It was very odd—I don’t 
know why it happened.”

 
 
“You’ll 
recover,” said Brom, “but perhaps it would be better if you went home.”

 
 
Yes, I have to 
get home! Have to get there before they do.“I think you’re right. Maybe I’m 
getting ill.”

 
 
“Then home is 
the best place for you. It’s a long walk, but I’m sure you will feel better by 
the time you arrive. Let me escort you to the road.” Eragon did not protest as 
Brom took his arm and led him away at a quick pace. Brom’s staff crunched in 
the snow as they passed the houses.

 
 
“Why were you 
looking for me?”

 
 
Brom shrugged. 
“Simple curiosity. I learned you were in town and wondered if you had 
remembered the name of that trader.”

 
 
Trader? What’s 
he talking about?Eragon 
stared blankly; his confusion caught the attention of Brom’s probing eyes. 
“No,” he said, and then amended himself, “I’m afraid I still don’t remember.”

 
 
Brom sighed 
gruffly, as if something had been confirmed, and rubbed his eagle nose. “Well, 
then . . . if you do, come tell me. I am most interested in this trader who 
pretends to know so much about dragons.” Eragon nodded with a distracted air. 
They walked in silence to the road, then Brom said, “Hasten home. I don’t think 
it would be a good idea to tarry on the way.” He offered a gnarled hand.

 
 
Eragon shook it, 
but as he let go something in Brom’s hand caught on his mitt and pulled it off. 
It fell to the ground. The old man picked it up. “Clumsy of me,” he apologized, 
and handed it back. As Eragon took the mitt, Brom’s strong fingers wrapped 
around his wrist and twisted sharply. His palm briefly faced upward, revealing 
the silvery mark. Brom’s eyes glinted, but he let Eragon yank his hand back and 
jam it into the mitt.

 
 
“Goodbye,” 
Eragon forced out, perturbed, and hurried down the road. Behind him he heard 
Brom whistling a merry tune.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442295]STRANGERS INCARVAHALL
 
 
Breakfast was 
cold, but the tea was hot. Ice inside the windows had melted with the morning 
fire and soaked into the wood floor, staining it with dark puddles. Eragon 
looked at Garrow and Roran by the kitchen stove and reflected that this would 
be the last time he saw them together for many months.

 
 
Roran sat in a 
chair, lacing his boots. His full pack rested on the floor next to him. Garrow 
stood between them with his hands stuck deep into his pockets. His shirt hung 
loosely; his skin looked drawn. Despite the young men’s cajoling, he refused to 
go with them. When pressed for a reason, he only said that it was for the best.

 
 
“Do you have 
everything?” Garrow asked Roran.

 
 
“Yes.”

 
 
He nodded and 
took a small pouch from his pocket. Coins clinked as he handed it to Roran. 
“I’ve been saving this for you. It isn’t much, but if you wish to buy some 
bauble or trinket, it will suffice.”

 
 
“Thank you, but 
I won’t be spending my money on trifles,” said Roran.

 
 
“Do what you 
will; it is yours,” said Garrow. “I’ve nothing else to give you, except a 
father’s blessing. Take it if you wish, but it is worth little.”

 
 
Roran’s voice 
was thick with emotion. “I would be honored to receive it.”

 
 
“Then do, and go 
in peace,” said Garrow, and kissed him on the forehead. He turned and said in a 
louder voice, “Do not think that I have forgotten you, Eragon. I have words for 
both of you. It’s time I said them, as you are entering the world. Heed them 
and they will serve you well.” He bent his gaze sternly on them. “First, let no 
one rule your mind or body. Take special care that your thoughts remain 
unfettered. One may be a free man and yet be bound tighter than a slave. Give 
men your ear, but not your heart. Show respect for those in power, but don’t 
follow them blindly. Judge with logic and reason, but comment not.

 
 
“Consider none 
your superior, whatever their rank or station in life. Treat all fairly or they 
will seek revenge. Be careful with your money. Hold fast to your beliefs and 
others will listen.” He continued at a slower pace, “Of the affairs of love . . 
. my only advice is to be honest. That’s your most powerful tool to unlock a 
heart or gain forgiveness. That is all I have to say.” He seemed slightly 
self-conscious of his speech.

 
 
He hoisted 
Roran’s pack. “Now you must go. Dawn is approaching, and Dempton will be 
waiting.”

 
 
Roran shouldered 
the pack and hugged Garrow. “I will return as soon as I can,” he said.

 
 
“Good!” replied 
Garrow. “But now go and don’t worry about us.”

 
 
They parted 
reluctantly. Eragon and Roran went outside, then turned and waved. Garrow 
raised a bony hand, his eyes grave, and watched as they trudged to the road. 
After a long moment he shut the door. As the sound carried through the morning 
air, Roran halted.

 
 
Eragon looked 
back and surveyed the land. His eyes lingered on the lone buildings. They 
looked pitifully small and fragile. A thin finger of smoke trailing up from the 
house was the only proof that the snowbound farm was inhabited.

 
 
“There is our 
whole world,” Roran observed somberly.

 
 
Eragon shivered 
impatiently and grumbled, “A good one too.” Roran nodded, then straightened his 
shoulders and headed into his new future. The house disappeared from view as 
they descended the hill.

 
 
 

 
 
It was still 
early when they reached Carvahall, but they found the smithy doors already 
open. The air inside was pleasantly warm. Baldor slowly worked two large 
bellows attached to the side of a stone forge filled with sparkling coals. 
Before the forge stood a black anvil and an iron-bound barrel filled with 
brine. From a line of neck-high poles protruding from the walls hung rows of 
items: giant tongs, pliers, hammers in every shape and weight, chisels, angles, 
center punches, files, rasps, lathes, bars of iron and steel waiting to be 
shaped, vises, shears, picks, and shovels. Horst and Dempton stood next to a 
long table.

 
 
Dempton 
approached with a smile beneath his flamboyant red mustache. “Roran! I’m glad 
you came. There’s going to be more work than I can handle with my new 
grindstones. Are you ready to go?”

 
 
Roran hefted his 
pack. “Yes. Do we leave soon?”

 
 
“I’ve a few 
things to take care of first, but we’ll be off within the hour.” Eragon shifted 
his feet as Dempton turned to him, tugging at the corner of his mustache. “You 
must be Eragon. I would offer you a job too, but Roran got the only one. Maybe 
in a year or two, eh?”

 
 
Eragon smiled 
uneasily and shook his hand. The man was friendly. Under other circumstances 
Eragon would have liked him, but right then, he sourly wished that the miller 
had never come to Carvahall. Dempton huffed. “Good, very good.” He returned his 
attention to Roran and started to explain how a mill worked.

 
 
“They’re ready 
to go,” interrupted Horst, gesturing at the table where several bundles rested. 
“You can take them whenever you want to.” They shook hands, then Horst left the 
smithy, beckoning to Eragon on the way out.

 
 
Interested, 
Eragon followed. He found the smith standing in the street with his arms 
crossed. Eragon thrust his thumb back toward the miller and asked, “What do you 
think of him?”

 
 
Horst rumbled, 
“A good man. He’ll do fine with Roran.” He absently brushed metal filings off 
his apron, then put a massive hand on Eragon’s shoulder. “Lad, do you remember 
the fight you had with Sloan?”

 
 
“If you’re 
asking about payment for the meat, I haven’t forgotten.”

 
 
“No, I trust 
you, lad. What I wanted to know is if you still have that blue stone.”

 
 
Eragon’s heart 
fluttered.Why does he want to know? Maybe someone saw Saphira! 
Struggling not to panic, he said, “I do, but why do you ask?”

 
 
“As soon as you 
return home, get rid of it.” Horst overrode Eragon’s exclamation. “Two men 
arrived here yesterday. Strange fellows dressed in black and carrying swords. 
It made my skin crawl just to look at them. Last evening they started asking 
people if a stone like yours had been found. They’re at it again today.” Eragon 
blanched. “No one with any sense said anything. They know trouble when they see 
it, but I could name a few people who will talk.”

 
 
Dread filled 
Eragon’s heart. Whoever had sent the stone into the Spine had finally tracked 
it down. Or perhaps the Empire had learned of Saphira. He did not know which 
would be worse.Think! Think! The egg is gone. It’s impossible for them to 
find it now. But if they know what it was, it’ll be obvious what happened. . . 
. Saphira might be in danger! It took all of his self-control to retain a 
casual air. “Thanks for telling me. Do you know where they are?” He was proud 
that his voice barely trembled.

 
 
“I didn’t warn 
you because I thought you needed to meet those men! Leave Carvahall. Go home.”

 
 
“All right,” 
said Eragon to placate the smith, “if you think I should.”

 
 
“I do.” Horst’s 
face softened. “I may be overreacting, but these strangers give me a bad 
feeling. It would be better if you stay home until they leave. I’ll try to keep 
them away from your farm, though it may not do any good.”

 
 
Eragon looked at 
him gratefully. He wished he could tell him about Saphira. “I’ll leave now,” he 
said, and hurried back to Roran. Eragon clasped his cousin’s arm and bade him 
farewell.

 
 
“Aren’t you 
going to stay awhile?” Roran asked with surprise.

 
 
Eragon almost 
laughed. For some reason, the question struck him as funny. “There’s nothing 
for me to do, and I’m not going to stand around until you go.”

 
 
“Well,” said 
Roran doubtfully, “I guess this is the last time we’ll see each other for a few 
months.”

 
 
“I’m sure it 
won’t seem that long,” said Eragon hastily. “Take care and come back soon.” He 
hugged Roran, then left. Horst was still in the street. Aware that the smith 
was watching, Eragon headed to the outskirts of Carvahall. Once the smithy was 
out of sight, he ducked behind a house and sneaked back through the village.

 
 
Eragon kept to 
the shadows as he searched each street, listening for the slightest noise. His 
thoughts flashed to his room, where his bow hung; he wished that it was in his 
hand. He prowled across Carvahall, avoiding everyone until he heard a sibilant 
voice from around a house. Although his ears were keen, he had to strain to 
hear what was being said.

 
 
“When did this 
happen?” The words were smooth, like oiled glass, and seemed to worm their way 
through the air. Underlying the speech was a strange hiss that made his scalp 
prickle.

 
 
“About three 
months ago,” someone else answered. Eragon identified him as Sloan.

 
 
Shade’s blood, 
he’s telling them. . . .He resolved to punch Sloan the next time they met.

 
 
A third person 
spoke. The voice was deep and moist. It conjured up images of creeping decay, 
mold, and other things best left untouched. “Are you sure? We would hate to 
think you had made a mistake. If that were so, it would be most . . . 
unpleasant.” Eragon could imagine only too well what they might do. Would 
anyone but the Empire dare threaten people like that? Probably not, but whoever 
sent the egg might be powerful enough to use force with impunity.

 
 
“Yeah, I’m sure. 
He had it then. I’m not lying. Plenty of people know about it. Go ask them.” 
Sloan sounded shaken. He said something else that Eragon did not catch.

 
 
“They have been 
. . . rather uncooperative.” The words were derisive. There was a pause. “Your 
information has been helpful. We will not forget you.” Eragon believed him.

 
 
Sloan muttered 
something, then Eragon heard someone hurrying away. He peered around the corner 
to see what was happening. Two tall men stood in the street. Both were dressed 
in long black cloaks that were lifted by sheaths poking past their legs. On 
their shirts were insignias intricately wrought with silver thread. Hoods 
shaded their faces, and their hands were covered by gloves. Their backs were 
oddly humped, as though their clothes were stuffed with padding.

 
 
Eragon shifted 
slightly to get a better view. One of the strangers stiffened and grunted 
peculiarly to his companion. They both swiveled around and sank into crouches. 
Eragon’s breath caught. Mortal fear clenched him. His eyes locked onto their 
hidden faces, and a stifling power fell over his mind, keeping him in place. He 
struggled against it and screamed to himself,Move! His legs swayed, but 
to no avail. The strangers stalked toward him with a smooth, noiseless gait. He 
knew they could see his face now. They were almost to the corner, hands 
grasping at swords. . . .

 
 
“Eragon!” He 
jerked as his name was called. The strangers froze in place and hissed. Brom 
hurried toward him from the side, head bare and staff in hand. The strangers 
were blocked from the old man’s view. Eragon tried to warn him, but his tongue 
and arms would not stir. “Eragon!” cried Brom again. The strangers gave Eragon 
one last look, then slipped away between the houses.

 
 
Eragon collapsed 
to the ground, shivering. Sweat beaded on his forehead and made his palms 
sticky. The old man offered Eragon a hand and pulled him up with a strong arm. 
“You look sick; is all well?”

 
 
Eragon gulped 
and nodded mutely. His eyes flickered around, searching for anything unusual. 
“I just got dizzy all of a sudden . . . it’s passed. It was very odd—I don’t 
know why it happened.”

 
 
“You’ll 
recover,” said Brom, “but perhaps it would be better if you went home.”

 
 
Yes, I have to 
get home! Have to get there before they do.“I think you’re right. Maybe I’m 
getting ill.”

 
 
“Then home is 
the best place for you. It’s a long walk, but I’m sure you will feel better by 
the time you arrive. Let me escort you to the road.” Eragon did not protest as 
Brom took his arm and led him away at a quick pace. Brom’s staff crunched in 
the snow as they passed the houses.

 
 
“Why were you 
looking for me?”

 
 
Brom shrugged. 
“Simple curiosity. I learned you were in town and wondered if you had 
remembered the name of that trader.”

 
 
Trader? What’s 
he talking about?Eragon 
stared blankly; his confusion caught the attention of Brom’s probing eyes. 
“No,” he said, and then amended himself, “I’m afraid I still don’t remember.”

 
 
Brom sighed 
gruffly, as if something had been confirmed, and rubbed his eagle nose. “Well, 
then . . . if you do, come tell me. I am most interested in this trader who 
pretends to know so much about dragons.” Eragon nodded with a distracted air. 
They walked in silence to the road, then Brom said, “Hasten home. I don’t think 
it would be a good idea to tarry on the way.” He offered a gnarled hand.

 
 
Eragon shook it, 
but as he let go something in Brom’s hand caught on his mitt and pulled it off. 
It fell to the ground. The old man picked it up. “Clumsy of me,” he apologized, 
and handed it back. As Eragon took the mitt, Brom’s strong fingers wrapped 
around his wrist and twisted sharply. His palm briefly faced upward, revealing 
the silvery mark. Brom’s eyes glinted, but he let Eragon yank his hand back and 
jam it into the mitt.

 
 
“Goodbye,” 
Eragon forced out, perturbed, and hurried down the road. Behind him he heard 
Brom whistling a merry tune.

 
 
 
 
 
 

[bookmark: c10] 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442296]F LIGHT OFDESTINY
 
 
Eragon’s mind 
churned as he sped on his way. He ran as fast as he could, refusing to stop 
even when his breath came in great gasps. As he pounded down the cold road, he 
cast out with his mind for Saphira, but she was too far away for him to 
contact. He thought about what to say to Garrow. There was no choice now; he 
would have to reveal Saphira.

 
 
He arrived home, 
panting for air and heart pounding. Garrow stood by the barn with the horses. 
Eragon hesitated. Should I talk to him now? He won’t believe me unless 
Saphira is here—I’d better find her first.He slipped around the farm and 
into the forest.Saphira! he shouted with his thoughts.

 
 
I come,was the dim reply. 
Through the words he sensed her alarm. He waited impatiently, though it was not 
long before the sound of her wings filled the air. She landed amid a gout of 
smoke.What happened? she queried.

 
 
He touched her 
shoulder and closed his eyes. Calming his mind, he quickly told her what had 
occurred. When he mentioned the strangers, Saphira recoiled. She reared and 
roared deafeningly, then whipped her tail over his head. He scrambled back in 
surprise, ducking as her tail hit a snowdrift. Bloodlust and fear emanated from 
her in great sickening waves.Fire! Enemies! Death! Murderers!

 
 
What’s wrong?He put all of 
his strength into the words, but an iron wall surrounded her mind, shielding 
her thoughts. She let out another roar and gouged the earth with her claws, 
tearing the frozen ground.Stop it! Garrow will hear!

 
 
Oaths betrayed, 
souls killed, eggs shattered! Blood everywhere. Murderers! 

 
 
Frantic, he 
blocked out Saphira’s emotions and watched her tail. When it flicked past him, 
he dashed to her side and grabbed a spike on her back. Clutching it, he pulled 
himself into the small hollow at the base of her neck and held on tightly as 
she reared again. “Enough, Saphira!” he bellowed. Her stream of thoughts ceased 
abruptly. He ran a hand over her scales. “Everything’s going to be all right.” 
She crouched and her wings rushed upward. They hung there for an instant, then 
drove down as she flung herself into the sky.

 
 
Eragon yelled as 
the ground dropped away and they rose above the trees. Turbulence buffeted him, 
snatching the breath out of his mouth. Saphira ignored his terror and banked 
toward the Spine. Underneath, he glimpsed the farm and the Anora River. His 
stomach convulsed. He tightened his arms around Saphira’s neck and concentrated 
on the scales in front of his nose, trying not to vomit as she continued to 
climb. When she leveled off, he gained the courage to glance around.

 
 
The air was so 
cold that frost accumulated on his eyelashes. They had reached the mountains faster 
than he thought possible. From the air, the peaks looked like giant razor-sharp 
teeth waiting to slash them to ribbons. Saphira wobbled unexpectedly, and 
Eragon heaved over her side. He wiped his lips, tasting bile, and buried his 
head against her neck.

 
 
We have to go 
back,he 
pleaded.The strangers are coming to the farm.Garrow has to be warned. Turn 
around! There was no answer. He reached for her mind, but was blocked by a 
barrier of roiling fear and anger. Determined to make her turn around, he grimly 
wormed into her mental armor. He pushed at its weak places, undermined the 
stronger sections, and fought to make her listen, but to no avail.

 
 
Soon mountains 
surrounded them, forming tremendous white walls broken by granite cliffs. Blue 
glaciers sat between the summits like frozen rivers. Long valleys and ravines 
opened beneath them. He heard the dismayed screech of birds far below as 
Saphira soared into view. He saw a herd of woolly goats bounding from ledge to 
ledge on a rocky bluff.

 
 
Eragon was 
battered by swirling gusts from Saphira’s wings, and whenever she moved her 
neck, he was tossed from side to side. She seemed tireless. He was afraid she 
was going to fly through the night. Finally, as darkness fell, she tilted into 
a shallow dive.

 
 
He looked ahead and 
saw that they were headed for a small clearing in a valley. Saphira spiraled 
down, leisurely drifting over the treetops. She pulled back as the ground 
neared, filled her wings with air, and landed on her rear legs. Her powerful 
muscles rippled as they absorbed the shock of impact. She dropped to all fours 
and skipped a step to keep her balance. Eragon slid off without waiting for her 
to fold her wings.

 
 
As he struck the 
ground, his knees buckled, and his cheek slammed against the snow. He gasped as 
excruciating pain seared through his legs, sending tears to his eyes. His 
muscles, cramped from clenching for so long, shook violently. He rolled onto 
his back, shivering, and stretched his limbs as best he could. Then he forced 
himself to look down. Two large blots darkened his wool pants on the insides of 
his thighs. He touched the fabric. It was wet. Alarmed, he peeled off the pants 
and grimaced. The insides of his legs were raw and bloody. The skin was gone, 
rubbed off by Saphira’s hard scales. He gingerly felt the abrasions and winced. 
Cold bit into him as he pulled the pants back on, and he cried out as they 
scraped against the sensitive wounds. He tried to stand, but his legs would not 
support him.

 
 
The deepening 
night obscured his surroundings; the shaded mountains were unfamiliar. I’m 
in the Spine, I don’t know where, during the middle of winter, with a crazed 
dragon, unable to walk or find shelter. Night is falling. I have to get back to 
the farm tomorrow. And the only way to do that is to fly, which I can’t endure 
anymore.He took a deep breath.Oh, I wish Saphira could breathe fire. 
He turned his head and saw her next to him, crouched low to the ground. He put 
a hand on her side and found it trembling. The barrier in her mind was gone. 
Without it, her fear scorched through him. He clamped down on it and slowly 
soothed her with gentle images.Why do the strangers frighten you?

 
 
Murderers, she hissed.

 
 
Garrow is in 
danger and you kidnap me on this ridiculous journey! Are you unable to protect 
me?She 
growled deeply and snapped her jaws.Ah, but if you think you can, why run?

 
 
Death is a 
poison. 


 
 
He leaned on one 
elbow and stifled his frustration.Saphira, look where we are! The sun is 
down, and your flight has stripped my legs as easily as I would scale a fish. 
Is that what you wanted?

 
 
No. 

 
 
Then why did you 
do it?he 
demanded. Through his link with Saphira, he felt her regret for his pain, but 
not for her actions. She looked away and refused to answer. The icy temperature 
deadened Eragon’s legs; although it lessened the pain, he knew that his 
condition was not good. He changed tack.I’m going to freeze unless you make 
me a shelter or hollow so I can stay warm. Even a pile of pine needles and 
branches would do.

 
 
She seemed 
relieved that he had stopped interrogating her.There is no need. I will curl 
around you and cover you with my wings—the fire inside me will stay the cold.

 
 
Eragon let his 
head thump back on the ground.Fine, but scrape the snow off the ground. 
It’ll be more comfortable. In answer, Saphira razed a drift with her tail, 
clearing it with one powerful stroke. She swept over the site again to remove 
the last few inches of hardened snow. He eyed the exposed dirt with distaste.I 
can’t walk over there. You’ll have to help me to it. Her head, larger than 
his torso, swung over him and came to rest by his side. He stared at her large, 
sapphire-colored eyes and wrapped his hands around one of her ivory spikes. She 
lifted her head and slowly dragged him to the bare spot.Gently, gently. 
Stars danced in his eyes as he slid over a rock, but he managed to hold on. 
After he let go, Saphira rolled on her side, exposing her warm belly. He 
huddled against the smooth scales of her underside. Her right wing extended 
over him and enclosed him in complete darkness, forming a living tent. Almost 
immediately the air began to lose its frigidity.

 
 
He pulled his 
arms inside his coat and tied the empty sleeves around his neck. For the first 
time he noticed that hunger gnawed at his stomach. But it did not distract him 
from his main worry: Could he get back to the farm before the strangers did? 
And if not, what would happen?Even if I can force myself to ride Saphira 
again, it’ll be at least midafternoon before we get back. The strangers could 
be there long before that. He closed his eyes and felt a single tear slide 
down his face.What have I done?

 
 
 
 
 
 

[bookmark: c11] 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442297]T HEDOOM OFINNOCENCE
 
 
When Eragon 
opened his eyes in the morning, he thought the sky had fallen. An unbroken 
plane of blue stretched over his head and slanted to the ground. Still half 
asleep, he reached out tentatively and felt a thin membrane under his fingers. 
It took him a long minute to realize what he was staring at. He bent his neck 
slightly and glared at the scaly haunch his head rested on. Slowly he pushed 
his legs out from his fetal curl, scabs cracking. The pain had subsided some 
from yesterday, but he shrank from the thought of walking. Burning hunger 
reminded him of his missed meals. He summoned the energy to move and pounded 
weakly on Saphira’s side. “Hey! Wake up!” he yelled.

 
 
She stirred and 
lifted her wing to admit a torrent of sunshine. He squinted as the snow 
momentarily blinded him. Beside him Saphira stretched like a cat and yawned, 
flashing rows of white teeth. When Eragon’s eyes adjusted, he examined where 
they were. Imposing and unfamiliar mountains surrounded them, casting deep 
shadows on the clearing. Off to one side, he saw a trail cut through the snow 
and into the forest, where he could hear the muffled gurgling of a creek.

 
 
Groaning, he 
stood and swayed, then stiffly hobbled to a tree. He grabbed one of its 
branches and threw his weight against it. It held, then broke with a loud 
crack. He ripped off the twigs, fit one end of the branch under his arm, and 
planted the other firmly in the ground. With the help of his improvised crutch, 
he limped to the iced-over creek. He broke through the hard shell and cupped 
the clear, bitter water. Sated, he returned to the clearing. As he emerged from 
the trees, he finally recognized the mountains and the lay of the land.

 
 
This was where, 
amid deafening sound, Saphira’s egg had first appeared. He sagged against a 
rough trunk. There could be no mistake, for now he saw the gray trees that had 
been stripped of their needles in the explosion.How did Saphira know where 
this was? She was still in the egg. My memories must have given her enough 
information to find it. He shook his head in silent astonishment.

 
 
Saphira was 
waiting patiently for him.Will you take me home? he asked her. She 
cocked her head.I know you don’t want to, but you must. Both of us carry an 
obligation to Garrow. He has cared for me and, through me, you. Would you 
ignore that debt? What will be said of us in years to come if we don’t 
return—that we hid like cowards while my uncle was in danger? I can hear it 
now, the story of the Rider and his craven dragon! If there will be a fight, 
let’s face it and not shy away. You are a dragon! Even a Shade would run from 
you! Yet you crouch in the mountains like a frightened rabbit.

 
 
Eragon meant to 
anger her, and he succeeded. A growl rippled in her throat as her head jabbed 
within a few inches of his face. She bared her fangs and glared at him, smoke 
trailing from her nostrils. He hoped that he had not gone too far. Her thoughts 
reached him, red with anger.Blood will meet blood. I will fight. Our wyrds—our 
fates—bind us, but try me not. I will take you because of debt owed, but into 
foolishness we fly.

 
 
“Foolishness or 
not,” he said into the air, “there is no choice—we must go.” He ripped his 
shirt in half and stuffed a piece into each side of his pants. Gingerly, he 
hoisted himself onto Saphira and took a tight hold on her neck.This time, 
he told her,fly lower and faster. Time is of the essence.

 
 
Don’t let go,she cautioned, 
then surged into the sky. They rose above the forest and leveled out 
immediately, barely staying above the branches. Eragon’s stomach lurched; he 
was glad it was empty.

 
 
Faster, faster,he urged. She 
said nothing, but the beat of her wings increased. He screwed his eyes shut and 
hunched his shoulders. He had hoped that the extra padding of his shirt would 
protect him, but every movement sent pangs through his legs. Soon lines of hot 
blood trickled down his calves. Concern emanated from Saphira. She went even 
faster now, her wings straining. The land sped past, as if it were being pulled 
out from under them. Eragon imagined that to someone on the ground, they were 
just a blur.

 
 
By early 
afternoon, Palancar Valley lay before them. Clouds obscured his vision to the 
south; Carvahall was to the north. Saphira glided down while Eragon searched 
for the farm. When he spotted it, fear jolted him. A black plume with orange 
flames dancing at its base rose from the farm.

 
 
Saphira!He pointed.Get 
me down there. Now!

 
 
She locked her 
wings and tilted into a steep dive, hurtling groundward at a frightening rate. 
Then she altered her dive slightly so they sped toward the forest. He yelled 
over the screaming air, “Land in the fields!” He held on tighter as they 
plummeted. Saphira waited until they were only a hundred feet off the ground 
before driving her wings downward in several powerful strokes. She landed 
heavily, breaking his grip. He crashed to the ground, then staggered upright, 
gasping for breath.

 
 
The house had 
been blasted apart. Timbers and boards that had been walls and roof were strewn 
across a wide area. The wood was pulverized, as if a giant hammer had smashed 
it. Sooty shingles lay everywhere. A few twisted metal plates were all that 
remained of the stove. The snow was perforated with smashed white crockery and 
chunks of bricks from the chimney. Thick, oily smoke billowed from the barn, 
which burned fiercely. The farm animals were gone, either killed or frightened 
away.

 
 
“Uncle!” Eragon 
ran to the wreckage, hunting through the destroyed rooms for Garrow. There was 
no sign of him. “Uncle!” Eragon cried again. Saphira walked around the house 
and came to his side.

 
 
Sorrow breeds 
here,she 
said.

 
 
“This wouldn’t 
have happened if you hadn’t run away with me!”

 
 
You would not be 
alive if we had stayed. 

 
 
“Look at this!” 
he screamed. “We could’ve warned Garrow! It’s your fault he didn’t get away!” 
He slammed his fist against a pole, splitting the skin on his knuckles. Blood 
dripped down his fingers as he stalked out of the house. He stumbled to the 
path that led to the road and bent down to examine the snow. Several tracks 
were before him, but his vision was blurry and he could barely see.Am I 
going blind? he wondered. With a shaking hand, he touched his cheeks and 
found them wet.

 
 
A shadow fell on 
him as Saphira loomed overhead, sheltering him with her wings.Take comfort; 
all may not be lost. He looked up at her, searching for hope.Examine the 
trail; my eyes see only two sets of prints. Garrow could not have been taken 
from here.

 
 
He focused on 
the trampled snow. The faint imprints of two pairs of leather boots headed 
toward the house. On top of those were traces of the same two sets of boots 
leaving. And whoever had made the departing tracks had been carrying the same 
weight as when they arrived.You’re right, Garrow has to be here! He 
leapt to his feet and hurried back to the house.

 
 
I will search 
around the buildings and in the forest,said Saphira.

 
 
Eragon scrambled 
into the remains of the kitchen and frantically started digging through a pile 
of rubble. Pieces of debris that he could not have moved normally now seemed to 
shift on their own accord. A cupboard, mostly intact, stymied him for a second, 
then he heaved and sent it flying. As he pulled on a board, something rattled 
behind him. He spun around, ready for an attack.

 
 
A hand extended 
from under a section of collapsed roof. It moved weakly, and he grasped it with 
a cry. “Uncle, can you hear me?” There was no response. Eragon tore at pieces 
of wood, heedless of the splinters that pierced his hands. He quickly exposed 
an arm and shoulder, but was barred by a heavy beam. He threw his shoulder at 
it and shoved with every fiber of his being, but it defied his efforts. 
“Saphira! I need you!”

 
 
She came 
immediately. Wood cracked under her feet as she crawled over the ruined walls. 
Without a word she nosed past him and set her side against the beam. Her claws 
sank into what was left of the floor; her muscles strained. With a grating 
sound, the beam lifted, and Eragon rushed under it. Garrow lay on his stomach, 
his clothes mostly torn off. Eragon pulled him out of the rubble. As soon as 
they were clear, Saphira released the beam, leaving it to crash to the floor.

 
 
Eragon dragged 
Garrow out of the destroyed house and eased him to the ground. Dismayed, he 
touched his uncle gently. His skin was gray, lifeless, and dry, as if a fever 
had burned off any sweat. His lip was split, and there was a long scrape on his 
cheekbone, but that was not the worst. Deep, ragged burns covered most of his 
body. They were chalky white and oozed clear liquid. A cloying, sickening smell 
hung over him—the odor of rotting fruit. His breath came in short jerks, each 
one sounding like a death rattle.

 
 
Murderers,hissed Saphira.

 
 
Don’t say that. 
He can still be saved! We have to get him to Gertrude. I can’t carry him to 
Carvahall, though. 


 
 
Saphira 
presented an image of Garrow hanging under her while she flew.

 
 
Can you lift 
both of us? 


 
 
I must. 

 
 
Eragon dug 
through the rubble until he found a board and leather thongs. He had Saphira pierce 
a hole with a claw at each of the board’s corners, then he looped a piece of 
leather through each hole and tied them to her forelegs. After checking to make 
sure the knots were secure, he rolled Garrow onto the board and lashed him 
down. As he did, a scrap of black cloth fell from his uncle’s hand. It matched 
the strangers’ clothing. He angrily stuffed it in a pocket, mounted Saphira, 
and closed his eyes as his body settled into a steady throb of pain.Now!

 
 
She leapt up, 
hind legs digging into the ground. Her wings clawed at the air as she slowly 
climbed. Tendons strained and popped as she battled gravity. For a long, 
painful second, nothing happened, but then she lunged forward powerfully and 
they rose higher. Once they were over the forest, Eragon told her,Follow the 
road. It’ll give you enough room if you have to land.

 
 
I might be seen. 

 
 
It doesn’t 
matter anymore!She 
argued no further as she veered to the road and headed for Carvahall. Garrow 
swung wildly underneath them; only the slender leather cords kept him from 
falling.

 
 
The extra weight 
slowed Saphira. Before long her head sagged, and there was froth at her mouth. 
She struggled to continue, yet they were almost a league from Carvahall when 
she locked her wings and sank toward the road.

 
 
Her hind feet 
touched with a shower of snow. Eragon tumbled off her, landing heavily on his 
side to avoid hurting his legs. He struggled to his feet and worked to untie 
the leather from Saphira’s legs. Her thick panting filled the air.Find a 
safe place to rest, he said.I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, so 
you’re going to have to take care of yourself for a while.

 
 
I will wait,she said.

 
 
He gritted his 
teeth and began to drag Garrow down the road. The first few steps sent an 
explosion of agony through him. “I can’t do this!” he howled at the sky, then 
took a few more steps. His mouth locked into a snarl. He stared at the ground 
between his feet as he forced himself to hold a steady pace. It was a fight 
against his unruly body—a fight he refused to lose. The minutes crawled by at 
an excruciating rate. Each yard he covered seemed many times that. With 
desperation he wondered if Carvahall still existed or if the strangers had 
burnt it down, too. After a time, through a haze of pain, he heard shouting and 
looked up.

 
 
Brom was running 
toward him—eyes large, hair awry, and one side of his head caked with dried 
blood. He waved his arms wildly before dropping his staff and grabbing Eragon’s 
shoulders, saying something in a loud voice. Eragon blinked uncomprehendingly. 
Without warning, the ground rushed up to meet him. He tasted blood, then 
blacked out.

 
 
 
 
 
 

[bookmark: c12] 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442298]D EATHWATCH 
 
 
Dreams roiled in 
Eragon’s mind, breeding and living by their own laws.He watched as a group 
of people on proud horses approached a lonely river. Many had silver hair and 
carried tall lances. A strange, fair ship waited for them, shining under a 
bright moon. The figures slowly boarded the vessel; two of them, taller than 
the rest, walked arm in arm. Their faces were obscured by cowls, but he could 
tell that one was a woman. They stood on the deck of the ship and faced the 
shore. A man stood alone on the pebble beach, the only one who had not boarded 
the ship. He threw back his head and let out a long, aching cry. As it faded, 
the ship glided down the river, without a breeze or oars, out into the flat, 
empty land. The vision clouded, but just before it disappeared, Eragon glimpsed 
two dragons in the sky.

 
 
 

 
 
Eragon was first 
aware of the creaking: back and forth, back and forth. The persistent sound 
made him open his eyes and stare at the underside of a thatched roof. A rough 
blanket was draped over him, concealing his nakedness. Someone had bandaged his 
legs and tied a clean rag around his knuckles.

 
 
He was in a 
single-room hut. A mortar and pestle sat on a table with bowls and plants. Rows 
of dried herbs hung from the walls and suffused the air with strong, earthy 
aromas. Flames writhed inside a fireplace, before which sat a rotund woman in a 
wicker rocking chair—the town healer, Gertrude. Her head lolled, eyes closed. A 
pair of knitting needles and a ball of wool thread rested in her lap.

 
 
Though Eragon 
felt drained of willpower, he made himself sit up. That helped to clear his 
mind. He sifted through his memories of the last two days. His first thought 
was of Garrow, and his second was of Saphira.I hope she’s in a safe place. 
He tried to contact her but could not. Wherever she was, it was far from 
Carvahall.At least Brom got me to Carvahall. I wonder what happened to him? There 
was all that blood.

 
 
Gertrude stirred 
and opened her sparkling eyes. “Oh,” she said. “You’re awake. Good!” Her voice 
was rich and warm. “How do you feel?”

 
 
“Well enough. 
Where’s Garrow?”

 
 
Gertrude dragged 
the chair close to the bed. “Over at Horst’s. There wasn’t enough room to keep 
both of you here. And let me tell you, it’s kept me on my toes, having to run 
back and forth, checking to see if the two of you were all right.”

 
 
Eragon swallowed 
his worries and asked, “How is he?”

 
 
There was a long 
delay as she examined her hands. “Not good. He has a fever that refuses to 
break, and his injuries aren’t healing.”

 
 
“I have to see 
him.” He tried to get up.

 
 
“Not until you 
eat,” she said sharply, pushing him down. “I didn’t spend all this time sitting 
by your side so you can get back up and hurt yourself. Half the skin on your 
legs was torn off, and your fever broke only last night. Don’t worry yourself 
about Garrow. He’ll be fine. He’s a tough man.” Gertrude hung a kettle over the 
fire, then began chopping parsnips for soup.

 
 
“How long have I 
been here?”

 
 
“Two full days.”

 
 
Two days!That meant his 
last meal had been four mornings ago! Just thinking about it made Eragon feel 
weak.Saphira’s been on her own this entire time; I hope she’s all right.

 
 
“The whole town 
wants to know what happened. They sent men down to your farm and found it 
destroyed.” Eragon nodded; he had expected that. “Your barn was burned down. . 
. . Is that how Garrow was injured?”

 
 
“I . . . I don’t 
know,” said Eragon. “I wasn’t there when it happened.”

 
 
“Well, no 
matter. I’m sure it’ll all get untangled.” Gertrude resumed knitting while the 
soup cooked. “That’s quite a scar on your palm.”

 
 
He reflexively 
clenched his hand. “Yes.”

 
 
“How did you get 
it?”

 
 
Several possible 
answers came to mind. He chose the simplest one. “I’ve had it ever since I can 
remember. I never asked Garrow where it came from.”

 
 
“Mmm.” The 
silence remained unbroken until the soup reached a rolling boil. Gertrude 
poured it in a bowl and handed it to Eragon with a spoon. He accepted it 
gratefully and took a cautious sip. It was delicious.

 
 
When he 
finished, he asked, “Can I visit Garrow now?”

 
 
Gertrude sighed. 
“You’re a determined one, aren’t you? Well, if you really want to, I won’t stop 
you. Put on your clothes and we’ll go.”

 
 
She turned her 
back as he struggled into his pants, wincing as they dragged over the bandages, 
and then slipped on his shirt. Gertrude helped him stand. His legs were weak, 
but they did not pain him like before.

 
 
“Take a few 
steps,” she commanded, then dryly observed, “At least you won’t have to crawl 
there.”

 
 
Outside, a 
blustery wind blew smoke from the adjacent buildings into their faces. Storm 
clouds hid the Spine and covered the valley while a curtain of snow advanced 
toward the village, obscuring the foothills. Eragon leaned heavily on Gertrude 
as they made their way through Carvahall.

 
 
Horst had built 
his two-story house on a hill so he could enjoy a view of the mountains. He had 
lavished all of his skill on it. The shale roof shadowed a railed balcony that 
extended from a tall window on the second floor. Each water spout was a 
snarling gargoyle, and every window and door was framed by carvings of 
serpents, harts, ravens, and knotted vines.

 
 
The door was 
opened by Elain, Horst’s wife, a small, willowy woman with refined features and 
silky blond hair pinned into a bun. Her dress was demure and neat, and her 
movements graceful. “Please, come in,” she said softly. They stepped over the 
threshold into a large well-lit room. A staircase with a polished balustrade curved 
down to the floor. The walls were the color of honey. Elain gave Eragon a sad 
smile, but addressed Gertrude. “I was just about to send for you. He isn’t 
doing well. You should see him right away.”

 
 
“Elain, you’ll 
have to help Eragon up the stairs,” Gertrude said, then hurried up them two at 
a time.

 
 
“It’s okay, I 
can do it myself.”

 
 
“Are you sure?” 
asked Elain. He nodded, but she looked doubtful. “Well . . . as soon as you’re 
done come visit me in the kitchen. I have a fresh-baked pie you might enjoy.” 
As soon as she left, he sagged against the wall, welcoming the support. Then he 
started up the stairs, one painful step at a time. When he reached the top, he 
looked down a long hallway dotted with doors. The last one was open slightly. 
Taking a breath, he lurched toward it.

 
 
Katrina stood by 
a fireplace, boiling rags. She looked up, murmured a condolence, and then 
returned to her work. Gertrude stood beside her, grinding herbs for a poultice. 
A bucket by her feet held snow melting into ice water.

 
 
Garrow lay on a 
bed piled high with blankets. Sweat covered his brow, and his eyeballs 
flickered blindly under their lids. The skin on his face was shrunken like a 
cadaver’s. He was still, save for subtle tremors from his shallow breathing. 
Eragon touched his uncle’s forehead with a feeling of unreality. It burned 
against his hand. He apprehensively lifted the edge of the blankets and saw 
that Garrow’s many wounds were bound with strips of cloth. Where the bandages 
were being changed, the burns were exposed to the air. They had not begun to 
heal. Eragon looked at Gertrude with hopeless eyes. “Can’t you do anything 
about these?”

 
 
She pressed a 
rag into the bucket of ice water, then draped the cool cloth over Garrow’s 
head. “I’ve tried everything: salves, poultices, tinctures, but nothing works. 
If the wounds closed, he would have a better chance. Still, things may turn for 
the better. He’s hardy and strong.”

 
 
Eragon moved to 
a corner and sank to the floor.This isn’t the way things are supposed to be! 
Silence swallowed his thoughts. He stared blankly at the bed. After a while he 
noticed Katrina kneeling beside him. She put an arm around him. When he did not 
respond, she diffidently left.

 
 
Sometime later 
the door opened and Horst came in. He talked to Gertrude in a low voice, then 
approached Eragon. “Come on. You need to get out of here.” Before Eragon could 
protest, Horst dragged him to his feet and shepherded him out the door.

 
 
“I want to 
stay,” he complained.

 
 
“You need a 
break and fresh air. Don’t worry, you can go back soon enough,” consoled Horst.

 
 
Eragon 
grudgingly let the smith help him downstairs into the kitchen. Heady smells 
from half a dozen dishes—rich with spices and herbs—filled the air. Albriech 
and Baldor were there, talking with their mother as she kneaded bread. The 
brothers fell silent as they saw Eragon, but he had heard enough to know that 
they were discussing Garrow.

 
 
“Here, sit 
down,” said Horst, offering a chair.

 
 
Eragon sank into 
it gratefully. “Thank you.” His hands were shaking slightly, so he clasped them 
in his lap. A plate, piled high with food, was set before him.

 
 
“You don’t have 
to eat,” said Elain, “but it’s there if you want.” She returned to her cooking 
as he picked up a fork. He could barely swallow a few bites.

 
 
“How do you 
feel?” asked Horst.

 
 
“Terrible.”

 
 
The smith waited 
a moment. “I know this isn’t the best time, but we need to know . . . what 
happened?”

 
 
“I don’t really 
remember.”

 
 
“Eragon,” said 
Horst, leaning forward, “I was one of the people who went out to your farm. 
Your house didn’t just fall apart—something tore it to pieces. Surrounding it 
were tracks of a gigantic beast I’ve never seen nor heard of before. Others saw 
them too. Now, if there’s a Shade or a monster roaming around, we have to know. 
You’re the only one who can tell us.”

 
 
Eragon knew he 
had to lie. “When I left Carvahall . . . ,” he counted up the time, “four days 
ago, there were . . . strangers in town asking about a stone like the one I 
found.” He gestured at Horst. “You talked to me about them, and because of 
that, I hurried home.” All eyes were upon him. He licked his lips. “Nothing . . 
. nothing happened that night. The next morning I finished my chores and went 
walking in the forest. Before long I heard an explosion and saw smoke above the 
trees. I rushed back as fast as I could, but whoever did it was already gone. I 
dug through the wreckage and . . . found Garrow.”

 
 
“So then you put 
him on the plank and dragged him back?” asked Albriech.

 
 
“Yes,” said 
Eragon, “but before I left, I looked at the path to the road. There were two 
pairs of tracks on it, both of them men’s.” He dug in his pocket and pulled out 
the scrap of black fabric. “This was clenched in Garrow’s hand. I think it 
matches what those strangers were wearing.” He set it on the table.

 
 
“It does,” said 
Horst. He looked both thoughtful and angry. “And what of your legs? How were 
they injured?”

 
 
“I’m not sure,” 
said Eragon, shaking his head. “I think it happened when I dug Garrow out, but 
I don’t know. It wasn’t until the blood started dripping down my legs that I 
noticed it.”

 
 
“That’s 
horrible!” exclaimed Elain.

 
 
“We should 
pursue those men,” stated Albriech hotly. “They can’t get away with this! With 
a pair of horses we could catch them tomorrow and bring them back here.”

 
 
“Put that 
foolishness out of your head,” said Horst. “They could probably pick you up 
like a baby and throw you in a tree. Remember what happened to the house? We 
don’t want to get in the way of those people. Besides, they have what they want 
now.” He looked at Eragon. “They did take the stone, didn’t they?”

 
 
“It wasn’t in 
the house.”

 
 
“Then there’s no 
reason for them to return now that they have it.” He gave Eragon a piercing 
look. “You didn’t mention anything about those strange tracks. Do you know 
where they came from?”

 
 
Eragon shook his 
head. “I didn’t see them.”

 
 
Baldor abruptly 
spoke. “I don’t like this. Too much of this rings of wizardry. Who are those 
men? Are they Shades? Why did they want the stone, and how could they have 
destroyed the house except with dark powers? You may be right, Father, the 
stone might be all they wanted, but I think we will see them again.”

 
 
Silence followed 
his words.

 
 
Something had 
been overlooked, though Eragon was not sure what. Then it struck him. With a 
sinking heart, he voiced his suspicion. “Roran doesn’t know, does he?”How 
could I have forgotten him?

 
 
Horst shook his 
head. “He and Dempton left a little while after you. Unless they ran into some 
difficulty on the road, they’ve been in Therinsford for a couple of days now. 
We were going to send a message, but the weather was too cold yesterday and the 
day before.”

 
 
“Baldor and I 
were about to leave when you woke up,” offered Albriech.

 
 
Horst ran a hand 
through his beard. “Go on, both of you. I’ll help you saddle the horses.”

 
 
Baldor turned to 
Eragon. “I’ll break it to him gently,” he promised, then followed Horst and 
Albriech out of the kitchen.

 
 
Eragon remained 
at the table, his eyes focused on a knot in the wood. Every excruciating detail 
was clear to him: the twisting grain, an asymmetrical bump, three little ridges 
with a fleck of color. The knot was filled with endless detail; the closer he 
looked, the more he saw. He searched for answers in it, but if there were any, 
they eluded him.

 
 
A faint call 
broke through his pounding thoughts. It sounded like yelling from outside. He 
ignored it.Let someone else deal with it. Several minutes later he heard 
it again, louder than before. Angrily, he blocked it out.Why can’t they be 
quiet? Garrow’s resting. He glanced at Elain, but she did not seem to be 
bothered by the noise.

 
 
ERAGON!The roar was so 
strong he almost fell out of the chair. He peered around in alarm, but nothing 
had changed. He suddenly realized that the shouts had been inside his head.

 
 
Saphira?he asked 
anxiously.

 
 
There was a 
pause.Yes, stone ears.

 
 
Relief seeped 
into him.Where are you?

 
 
She sent him an 
image of a small clump of trees.I tried to contact you many times, but you 
were beyond reach.

 
 
I was sick . . . 
but I’m better now. Why couldn’t I sense you earlier? 

 
 
After two nights 
of waiting, hunger bested me. I had to hunt. 

 
 
Did you catch 
anything? 


 
 
A young buck. He 
was wise enough to guard against the predators of land, but not those of sky. 
When I first caught him in my jaws, he kicked vigorously and tried to escape. I 
was stronger, though, and when defeat became unavoidable, he gave up and died. 
Does Garrow also fight the inevitable? 

 
 
I don’t know.He told her the 
particulars, then said,It’ll be a long time, if ever, before we can go home. 
I won’t be able to see you for at least a couple of days. You might as well 
make yourself comfortable.

 
 
Unhappily, she 
said,I will do as you say. But do not take too long.

 
 
They parted 
reluctantly. He looked out a window and was surprised to see that the sun had 
set. Feeling very tired, he limped to Elain, who was wrapping meat pies with 
oilcloth. “I’m going back to Gertrude’s house to sleep,” he said.

 
 
She finished 
with the packages and asked, “Why don’t you stay with us? You’ll be closer to 
your uncle, and Gertrude can have her bed back.”

 
 
“Do you have 
enough room?” he asked, wavering.

 
 
“Of course.” She 
wiped her hands. “Come with me; I’ll get everything ready.” She escorted him 
upstairs to an empty room. He sat on the edge of the bed. “Do you need anything 
else?” she asked. He shook his head. “In that case, I’ll be downstairs. Call me 
if you need help.” He listened as she descended the stairs. Then he opened the 
door and slipped down the hallway to Garrow’s room. Gertrude gave him a small 
smile over her darting knitting needles.

 
 
“How is he?” whispered 
Eragon.

 
 
Her voice rasped 
with fatigue. “He’s weak, but the fever’s gone down a little and some of the 
burns look better. We’ll have to wait and see, but this could mean he’ll 
recover.”

 
 
That lightened 
Eragon’s mood, and he returned to his room. The darkness seemed unfriendly as 
he huddled under the blankets. Eventually he fell asleep, healing the wounds 
his body and soul had suffered.

 
 
 
 
 
 

[bookmark: c13] 

 
 
 

 
 
[bookmark: _Toc230442299]T HEMADNESS OFLIFE
 
 
It was dark when 
Eragon jolted upright in bed, breathing hard. The room was chilly; goose bumps 
formed on his arms and shoulders. It was a few hours before dawn—the time when 
nothing moves and life waits for the first warm touches of sunlight.

 
 
His heart 
pounded as a terrible premonition gripped him. It felt like a shroud lay over 
the world, and its darkest corner was over his room. He quietly got out of bed 
and dressed. With apprehension he hurried down the hallway. Alarm shot through 
him when he saw the door to Garrow’s room open and people clustered inside.

 
 
Garrow lay 
peacefully on the bed. He was dressed in clean clothes, his hair had been 
combed back, and his face was calm. He might have been sleeping if not for the 
silver amulet clasped around his neck and the sprig of dried hemlock on his 
chest, the last gifts from the living to the dead.

 
 
Katrina stood 
next to the bed, face pale and eyes downcast. He heard her whisper, “I had 
hoped to call himFather one day. . . .”

 
 
Call him Father,he thought 
bitterly,a right even I don’t have. He felt like a ghost, drained of all 
vitality. Everything was insubstantial except for Garrow’s face. Tears flooded 
Eragon’s cheeks. He stood there, shoulders shaking, but did not cry out. 
Mother, aunt, uncle—he had lost them all. The weight of his grief was crushing, 
a monstrous force that left him tottering. Someone led him back to his room, 
uttering consolations.

 
 
He fell on the 
bed, wrapped his arms around his head, and sobbed convulsively. He felt Saphira 
contact him, but he pushed her aside and let himself be swept away by sorrow. 
He could not accept that Garrow was gone. If he did, what was left to believe 
in? Only a merciless, uncaring world that snuffed lives like candles before a 
wind. Frustrated and terrified, he turned his tear-dampened face toward the 
heavens and shouted, “What god would do this? Show yourself!” He heard people 
running to his room, but no answer came from above. “He didn’t deserve this!”

 
 
Comforting hands 
touched him, and he was aware of Elain sitting next to him. She held him as he 
cried, and eventually, exhausted, he slipped unwillingly into sleep.

 
 
[bookmark: c14]AR IDER’SBLADE

 
 
Anguish enveloped 
Eragon as he awoke. Though he kept his eyes closed, they could not stop a fresh 
flow of tears. He searched for some idea or hope to help him keep his sanity.I 
can’t live with this, he moaned.

 
 
Then don’t.Saphira’s words 
reverberated in his head.

 
 
How? Garrow is 
gone forever! And in time, I must meet the same fate. Love, family, 
accomplishments—they are all torn away, leaving nothing. What is the worth of 
anything we do? 


 
 
The worth is in 
the act. Your worth halts when you surrender the will to change and experience 
life. But options are before you; choose one and dedicate yourself to it. The 
deeds will give you new hope and purpose. 

 
 
But what can I 
do? 


 
 
The only true 
guide is your heart. Nothing less than its supreme desire can help you. 

 
 
She left him to 
ponder her statements. Eragon examined his emotions. It surprised him that, 
more than grief, he found a searing anger.What do you want me to do . . . 
pursue the strangers?

 
 
Yes. 

 
 
Her frank answer 
confused him. He took a deep, trembling breath.Why?

 
 
Remember what 
you said in the Spine? How you reminded me of my duty as dragon, and I returned 
with you despite the urging of my instinct? So, too, must you control yourself. 
I thought long and deep the past few days, and I realized what it means to be 
dragon and Rider: It is our destiny to attempt the impossible, to accomplish 
great deeds regardless of fear. It is our responsibility to the future. 

 
 
I don’t care 
what you say; those aren’t reasons to leave!cried Eragon.

 
 
Then here are 
others. My tracks have been seen, and people are alert to my presence. 
Eventually I will be exposed. Besides, there is nothing here for you. No farm, 
no family, and— 


 
 
Roran’s not 
dead!he 
said vehemently.

 
 
But if you stay, 
you’ll have to explain what really happened. He has a right to know how and why 
his father died. What might he do once he knows of me? 

 
 
Saphira’s 
arguments whirled around in Eragon’s head, but he shrank from the idea of 
forsaking Palancar Valley; it was his home. Yet the thought of enacting 
vengeance on the strangers was fiercely comforting.Am I strong enough for 
this?

 
 
You have me. 

 
 
Doubt besieged 
him. It would be such a wild, desperate thing to do. Contempt for his 
indecision rose, and a harsh smile danced on his lips. Saphira was right. 
Nothing mattered anymore except the act itself.The doing is the thing. 
And what would give him more satisfaction than hunting down the strangers? A 
terrible energy and strength began to grow in him. It grabbed his emotions and 
forged them into a solid bar of anger with one word stamped on it: revenge. His 
head pounded as he said with conviction,I will do it.

 
 
He severed the 
contact with Saphira and rolled out of bed, his body tense like a coiled 
spring. It was still early morning; he had only slept a few hours.Nothing is 
more dangerous than an enemy with nothing to lose, he thought.Which is 
what I have become.

 
 
Yesterday he had 
had difficulty walking upright, but now he moved confidently, held in place by 
his iron will. The pain his body sent him was defied and ignored.

 
 
As he crept out 
of the house, he heard the murmur of two people talking. Curious, he stopped 
and listened. Elain was saying in her gentle voice, “. . . place to stay. We 
have room.” Horst answered inaudibly in his bass rumble. “Yes, the poor boy,” 
replied Elain.

 
 
This time Eragon 
could hear Horst’s response. “Maybe . . .” There was a long pause. “I’ve been 
thinking about what Eragon said, and I’m not sure he told us everything.”

 
 
“What do you 
mean?” asked Elain. There was concern in her voice.

 
 
“When we started 
for their farm, the road was scraped smooth by the board he dragged Garrow on. 
Then we reached a place where the snow was all trampled and churned up. His 
footprints and signs of the board stopped there, but we also saw the same giant 
tracks from the farm. And what about his legs? I can’t believe he didn’t notice 
losing that much skin. I didn’t want to push him for answers earlier, but now I 
think I will.”

 
 
“Maybe what he 
saw scared him so much that he doesn’t want to talk about it,” suggested Elain. 
“You saw how distraught he was.”

 
 
“That still 
doesn’t explain how he managed to get Garrow nearly all the way here without 
leaving any tracks.”

 
 
Saphira was 
right,thought 
Eragon.It’s time to leave.Too many questions from too many people.Sooner or 
later they’ll find the answers. He continued through the house, tensing 
whenever the floor creaked.

 
 
The streets were 
clear; few people were up at this time of day. He stopped for a minute and 
forced himself to focus.I don’t need a horse. Saphira will be my steed, but 
she needs a saddle. She can hunt for both of us, so I don’t have to worry about 
food—though I should get some anyway. Whatever else I need I can find buried in 
our house.

 
 
He went to 
Gedric’s tanning vats on the outskirts of Carvahall. The vile smell made him 
cringe, but he kept moving, heading for a shack set into the side of a hill 
where the cured hides were stored. He cut down three large ox hides from the 
rows of skins hanging from the ceiling. The thievery made him feel guilty, but 
he reasoned,It’s not really stealing. I’ll pay Gedric back someday, along 
with Horst. He rolled up the thick leather and took it to a stand of trees 
away from the village. He wedged the hides between the branches of a tree, then 
returned to Carvahall.

 
 
Now for food.He went to the 
tavern, intending to get it there, but then smiled tightly and reversed 
direction. If he was going to steal, it might as well be from Sloan. He sneaked 
up to the butcher’s house. The front door was barred whenever Sloan was not 
there, but the side door was secured with only a thin chain, which he broke 
easily. The rooms inside were dark. He fumbled blindly until his hands came 
upon hard piles of meat wrapped in cloth. He stuffed as many of them as he 
could under his shirt, then hurried back to the street and furtively closed the 
door.

 
 
A woman shouted 
his name nearby. He clasped the bottom of his shirt to keep the meat from 
falling out and ducked behind a corner. He shivered as Horst walked between two 
houses not ten feet away.

 
 
Eragon ran as 
soon as Horst was out of sight. His legs burned as he pounded down an alley and 
back to the trees. He slipped between the tree trunks, then turned to see if he 
was being pursued. No one was there. Relieved, he let out his breath and 
reached into the tree for the leather. It was gone.

 
 
“Going 
somewhere?”

 
 
Eragon whirled 
around. Brom scowled angrily at him, an ugly wound on the side of his head. A 
short sword hung at his belt in a brown sheath. The hides were in his hands.

 
 
Eragon’s eyes 
narrowed in irritation. How had the old man managed to sneak up on him? 
Everything had been so quiet, he would have sworn that no one was around. “Give 
them back,” he snapped.

 
 
“Why? So you can 
run off before Garrow is even buried?” The accusation was sharp.

 
 
“It’s none of 
your business!” he barked, temper flashing. “Why did you follow me?”

 
 
“I didn’t,” 
grunted Brom. “I’ve been waiting for you here. Now where are you going?”

 
 
“Nowhere.” 
Eragon lunged for the skins and grabbed them from Brom’s hands. Brom did 
nothing to stop him.

 
 
“I hope you have 
enough meat to feed your dragon.”

 
 
Eragon froze. 
“What are you talking about?”

 
 
Brom crossed his 
arms. “Don’t fool with me. I know where that mark on your hand, the gedwëy 
ignasia, theshining palm, comes from: you have touched a dragon hatchling. 
I know why you came to me with those questions, and I know that once more the 
Riders live.”

 
 
Eragon dropped 
the leather and meat.It’s finally happened . . . I have to get away! I can’t 
run faster than him with my injured legs, but if . . . Saphira! he called.

 
 
For a few 
agonizing seconds she did not answer, but then,Yes.

 
 
We’ve been 
discovered! I need you!He sent her a picture of where he was, and she took 
off immediately. Now he just had to stall Brom. “How did you find out?” he 
asked in a hollow voice.

 
 
Brom stared into 
the distance and moved his lips soundlessly as if he were talking to someone 
else. Then he said, “There were clues and hints everywhere; I had only to pay 
attention. Anyone with the right knowledge could have done the same. Tell me, 
how is your dragon?”

 
 
“She,” said 
Eragon, “is fine. We weren’t at the farm when the strangers came.”

 
 
“Ah, your legs. 
You were flying?”

 
 
How did Brom 
figure that out? What if the strangers coerced him into doing this? Maybe they 
want him to discover where I’m going so they can ambush us. And where is 
Saphira?He 
reached out with his mind and found her circling far overhead.Come!

 
 
No, I will watch 
for a time. 


 
 
Why! 

 
 
Because of the 
slaughter at Dorú Areaba. 

 
 
What? 

 
 
Brom leaned 
against a tree with a slight smile. “I have talked with her, and she has agreed 
to stay above us until we settle our differences. As you can see, you really 
don’t have any choice but to answer my questions. Now tell me, where are you 
going?”

 
 
Bewildered, 
Eragon put a hand to his temple.How could Brom speak to Saphira? The 
back of his head throbbed and ideas whirled through his mind, but he kept 
reaching the same conclusion: he had to tell the old man something. He said, “I 
was going to find a safe place to stay while I heal.”

 
 
“And after 
that?”

 
 
The question 
could not be ignored. The throbbing in his head grew worse. It was impossible 
to think; nothing seemed clear anymore. All he wanted to do was tell someone 
about the events of the past few months. It tore at him that his secret had 
caused Garrow’s death. He gave up and said tremulously, “I was going to hunt 
down the strangers and kill them.”

 
 
“A mighty task 
for one so young,” Brom said in a normal tone, as if Eragon had proposed the 
most obvious and suitable thing to do. “Certainly a worthy endeavor and one you 
are fit to carry out, yet it strikes me that help would not be unwelcome.” He 
reached behind a bush and pulled out a large pack. His tone became gruff. 
“Anyway, I’m not going to stay behind while some stripling gets to run around 
with a dragon.”

 
 
Is he really 
offering help, or is it a trap?Eragon was afraid of what his mysterious 
enemies could do.But Brom convinced Saphira to trust him, and they’ve talked 
through the mind touch.If she isn’t worried . . . He decided to put his 
suspicions aside for the present. “I don’t need help,” said Eragon, then 
grudgingly added, “but you can come.”

 
 
“Then we had 
best be going,” said Brom. His face blanked for a moment. “I think you’ll find 
that your dragon will listen to you again.”

 
 
Saphira?asked Eragon.

 
 
Yes. 

 
 
He resisted the 
urge to question her.Will you meet us at the farm?

 
 
Yes. So you 
reached an agreement? 


 
 
I guess so.She broke 
contact and soared away. He glanced at Carvahall and saw people running from 
house to house. “I think they’re looking for me.”

 
 
Brom raised an 
eyebrow. “Probably. Shall we go?”

 
 
Eragon 
hesitated. “I’d like to leave a message for Roran. It doesn’t seem right to run 
off without telling him why.”

 
 
“It’s been taken 
care of,” assured Brom. “I left a letter for him with Gertrude, explaining a 
few things. I also cautioned him to be on guard for certain dangers. Is that 
satisfactory?”

 
 
Eragon nodded. 
He wrapped the leather around the meat and started off. They were careful to 
stay out of sight until they reached the road, then quickened their pace, eager 
to distance themselves from Carvahall. Eragon plowed ahead determinedly, his 
legs burning. The mindless rhythm of walking freed his mind to think.Once we 
get home, I won’t travel any farther with Brom until I get some answers, he 
told himself firmly. I hope that he can tell me more about the Riders and 
whom I’m fighting.

 
 
As the wreckage 
of the farm came into view, Brom’s eyebrows beetled with anger. Eragon was 
dismayed to see how swiftly nature was reclaiming the farm. Snow and dirt were 
already piled inside the house, concealing the violence of the strangers’ 
attack. All that remained of the barn was a rapidly eroding rectangle of soot.

 
 
Brom’s head 
snapped up as the sound of Saphira’s wings drifted over the trees. She dived 
past them from behind, almost brushing their heads. They staggered as a wall of 
air buffeted them. Saphira’s scales glittered as she wheeled over the farm and 
landed gracefully.

 
 
Brom stepped 
forward with an expression both solemn and joyous. His eyes were shining, and a 
tear shone on his cheek before it disappeared into his beard. He stood there 
for a long while, breathing heavily as he watched Saphira, and she him. Eragon 
heard him muttering and edged closer to listen.

 
 
“So . . . it 
starts again. But how and where will it end? My sight is veiled; I cannot tell 
if this be tragedy or farce, for the elements of both are here. . . . However 
it may be, my station is unchanged, and I . . .”

 
 
Whatever else he 
might have said faded away as Saphira proudly approached them. Eragon passed 
Brom, pretended he had heard nothing, and greeted her. There was something 
different between them now, as if they knew each other even more intimately, yet 
were still strangers. He rubbed her neck, and his palm tingled as their minds 
touched. A strong curiosity came from her.

 
 
I’ve seen no 
humans except you and Garrow, and he was badly injured,she said.

 
 
You’ve viewed 
people through my eyes.

 
 
It’s not the 
same.She 
came closer and turned her long head so that she could inspect Brom with one 
large blue eye.You really are queer creatures, she said critically, and 
continued to stare at him. Brom held still as she sniffed the air, and then he 
extended a hand to her. Saphira slowly bowed her head and allowed him to touch 
her on the brow. With a snort, she jerked back and retreated behind Eragon. Her 
tail flicked over the ground.

 
 
What is it?he asked. She 
did not answer.

 
 
Brom turned to 
him and asked in an undertone, “What’s her name?”

 
 
“Saphira.” A 
peculiar expression crossed Brom’s face. He ground the butt of his staff into 
the earth with such force his knuckles turned white. “Of all the names you gave 
me, it was the only one she liked. I think it fits,” Eragon added quickly.

 
 
“Fit it does,” 
said Brom. There was something in his voice Eragon could not identify. Was it 
loss, wonder, fear, envy? He was not sure; it could have been none of them or 
all. Brom raised his voice and said, “Greetings, Saphira. I am honored to meet 
you.” He twisted his hand in a strange gesture and bowed.

 
 
I like him,said Saphira 
quietly.

 
 
Of course you 
do; everyone enjoys flattery.Eragon touched her on the shoulder and 
went to the ruined house. Saphira trailed behind with Brom. The old man looked 
vibrant and alive.

 
 
Eragon climbed 
into the house and crawled under a door into what was left of his room. He 
barely recognized it under the piles of shattered wood. Guided by memory, he 
searched where the inside wall had been and found his empty pack. Part of the 
frame was broken, but the damage could be easily repaired. He kept rummaging 
and eventually uncovered the end of his bow, which was still in its buckskin 
tube.

 
 
Though the 
leather was scratched and scuffed, he was pleased to see that the oiled wood 
was unharmed.Finally, some luck. He strung the bow and pulled on the 
sinew experimentally. It bent smoothly, without any snaps or creaks. Satisfied, 
he hunted for his quiver, which he found buried nearby. Many of the arrows were 
broken.

 
 
He unstrung the 
bow and handed it and the quiver to Brom, who said, “It takes a strong arm to 
pull that.” Eragon took the compliment silently. He picked through the rest of 
the house for other useful items and dumped the collection next to Brom. It was 
a meager pile. “What now?” asked Brom. His eyes were sharp and inquisitive. 
Eragon looked away.

 
 
“We find a place 
to hide.”

 
 
“Do you have 
somewhere in mind?”

 
 
“Yes.” He 
wrapped all the supplies, except for his bow, into a tight bundle and tied it 
shut. Hefting it onto his back, he said, “This way,” and headed into the 
forest.Saphira, follow us in the air. Your footprints are too easily found 
and tracked.

 
 
Very well.She took off 
behind them.

 
 
Their 
destination was nearby, but Eragon took a circuitous route in an effort to 
baffle any pursuers. It was well over an hour before he finally stopped in a 
well-concealed bramble.

 
 
The irregular 
clearing in the center was just large enough for a fire, two people, and a 
dragon. Red squirrels scampered into the trees, chattering in protest at their 
intrusion. Brom extricated himself from a vine and looked around with interest. 
“Does anyone else know of this?” he asked.

 
 
“No. I found it 
when we first moved here. It took me a week to dig into the center, and another 
week to clear out all the deadwood.” Saphira landed beside them and folded her 
wings, careful to avoid the thorns. She curled up, snapping twigs with her hard 
scales, and rested her head on the ground. Her unreadable eyes followed them 
closely.

 
 
Brom leaned 
against his staff and fixed his gaze on her. His scrutiny made Eragon nervous.

 
 
Eragon watched 
them until hunger forced him to action. He built a fire, filled a pot with 
snow, and then set it over the flames to melt. When the water was hot, he tore 
off chunks of meat and dropped them into the pot with a lump of salt.Not 
much of a meal, he thought grimly,but it’ll do. I’ll probably be eating 
this for some time to come, so I might as well get used to it.

 
 
The stew 
simmered quietly, spreading a rich aroma through the clearing. The tip of 
Saphira’s tongue snaked out and tasted the air. When the meat was tender, Brom 
came over and Eragon served the food. They ate silently, avoiding each other’s 
eyes. Afterward, Brom pulled out his pipe and lit it leisurely.

 
 
“Why do you want 
to travel with me?” asked Eragon.

 
 
A cloud of smoke 
left Brom’s lips and spiraled up through the trees until it disappeared. “I 
have a vested interest in keeping you alive,” he said.

 
 
“What do you 
mean?” demanded Eragon.

 
 
“To put it 
bluntly, I’m a storyteller and I happen to think that you will make a fine 
story. You’re the first Rider to exist outside of the king’s control for over a 
hundred years. What will happen? Will you perish as a martyr? Will you join the 
Varden? Or will you kill King Galbatorix? All fascinating questions. And I will 
be there to see every bit of it, no matter what I have to do.”

 
 
A knot formed in 
Eragon’s stomach. He could not see himself doing any of those things, least of 
all becoming a martyr.I want my vengeance, but for the rest . . . I have no ambition. 
“That may be, but tell me, how can you talk with Saphira?”

 
 
Brom took his 
time putting more tobacco in his pipe. Once it was relit and firmly in his 
mouth, he said, “Very well, if it’s answers you want, it’s answers you’ll get, 
but they may not be to your liking.” He got up, brought his pack over to the 
fire, and pulled out a long object wrapped in cloth. It was about five feet 
long and, from the way he handled it, rather heavy.

 
 
He peeled away 
the cloth, strip by strip, like a mummy being unswathed. Eragon gazed, 
transfixed, as a sword was revealed. The gold pommel was teardrop shaped with 
the sides cut away to reveal a ruby the size of a small egg. The hilt was 
wrapped in silver wire, burnished until it gleamed like starlight. The sheath 
was wine red and smooth as glass, adorned solely by a strange black symbol 
etched into it. Next to the sword was a leather belt with a heavy buckle. The 
last strip fell away, and Brom passed the weapon to Eragon.

 
 
The handle fit 
Eragon’s hand as if it had been made for him. He slowly drew the sword; it slid 
soundlessly from the sheath. The flat blade was iridescent red and shimmered in 
the firelight. The keen edges curved gracefully to a sharp point. A duplicate 
of the black symbol was inscribed on the metal. The balance of the sword was 
perfect; it felt like an extension of his arm, unlike the rude farm tools he 
was used to. An air of power lay over it, as if an unstoppable force resided in 
its core. It had been created for the violent convulsions of battle, to end men’s 
lives, yet it held a terrible beauty.

 
 
“This was once a 
Rider’s blade,” said Brom gravely. “When a Rider finished his training, the 
elves would present him with a sword. Their methods of forging have always 
remained secret. However, their swords are eternally sharp and will never 
stain. The custom was to have the blade’s color match that of the Rider’s 
dragon, but I think we can make an exception in this case. This sword is named 
Zar’roc. I don’t know what it means, probably something personal to the Rider 
who owned it.” He watched Eragon swing the sword.

 
 
“Where did you 
get it?” asked Eragon. He reluctantly slipped the blade back into the sheath 
and attempted to hand the sword back, but Brom made no move to take it.

 
 
“It doesn’t 
matter,” said Brom. “I will only say that it took me a series of nasty and 
dangerous adventures to attain it. Consider it yours. You have more of a claim 
to it than I do, and before all is done, I think you will need it.”

 
 
The offer caught 
Eragon off guard. “It is a princely gift, thank you.” Unsure of what else to 
say, he slid his hand down the sheath. “What is this symbol?” he asked.

 
 
“That was the 
Rider’s personal crest.” Eragon tried to interrupt, but Brom glared at him 
until he was quiet. “Now, if you must know, anyone can learn how to speak to a 
dragon if they have the proper training. And,” he raised a finger for emphasis, 
“it doesn’t mean anything if they can. I know more about the dragons and their 
abilities than almost anyone else alive. On your own it might take years to 
learn what I can teach you. I’m offering my knowledge as a shortcut. As for how 
I know so much, I will keepthat to myself.”

 
 
Saphira pulled 
herself up as he finished speaking and prowled over to Eragon. He pulled out 
the blade and showed her the sword.It has power, she said, touching the 
point with her nose. The metal’s iridescent color rippled like water as it met 
her scales. She lifted her head with a satisfied snort, and the sword resumed 
its normal appearance. Eragon sheathed it, troubled.

 
 
Brom raised an 
eyebrow. “That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. Dragons will constantly 
amaze you. Things . . . happen around them, mysterious things that are 
impossible anywhere else. Even though the Riders worked with dragons for 
centuries, they never completely understood their abilities. Some say that even 
the dragons don’t know the full extent of their own powers. They are linked 
with this land in a way that lets them overcome great obstacles. What Saphira 
just did illustrates my earlier point: there is much you don’t know.”

 
 
There was a long 
pause. “That may be,” said Eragon, “but I can learn. And the strangers are the 
most important thing I need to know about right now. Do you have any idea who 
they are?”

 
 
Brom took a deep 
breath. “They are called the Ra’zac. No one knows if that’s the name of their 
race or what they have chosen to call themselves. Either way, if they have 
individual names, they keep them hidden. The Ra’zac were never seen before 
Galbatorix came to power. He must have found them during his travels and 
enlisted them in his service. Little or nothing is known ab