Saphira's breathing quickened, and she opened
her eyes, yawning expansively. Good morning, little one.
Is it? He looked down and leaned on his hands, compressing the mattress. It's terrible . . . Murtagh and Ajihad . . . Why didn't sentries in the tunnels warn us of the Urgals? They shouldn't have been able to trail Ajihad's group without being noticed. . . . Arya was right, it doesn't make sense.
We may never know the truth, said Saphira gently. She stood, wings brushing the ceiling. You need to eat, then we must discover what the Varden are planning. We can't waste time; a new leader could be chosen within hours.
Eragon agreed, thinking of how they had left everyone yesterday: Orik rushing off to give King Hrothgar the tidings, Jörmundur taking Ajihad's body to a place where it would rest until the funeral, and Arya, who stood alone and watched the goings-on.
Eragon rose and strapped on Zar'roc and his bow, then bent and lifted Snowfire's saddle. A line of pain sheared through his torso, driving him to the floor, where he writhed, scrabbling at his back. It felt like he was being sawed in half. Saphira growled as the ripping sensation reached her. She tried to soothe him with her own mind but was unable to alleviate his suffering. Her tail instinctually lifted, as if to fight.
It took minutes before the fit subsided and the last throb faded away, leaving Eragon gasping. Sweat drenched his face, making his hair stick and his eyes sting. He reached back and gingerly fingered the top of his scar. It was hot and inflamed and sensitive to touch. Saphira lowered her nose and touched him on the arm. Oh, little one. . . .
It was worse this time, he said, staggering upright. She let him lean against her as he wiped away the sweat with a rag, then he tentatively stepped for the door.
Are you strong enough to go?
We have to. We're obliged as dragon and Rider to make a public choice regarding the next head of the Varden, and perhaps even influence the selection. I won't ignore the strength of our position; we now wield great authority written the Varden. At least the Twins aren't here to grab the position for themselves. That's the only good in the situation.
Very well, but Durza should suffer a thousand years of torture for what he did to you.
He grunted. Just stay close to me.
Together they made their way through Tronjheim, toward the nearest kitchen. In the corridors and hallways, people stopped and bowed to them, murmuring, "Argetlam," or "Shadeslayer." Even dwarves made the motions, though not as often. Eragon was struck by the somber, haunted expressions of the humans and the dark clothing they wore to display their sadness. Many women dressed entirely in black, lace veils covering their faces.
From Eldest by Christopher Paolini. Copyright Christopher Paolini 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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