CHAPTER 4: A little dose of Mischief

“Wake, Knurlhiem! You cannot sleep now. We are needed at the gate; they won’t start without us.”

That’s right, rise and shine! We sure aren’t in top condition, but that’s all your fault.

Eragon coughed and forced his eyes open, confused and sore, lying on a cold stone table.

“What?”

Come on, get your cute little tush up , we don’t want to be late to the party.

Orik tugged on his brown beard.

“Ajihad’s procession. We must be present for it!”

Are you alright, little one?

Little one? And are you the big one? Did you always call yourself like that?

Saphira, what..? What is it? I… I think I’m still not completely myself yet…

Eragon managed to get on his feet and grabbed for Saphira’s flank to avoid falling over again.

“Orik… I think I’m still… can you please excuse us for a moment? I’m a little off…”

The dwarf nodded and handed him a dress.

“Be quick about it.”

So, what am I? Am I the sexy one? The cute one?.. …White one?! What kind of nickname is that?

What are you saying? I could’ve sworn that was Lomy’s voice. We really shouldn’t drink this much…

Whoa, of all the boring short-lived nitwits… Maybe I should assume direct control? Hu, that’s a neat way to say it…

Saphira roared, shaking away the dizziness of the previous night’s festivities and nervously looking around.

It is him!

Well, baby blue has some brains around here somewhere…

Eragon desperately raised the barriers of his mind, trying to shield himself from the intrusion and find its origin, but there was no use, neither in locating him nor apparently in pulling him out of their consciousness.

How?!

Magic, duh? Turns out intoxicating oneself really messes with one’s Will capabilities. Come on, dress yourself, we stench!

Why?!

I don’t really remember by now. I think it was something about a dwarf, you can’t possibly ask me to recall that. It’s happened, like, a nap ago?

Where are you?!

Muttering, tattering teetering, wavering, somewhere around here or there or hmnmnmn…

What was the last one?

Inside your mind, idiot.

What are you?

I’m an elf, of course!

No, you’re not!

Am too!

Yet to relinquish her search, in case Lomy were lying, Saphira growled, letting her words resonate with all her fury.

Leave him! Now! Leave him or I’ll tear you apart and burn your remains to ashes!

Yes, that’d be more dragon-like if say, we were talking about a shiny bauble of some kind. But for a human? It just doesn’t have that overbloated outrage tone…

It’s for the marriage, isn’t? You feared I could get him away nevertheless and decided to take us by force!

You know that’s an even better idea than whatever I got into him for in the first place! Let’s do that too!

Grrrrr! You are dead!

Nah, still not feeling it. Come on, I’m not going to hurt him, what was that again… truth-telling ancient language thingie..? Eka weohnata neiat haina ono.

How can I believe you? You could have twisted its meaning!

Come on, now you’re just thinking crazy.

Do not listen to him! This is only a way to manipulate you into his plot.

Man, that was dragon paranoia, alright… Why the Hells are you so thorn about this marriage thing anyway? I’ve not betrothed you. …Waaaait a second!.. Now I get it!

No, you have not!

Yeah! Now I get it! My eyes were shut, but lo, for now I see! Eh eh. There it is, that bond-thing sounded fishy, sure it did…

What is he talking about now?

Shut up!

She has a crush on you. Ah ah. That’s funny.

I have not!

Have too! Ah ah! It’s real! That’s why, you wanted to keep him all to yourself, there’s some dragon’s selfishness… Didn’t want a plucky little human babe to divide your mate with. It also explains all that tucked down repressed hate for the elf buddy I stumbled upon diving into your messy dreams, guess you were the one who wanted to be laid hands upon after some drug and torture. Wink wink, anybody?

You’re insane!

Now, now, don’t get this wrong, it’s a good thing. That you still do not contemplate the concept of sharing is a sign there’s still a dragon somewhere inside that pack of scales and meat. About meat, Eragon, what do you thi-?

This isn’t true! You want to manipulate his thoughts and feelings, twisting the meaning of our bound.

Which is what, exactly?

If I’m protective to Eragon, it is because I don’t want him to make the wrong decision.

Obviously, as a one year old dragon, you know with metaphysical certainty which is what.

Grrr… If he were to pursue a relationship, with or without my consent, I would develop feelings for that person as well, because of our bound. That’s why I’m cautious, so that he will choose wisely.

Why didn’t you tell me this before, Saphira?

There wasn’t the occasion.

That’s a pretty lame excuse.

I don’t have to explain myself to you.

Yeah, but back on the subject, you should really make your move. He’s a teen, he’s got needs. And you have at least ten tons to satisfy them. Rarwh. Turned on already, dragon’s dude?

“Eragon, are you done? We need to go!”

Eragon barely heard Orik’s voice from outside; he had taken advantage of the fight between Saphira and Lomy to try and find the elf or lock at least part of his mind, at the same time distracting himself from the disturbing mental images brought up by the intruder’s speech, but, as he said, he really seemed to be inside him. He would have called for help, but by that point he didn’t know what the elf had already read from him or how he could react, and he couldn’t think of anything, because then Lomy would have known it automatically. Plus, the debauchery of the previous night had yet to wear off, adding other confusion to the whole situation.

Come on! I don’t wanna be late! Change your clothes, it will also work as foreplay for her.

You sick twisted freak! I could never feel that way for her, nor her for me! Our bound is something I know now you could never understand.

Yeah, you have constant mindmeld, it doesn’t get more intimate than that, you might as well make it official. And don’t worry about the marriage! For the humans it’s not adultery if the husband does it. Can we get going now? We should really hurry up.

I won’t.

Well, fine!

The voice silenced itself. Eragon and Saphira looked around, the human hopeful the elf had relinquished his control, but just as he was turning to the door, with his sight still blurring, an invisible grip closed on his consciousness and dragged it down; it wasn’t as painful as Durza’s attack, more like slowly suffocating. The Rider screamed, mastering all his last strength to fight back and break the hold; he felt Saphira’s bond, weak but still stable, and tried to work with her to push back the intruder. He finally opened his eyes, the vision yet to clear itself, and took a breath.

Is he gone, little one?

Yes. Yes, I think so.

The Rider took the dress and started to quickly change himself.

“We should go.”

Forget about that! We need to warn the Varden about this! We need to talk with Arya! She’ll have to explain this to us!

Eragon shrugged and took the dark pants provided by Orik, putting the first foot inside them.

“Nah, we’ll do fine like this.”

Saphira! Saphira, what’s happening?! I’m… I’m..!

The young human smiled, looking first at the growling dragon and then lowering his gaze to the bare legs.

Hot diggity, and isn’t this perfect timing?

“Race you to the corpse, baby blue!”

The possessed Rider darted to the door, swiftly followed by the angry dragon.

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Arya suppressed a sigh, waiting near Hrothgar at the head of the procession yet to depart.

Where are they now?

She couldn’t describe herself as impatient, but spending all that precious time for a useless and expensive ritual, just to please dwarves’ and humans’ gullibility was already too much for her nerves without any other incidental delays. She could hear all the breathing of the dwarf King and the bride-to-be and the Elders behind her, everyone with his particular tone and fragrance, merging together in an unbearable cacophony of snorts mixed with sweat and moisture. They had a defeated yet powerful enemy to prepare for, a Rider who had to be taken as soon as possible to be trained at Ellesméra and a young loose cannon with seemingly unlimited magical reserves to restrain, but yet there they were, waiting to bury a corpse, everyone supposed to look as somber and mournful as possible in regard of the decomposing carcass.

The previous night she was forced to spend a good amount of time appeasing the dwarf King, one of the last targets of Lomyolèndri’s violent and poorly tasteful pranks. She had been able to calm Hrothgar by offering to provide safe passage to Ellesméra to an ambassador of her people, to supervise Eragon’s training and strengthen the agreement between the two races. It really didn’t mean much, but fortunately Lomyolèndri hadn’t been there to point that out. At first she had asked herself who could have been so foolish to teach magic to such an irresponsible child, but as the time passed, darker hypothesis over the young elf’s nature had started crossing her mind.

He’ll probably want to come when Eragon leaves, we won’t even need to ask him, nor would anyone here want to keep it around. The first time alone, I’ll have to confront him. He can’t hide the truth forever. I also have to settle things with Eragon and Saphira, I wouldn’t want them wavering away from their duty. They must reach Ellesméra, one way or another, I can’t let such distractions compromise the mission…

As she was nodding to herself, the improbable sight of Eragon running half-naked towards the crowd screaming gleefully with arms opened and Saphira flying roaring behind him chocked the elf’s breath, freezing her face with eyes opened in embarrassment and disbelief.

“Wooohooo! I’m going to piss on dad-in-law’s coffin and then eat him dead! Yeah! That’ll set the mood to drive this sweet, sweet mental threesome home, alright!”

Arya slowly passed her hands over her face, slowly breathing in and softly swearing below the growing clamor among the multitude.

“Er… Shadeslayer! What’s the meaning of this?”

“Shame on you, we demand that you and your…”

“Silence.”

Surpassing both Hrothgar and Nasuada, Arya put herself ahead of the coffin, blocking the way to the Rider.

I should’ve known…

“Everybody, stand down. Saphira! Stop! Land! …Please. (drawing her sword) And you…”

Eragon came to a sudden stop, hopefully smiling. Saphira landed behind him, cutting off any way out. A sepulchral silence had fallen again in the hall.

“Come on, elf buddy, let me have some fun. I’m doing this for… hmm… reasons!”

“You’re not controlling him, you’re possessing him.”

“Well, technically, it’s just a little mischief, I’ll leave him in a day tops, promise.”

Whispers started to spread around the crowd as new understanding was reached among the witnesses.

“If you’re telling the truth. Leave him now.”

“Will not! I didn’t even try him out! We spent all that time arguing, now I want to do something with it!”

The elf raised her sword.

“Leave him now or I’ll kill you both. I know you can be hurt, you were wounded when you came.”

“Got to catch me first!”

Arya hesitated for a while.

“You were running from Saphira, not flying. This tells me whatever magic you do employ, it doesn’t work while you are inside him. Not even teleporting, I’ll say.”

“_Or_ I could have run for another perfectly explainable reason…”

“Such as?”

“Well, I sorta hoped you’d cover me on that.”

Arya remained absolutely calm, aware of the actual critical danger of the situation and the current predicament of the last Rider, and started examining the adversary, looking for hints at his probable strategy; at first she thought she would have to challenge a mage with Eragon’s prowess, but the thing possessing the Rider didn’t seem to show the least amount of preparation, he just stood there, as if their conversation couldn’t possibly end in a fight. At the same time she finally succeeded in contacting Saphira over the dragon’s layer of anger and frustration and in convincing her to stand down as well no matter what.

“As you cannot flee, I suggest you to surrender and leave him, if what you said was true and you can relinquish his body and it wasn’t just another lie. Else, we shall be forced to…”

“You who? I’m one of your kin, you obviously know with our reproduction rate you cannot give yourself the luxury to be picky about who pops out. And her? (pointing with a thumb behind his back) I’m in her boytoy’s body, with all the mystical bond and stuff, she’s not going to risk him. Besides, it’s not like killing him will kill me, I’ll just rejuvenate somewhere around here a couple days from now, but man, will I be annoyed.”

“You are no elf. And even if you were, you have proven to be a threat.”

Hoping to have evaluated her opponent correctly, Arya rushed forward, taking him completely off guard and successfully knocking him to the ground. Planting a foot on his chest and the point of her sword on his neck, she addressed him again, coldly.

“And you’ll obviously know that we elves will not hesitate to remove any threat to our race.”

With a flinch of fear finally lightening his eyes, the human moved his gaze a couple of times from the sword to the elf.

“Yeah, we elves do that sort of thing… (starting to snicker) But right now I just can’t shake the thought of how secretly turned on he is for being like this. Much jealousy up there, baby blue? (to Arya) Come on! I wish you could hear his thoughts now… I’ll give you a recap later, but you have to admit, it’s got to be both the most humiliating and drool-inducing experience he’ll ever get! And who has he to thank for this?”

With an emotionless look, Arya raised the sword, preparing to strike.

“Ok, fine, I’m leaving. Sheesh, what a fuss over an attempted necrophagy and dracophily… Didn’t take you for cuthbertines… I’ve got to tell you…”

The Rider shuddered on the ground and spat lines of smoke and sparkles from mouth and nostrils, which soon took the form of Lomyolèndri.

“…you are just no fun.”

“Saphira, take Eragon to your rooms, we’ll come with you. (turning to the crowd) Argetlam will not participate in the funeral. Go on without us. (glancing at Hrothgar and the Elders) Every other arrangement will proceed as planned.”

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“Now you’ll have to confess, Lomyolèndri. _Now._”

The elf floated inside the room after Arya. Eragon was lying on the bed, surrounded by Saphira’s coils, but otherwise fine. That sight alone was enough to slightly calm Arya; when she thought the last Rider had been so foolish as to let himself be possessed, she feared all had been lost. However the fact that Lomyolèndri was actually able to enter and exit his body disturbed and confused her even more.

“What? I don’t get you! What’s to confess?”

“That you are not an elf. You’re a spirit!”

“A spirit Do I look incorporeal to you, dude? A spirit! Ah!”

Arya walked around him, staring directly at his eyes.

“You’re lack of empathy, your chaotic nature, your flight ability and Eragon’s possession. You are a spirit. Did you linger after Durza was destroyed? Or did Galbatorix send you?”

“_Who?_ Wait! There’s a necromancer guy who’s named Galbatorix?! Pffffh!..”

Finally understanding as well, Eragon pointed at him.

“Of course! He sent you here to bring me to Urû’baen, to turn me into a Shade!”

“Wait, now I’m confused? First I was a spirit.., now I’m supposed to be a necromancer too? Shouldn’t I, like, drain your life out to turn you into a shade, or something? What’s a little bodysurfing have to do with that? Anyway, can we turn back to that other dude’s name? That was hilarious, what was again?”

“We know you’re lying! Don’t play dumb with us!”

“Well, I couldn’t possibly win that game against you, (giggling) right?”

Arya emitted a frustrated sigh, placing herself between the two.

“Then tell me. In the ancient tongue.”

The young elf smiled and hovered over to her, half a meter from the ground; Arya clenched her sword’s hilt and raised her mind’s defenses, ready to anything, but the white boy just started to talk in the ancient language.

“Yes, this is funnier a game. So, let’s see… Of course I’m not a spirit, that’s ridiculous… hmm… I’m not a shade, or a necromancer, nor do I know spells that may directly or indirectly create shades. Or spirits, or whatever ghost-undead-thingies. I have not been sent by anyone to kill anybody, as I am in fact a completely free unrestrained being, I borrowed dragon’s dude body just for a day to get some laughter and stuff, certainly not to kill him. Well, unless it was incidental, but what would I care about that?… (putting a hand on his chest and rising a few feet more, abruptly surrounded by an halo of golden light) and, of course, I am a proud and fully accepted by my kin and peers member of the fair folk.”

Lomyolèndri smiled ravenously, dripping satisfaction from his face to Arya and then to Eragon and Saphira, who could barely recognize a few of his words. The elf ambassador remained frozen for a long moment, repeating all the sentences in her mind, trying to find double-meanings or other loopholes, but she could not see any.

No, not yet. I have to be sure; until he’s here, better let him talk as much as possible.

“Are you from Ellesméra or Du Weldenvarden?”

“Ahem… no? By this point, I’m pretty sure I came from a faraway land.”

“And what kind of elf are you, if you weren’t born in our land.”

“Well, that’s a tricky one… (tapping his chin) Let’s see.. is this place you named a very big wood on this land?”

“Yes.”

“But you elves that live there, you haven’t lived there always, have you?”

“Y… no. Our ancestors came from the sea.”

“Yeah, that always figures. …And what do you think there is beyond that sea, if not another elven land?”

“You… you are right.”

The astonished look on her face worried Eragon, who got up completely, ready to assist her, but she quickly recovered, gestured for him to remain calm and switched back to the human’s tongue.

“He is an elf. And doesn’t serve Galbatorix.”

Eragon’s shock was even more perceivable on his face, which only made Lomyolèndri’s entertainment more enjoying.

“Can’t be…”

“It’s true, dragon dude. You have to love and care and jerk about me, just as you do with my dear elf buddy (popping behind Arya and surrounding her shoulders with an arm) We’re all of the same nature-loving bunch.”

Arya didn’t move, answering blankly, “We are not.”

(flying back) “What do you mean?”

“Your magic works without words and doesn’t exhaust you. I can’t do that, no elf can.”

“Why of course! That’s easily explainable: I’m from your ancestral homeland, the more ancient something is, the more powerful.”

Eragon snorted.

“That’s stupid.”

“You’re stupid! There, isn’t this lame human language less powerful than our elf buddy’s older truth-telling one? Aren’t you young lousy humans less powerful than old snotty elves? Even older elves gotta be even more powerful! It’s just common sense. Didn’t you ever saw sarrukh or aboleth, anyone?”

“Still, elf or not, you possessed Eragon, you acted with his body and forced him to obey to your commands.”

“Well he wouldn’t hear me when I was only suggesting!”

“And this was just for fun, you say?”

(in the ancient language) “Truly, I tell you: with greater powah comes greater debauchery. (switching back) He would have gotten around, if he had any sense of humor.”

“It was a torture!”

“Buh-uh, little crybaby is going to threaten me with his scary one year old baby dragon? (watching Arya waiting) Hey, don’t look at me like that. I didn’t even expect to actually make it, maybe Sleeping Drunky should be more careful about his funtime if he doesn’t want to get into mine…”

“Arya, he is an enemy, I know it! They’re all lies, somehow he’s managing to tell them, you don’t have to listen to him! Everything he’s done was to spread anger and weaken us, don’t trust him!”

The Rider rose, walking towards Arya while giving nervous glances to the white elf.

“He’s an enemy, we cannot let him be… Together… together we will manage to overpower him and…”

Arya scowled, answering slowly.

“And then what, Eragon? You are seriously suggesting that I help you kill the first link to our ancestors in generations, a child of my own kin?”

“Lookie lookie, someone’s trying to squirrel his way out of a perfectly arranged marriage of my knowing…”

Eragon came forward with an imploring look in his eyes.

“Arya, please, don’t trust him.”

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