Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle 3) - Page 28

“If it please you, Shadeslayer,” said the tall, black-haired woman, with a hint of an accent he could not place, “names have power, and we would prefer ours remain unknown.” She kept her gaze angled slightly downward, but her tone was firm and unyielding. The girl uttered a small gasp, as if shocked by the woman’s effrontery.

Eragon nodded, neither upset nor surprised, although the woman’s reticence had piqued his curiosity even more. He would have liked to know their names, but they were not essential for what he was about to do. Pulling the glove off his right hand, he placed his palm on the middle of the woman’s warm forehead. She flinched at the contact but did not retreat. Her nostrils flared, the corners of her mouth thinned, a crease appeared between her eyebrows, and he felt her tremble, as if his touch pained her and she were fighting the urge to knock aside his arm. In the background, Eragon was vaguely aware of Blödhgarm stalking closer, ready to pounce on the woman should she prove to be hostile.

Disconcerted by her reaction, Eragon broached the barrier in his mind, immersed himself in the flow of magic, and, with the full power of the ancient language, said, “Atra guliä un ilian tauthr ono un atra ono waíse sköliro fra rauthr.” By imbuing the phrase with energy, as he would the words of a spell, he ensured that it would shape the course of events and thereby improve the woman’s lot in life. He was careful to limit the amount of energy he transferred into the blessing, for unless he put checks on it, a spell of that sort would feed off his body until it absorbed all of his vitality, leaving him an empty husk. Despite his caution, the drop in his strength was more than he expected; his vision dimmed and his legs wobbled and threatened to collapse underneath him.

A moment later, he recovered.

It was with a sense of relief that he lifted his hand from the woman’s brow, a sentiment that she seemed to share, for she stepped back and rubbed her arms. She looked to him like a person trying to cleanse herself of some foul substance.

Moving on, Eragon repeated the procedure with the teenage girl. Her face widened as he released the spell, as if she could feel it becoming part of her body. She curtsied. “Thank you, Shadeslayer. We are in your debt. I hope that you succeed in defeating Galbatorix and the Empire.”

She turned to leave but stopped when Saphira snorted and snaked her head past Eragon and Angela, so she loomed above the two women. Bending her neck, Saphira breathed first upon the face of the older woman and then upon the face of the younger, and projecting her thoughts with such force as to overwhelm all but the thickest defenses—for she and Eragon had noticed that the black-haired woman had a well-armored mind—she said, Good hunting, O Wild Ones. May the wind rise under your wings, may the sun always be at your backs, and may you catch your prey napping. And, Wolf-Eyes, I hope that when you find the one who left your paws in his traps, you do not kill him too quickly.

Both women stiffened when Saphira began to speak. Afterward, the elder clapped her fists against her chest and said, “That I shall not, O Beautiful Huntress.” Then she bowed to Angela, saying, “Train hard, strike first, Seer.”


With a swirl of skirts, she and the teenager strode away and soon were lost from sight in the maze of identical gray tents.

What, no marks upon their foreheads? Eragon asked Saphira.

Elva was unique. I shall not brand anyone else in a like manner. What happened in Farthen Dûr just … happened. Instinct drove me. Beyond that, I cannot explain.

As the three of them walked toward Nasuada’s pavilion, Eragon glanced at Angela. “Who were they?”

Her lips quirked. “Pilgrims on their own quest.”

“That is hardly an answer,” he complained.

“It is not my habit to hand out secrets like candied nuts on winter solstice. Especially not when they belong to others.”

He was silent for a few paces. Then: “When someone refuses to tell me a certain piece of information, it only makes me that much more determined to find out the truth. I hate being ignorant. For me, a question unanswered is like a thorn in my side that pains me every time I move until I can pluck it out.”

“You have my sympathy.”

“Why is that?”

“Because if that is so, you must spend every waking hour in mortal agony, for life is full of unanswerable questions.”

Sixty feet from Nasuada’s pavilion, a contingent of pikemen marching through camp blocked their way. While they waited for the warriors to file past, Eragon shivered and blew on his hands. “I wish we had time for a meal.”

Quick as ever, Angela said, “It’s the magic, isn’t it? It has worn you down.” He nodded. Sticking a hand into one of the pouches that hung from her sash, Angela pulled out a hard brown lump flecked with shiny flaxseeds. “Here, this will hold you until lunch.”

“What is it?”

She thrust it at him, insistent. “Eat it. You’ll like it. Trust me.” As he took the oily lump from between her fingers, she grasped his wrist with her other hand and held him in place while she inspected the half-inch-high calluses on his knuckles. “How very clever of you,” she said. “They are as ugly as the warts on a toad, but who cares if they help keep your skin intact, eh? I like this. I like this quite a lot. Were you inspired by the dwarves’ Ascûdgamln?”

“Nothing escapes you, does it?” he asked.

“Let it escape. I only concern myself with things that exist.” Eragon blinked, thrown as he often was by her verbal trickery. She tapped a callus with the tip of one of her short fingernails. “I would do this myself, except that it would catch on the wool when I’m spinning or knitting.”

“You knit with your own yarn?” he said, surprised that she would engage in anything so ordinary.

“Of course! It’s a wonderful way to relax. Besides, if I didn’t, where would I get a sweater with Dvalar’s ward against mad rabbits knit in the Liduen Kvaedhí across the inside of the chest, or a snood that was dyed yellow, green, and bright pink?”

“Mad rabbits—”

She tossed her thick curls. “You would be amazed how many magicians have died after being bitten by mad rabbits. It’s far more common than you might think.”

Eragon stared at her. Do you think she’s jesting? he asked Saphira.

Ask her and find out.

She would only answer with another riddle.

The pikemen having gone, Eragon, Saphira, and Angela continued toward the pavilion, accompanied by Solembum, who had joined them without Eragon noticing. Picking her way around piles of dung left by the horses of King Orrin’s cavalry, Angela said, “So tell me: aside from your fight with the Ra’zac, did anything terribly interesting happen to you during your trip? You know how I love to hear about interesting things.”

Eragon smiled, thinking of the spirits that had visited him and Arya. However, he did not want to discuss them, so instead he said, “Since you ask, quite a few interesting things happened. For example, I met a hermit named Tenga living in the ruins of an elf tower. He possessed the most amazing library. In it were seven—”

Angela stopped so abruptly, Eragon kept walking another three paces before he caught himself and turned back. The witch seemed stunned, as if she had taken a hard knock to her head. Padding toward her, Solembum leaned against her legs and gazed upward. Angela wet her lips, then said, “Are …” She coughed once. “Are you sure his name was Tenga?”

“Have you met him?”

Solembum hissed, and the hair on his back stood straight out. Eragon edged away from the werecat, eager to escape the reach of his claws.

“Met him?” With a bitter laugh, Angela planted her hands on her hips. “Met him? Why, I did better than that! I was his apprentice for … for an unfortunate number of years.”

Eragon had never expected Angela to willingly reveal anything about her past. Eager to learn more, he asked, “When did you meet him? And where?”

“Long ago and far away. However, we parted badly, and I have not seen him for many, many years.” An

gela frowned. “In fact, I thought he was already dead.”

Saphira spoke then, saying, Since you were Tenga’s apprentice, do you know what question he’s trying to answer?

“I have not the slightest idea. Tenga always had a question he was trying to answer. If he succeeded, he immediately chose another one, and so on. He may have answered a hundred questions since I last saw him, or he may still be gnashing his teeth over the same conundrum as when I left him.”

Which was?

“Whether the phases of the moon influence the number and quality of the opals that form in the roots of the Beor Mountains, as is commonly held among the dwarves.”

“But how could you prove that?” objected Eragon.

Angela shrugged. “If anyone could, it would be Tenga. He may be deranged, but his brilliance is none the less for it.”

He is a man who kicks at cats, said Solembum, as if that summed up Tenga’s entire character.

Then Angela clapped her hands together and said, “No more! Eat your sweet, Eragon, and let us go to Nasuada.”


“You are late,” said Nasuada as Eragon and Angela found seats in the row of chairs arranged in a semicircle before Nasuada’s high-backed throne. Also seated in the semicircle were Elva and her caretaker, Greta, the old woman who had pleaded with Eragon in Farthen Dûr to bless her charge. As before, Saphira lay outside the pavilion and stuck her head through an opening at one end so that she could participate in the meeting. Solembum had curled up in a ball next to her head. He appeared to be sound asleep, except for occasional flicks of his tail.

Along with Angela, Eragon made his apologies for their tardiness, and then he listened as Nasuada explained to Elva the value of her abilities to the Varden—As if she doesn’t already know, Eragon commented to Saphira—and entreated her to release Eragon from his promise to try to undo the effects of his blessing. She said she understood that what she was asking of Elva was difficult, but the fate of the entire land was at stake, and was it not worth sacrificing one’s own comfort to help rescue Alagaësia from Galbatorix’s evil clutches? It was a magnificent speech: eloquent, impassioned, and full of arguments intended to appeal to Elva’s more noble sentiments.

Elva, who had been resting her small, pointed chin on her fists, raised her head and said, “No.” Shocked silence pervaded the pavilion. Transferring her unblinking gaze from one person to the next, she elaborated: “Eragon, Angela, you both know what it is like to share someone’s thoughts and emotions as they die. You know how horrible, how wrenching it is, how it feels as if part of yourself has vanished forever. And that is only from the death of one person. Neither of you has to endure the experience unless you want to, whereas I… I have no choice but to share them all. I feel every death around me. Even now I can feel the life ebbing out of Sefton, one of your swordsmen, Nasuada, who was wounded on the Burning Plains, and I know what words I could say to him that would lessen his terror of obliteration. His fear is so great, oh, it makes me tremble!” With an incoherent cry, she cast up her arms before her face, as if to ward off a blow. Then: “Ah, he has gone. But there are others. There are always others. The line of dead never ends.” The bitter mocking quality of her voice intensified, a travesty of a child’s normal speech. “Do you truly understand, Nasuada, Lady Nightstalker … She Who Would Be Queen of the World? Do you truly understand? I am privy to all of the agony around me, whether physical or mental. I feel it as if it were my own, and Eragon’s magic drives me to alleviate the discomfort of those who suffer, regardless of the cost to myself. And if I resist the urge, as I am this very moment, my body rebels against me: my stomach turns acid, my head throbs as if a dwarf is hammering on it, and I find it hard to move, much less think. Is this what you would wish on me, Nasuada?

“Night and day I have no respite from the pain of the world. Since Eragon blessed me, I have known nothing but hurt and fear, never happiness or pleasure. The lighter side of life, the things that make this existence bearable, these are denied me. Never do I see them. Never do I share in them. Only darkness. Only the combined misery of all the men, women, and children within a mile, battering at me like a midnight storm. This blessing has deprived me of the opportunity to be like other children. It has forced my body to mature faster than normal, and my mind even faster still. Eragon may be able to remove this ghastly ability of mine and the compulsion that accompanies it, but he cannot return me to what I was, nor what I should be, not without destroying who I have become. I am a freak, neither a child nor an adult, forever doomed to stand apart. I am not blind, you know. I see how you recoil when you hear me speak.” She shook her head. “No, this is too much to ask of me. I will not continue like this for the sake of you, Nasuada, nor the Varden, nor the whole of Alagaësia, nor even for my dear mother, were she still alive today. It is not worth it, not for anything. I could go live by myself, so that I would be free of other people’s afflictions, but I do not want to live like that. No, the only solution is for Eragon to attempt to correct his mistake.” Her lips curved in a sly smile. “And if you disagree with me, if you think I am being stupid and selfish, why, then, you would do well to remember that I am hardly more than a swaddling babe and have yet to celebrate my second birthday. Only fools expect an infant to martyr herself for the greater good. But infant or not, I have made my decision, and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise. In this, I am as iron.”

Nasuada reasoned with her further, but as Elva had promised, it proved to be a futile prospect. At last Nasuada asked Angela, Eragon, and Saphira to intervene. Angela refused on the grounds that she could not improve on Nasuada’s words and that she believed Elva’s choice was a personal one and therefore the girl ought to be able to do as she wished without being harried like an eagle by a flock of jays. Eragon was of a similar opinion, but he consented to say, “Elva, I cannot tell you what you should do—only you can determine that—but do not reject Nasuada’s request out of hand. She is trying to save us all from Galbatorix, and she needs our support if we are to have any chance of success. The future is hidden to me, but I believe that your ability might be the perfect weapon against Galbatorix. You could predict his every attack. You could tell us exactly how to counteract his wards. And above all else, you would be able to sense where Galbatorix is vulnerable, where he is most weak, and what we could do to hurt him.”

“You will have to do better than that, Rider, if you want to change my mind.”

“I don’t want to change your mind,” said Eragon. “I only want to make sure you have given due consideration to the implications of your decision and that you are not being overly hasty.”

The girl shifted but did not respond.

Then Saphira asked: What is in your heart, O Shining Brow?

Elva answered in a soft tone, with no trace of malice. “I have spoken my heart, Saphira. Any other words would be redundant.”

If Nasuada was frustrated by Elva’s obstinacy, she did not allow it to show, although her expression was stern, as befitted the discussion. She said, “I do not agree with your choice, Elva, but we will abide by it, for it is obvious that we cannot sway you. I suppose I cannot fault you, as I have no experience with the suffering you are exposed to on a daily basis, and if I were in your position, it is possible I would act no differently. Eragon, if you will…”

At her bidding, Eragon knelt in front of Elva. Her lustrous violet eyes bored into him as he placed her small hands between his larger ones. Her flesh burned against his as if she had a fever.

“Will it hurt, Shadeslayer?” Greta asked, the old woman’s voice quavering.

“It shouldn’t, but I do not know for sure. Removing spells is a much more inexact art than casting them. Magicians rarely if ever attempt it because of the challenges it poses.”

The wrinkles on her face contorted with worry, Greta patted Elva on the head, saying, “Oh, be brave, my plum. Be brave.” She did not seem to notice the look of irritation Elva directed at her.

>   Eragon ignored the interruption. “Elva, listen to me. There are two different methods for breaking an enchantment. One is for the magician who originally cast the spell to open himself to the energy that fuels our magic—”

“That’s the part I always had difficulty with,” said Angela. “It’s why I rely more upon potions and plants and objects that are magical in and of themselves than upon incantations.”

“If you don’t mind …”

Her cheeks dimpling, Angela said, “I’m sorry. Proceed.”

“Right,” growled Eragon. “One is for the original magician to open himself—”

“Or herself,” Angela interjected.

“Will you please let me finish?”


Eragon saw Nasuada fight back a smile. “He opens himself to the flow of energy within his body and, speaking in the ancient language, recants not only the words of his spell but also the intention behind it. This can be quite difficult, as you might imagine. Unless the magician has the right intent, he will end up altering the original spell instead of lifting it. And then he would have to unsay two intertwined spells.

“The other method is to cast a spell that directly counteracts the effects of the original spell. It does not eliminate the original spell, but if done properly, it renders it harmless. With your permission, this is the method I intend to use.”

“A most elegant solution,” Angela proclaimed, “but who, pray tell, provides the continuous stream of energy needed to maintain this counterspell? And since someone must ask, what can go wrong with this particular method?”

Eragon kept his gaze fixed on Elva. “The energy will have to come from you,” he told her, pressing her hands with his. “It won’t be much, but it will still reduce your stamina by a certain amount. If I do this, you will never be able to run as far or lift as many pieces of firewood as someone who does not have a similar incantation leeching off them.”

“Why can’t you provide the energy?” asked Elva, arching an eyebrow. “You are the one who is responsible for my predicament, after all.”

Tags: Christopher Paolini The Inheritance Cycle Fantasy
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