CHAPTER 6: Of Deities and Demigods

The first part of the trip had been outrageously dull and insufferable; Arya was already accustomed to riding in the unending tunnels which led in and out of Farthen Dûr, but she didn’t usually have to also withstand Eragon’s and Lomyolèndri’s incessant blathering. The young Rider tried time and again to start a conversation with her, no matter all her subtle attempts to avoid it.

“Why didn’t you bring any meat in your provisions? Don’t you eat it?”

Oh, misery…

“You will never again consume an animal’s flesh after you have been trained, or if you do, it will be only on the rarest of occasions.”

“Yeah, that is, when we’ll have brainwashed you into total obedience for our morally impeachable ploys… Starting to have second thoughts on the marvelous Elfland and its merry inhabitants, haven’t we, farm boy?”

Lomyolèndri’s words reverberated from Eragon’s hilt with crystalline clarity. After they had reached the surface again, as anticipated, Lomyolèndri had started going back and forth from Zar’roc with no apparent reason, but, taking into account his record of misdeeds, Arya considered herself lucky he didn’t do any worse, at least for the time being. On the other hand, there were the thoughts about why his doing so tormented her.

“There…”

Orik pointed over the valley.

“…Tarnag.”

(jumping out of the sword) “A dwarf city on the surface?! Man… that’s just wrong…”

“I’ll have you know, elf, we dwarves may have affinity for stone, but we like the open air as much as your kin or the humans.”

“That’s ghostwraps.”

“Don’t you even know the word ‘respect’?”

“Of course I do: it’s that funny thing stupid people ask because… reasons.”

Arya ignored the predictable degeneration of the current conversation, focusing her thoughts on the various situations to solve in short and long term. The prospect of returning to Ellesméra to face the Queen wasn’t among her greatest desires, but the future of Eragon had absolute priority on the matter and she was slowly coming to terms with a prolonged visit to her homeland. With Eragon as official leader of the Varden and the Elders left bickering among themselves for who should have been in command in the Rider’s absence, she couldn’t deny the humans would have been better suited to pass under the elves’ lead to fight Galbatorix, when the time came. For all the troubles and headache caused, Lomyolèndri had tipped the balance in their favor with his actions. If now she were to acquire a major understanding of his magic and possibly an alliance with his people, a new force could have been at their disposal against the Empire. Of course, after the possession, she couldn’t trust Eragon or Saphira enough to expose her plans.

They’re yet young after all… If they’ll have to bear me ill will for appeasing Lomyolèndri over them for the time being, so be it. If things worsen, I… suppose I could talk with them, the only imperative objective is to let them reach Ellesméra.

They had reached the city and were proceeding on the first road, when a group of masked dwarves stopped their advance and her trail of thoughts.

“Uh, look! Dwarf assassins!”

Orik grunted, without moving his sight from the dwarves, ignoring the young elf jumping out from Eragon’s hilt.

“Those are no assassins.”

“Of course they are! They have faces covered with veils!.. Only assassins do that. It makes them quite recognizable, but I guess they keep doing it because it obviously looks cool… (teleporting at Arya’s side and whispering) Hear hear, sent by a rival dwarf clan, told you! That’s awesome! And what’s the Dragon War?”

Still trying to keep up with the masked dwarf discussion, Arya addressed her kindred.

“You can understand dwarvish as well. How?”

“_Dude,_ I can understand any language I hear. It’s build in. Awww… magic inside! Eh eh. Can you imagine the boring confusion in all the dream travels if we didn’t have it?”

“Elves, my people, can’t.”

“Uh, weird. Well, we can’t all be winners. Wait, I want to see if dragon’s dude says something stupid!”

The veiled dwarf’s ring didn’t even touch the ground as Lomyolèndri caught it midflight, rolling over and examining it.

“Dibs on this! Ah! Beaten you, baby blue!… Oh, right… (smirking) you don’t have any treasure… (turning to the purple dwarves) Hey, where’re you going? Tell me, what’s this! (starting to flew after them) What does it mean? And what was the Dragon War? That sounded somewhat cool! Come back! Don’t you want to fight? I never saw dragon’s dude fighting! …Come on! (switching to dwarvish and perfectly mimicking Eragon’s voice) What about your dwarfy honor and bravery, you filthy _cowards?!_”

Arya opened her eyes wide, letting her hand flow to the hilt of her sword as the group of dwarves stopped.

A thousand curses.

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The guards of Dûrgrimst Ragni Hefthyn were able to contain the revolt, along with Eragon, Saphira, Arya and Orik, but five of the veiled dwarves and ten civilians died in the commotion before the group was able to reach the clan chief’s palace and receive haven. Naturally, clan chief Ûndin was furious when he heard the particulars as, according to him, Eragon had just started a clan war between the Sweldn rak Anhûin and the Ingeitum, with his clan caught in the middle for harboring them. That was of course without taking into account the possible conflict between the Varden, which Eragon represented, and the clan of the veiled dwarves. Arya tried to take responsibility for the elves, to contain the situation, knowing it would have been a waste of time asking Lomyolèndri to do it by himself, but Ûndin had made clear it was an unlikely possibility, as Eragon was the more renowned among them and any who witnessed the fight was more likely to remember the roaring dragon rampaging on the street rather than the small kid laughing at the whole mess from a corner.

“Well, that discussion was boring…”

The young elf walked over the table, pretended to balance himself with his arms, and hovered from one plate to another, careless of all the angry looks pointed at him from every side of the courtyard.

“…Can we talk about something fun? Or else, can’t the dragon do something fun? Like stomping on one of the important guests? That would make this more bearable… Oh, I know!..”

Arya focused on her meal with a stoic expression, ignoring the temporary disappearance of her kindred and the subsequent series of crashes and curses in the background. Ûndin, Orik and Eragon were discussing what to do about the feud, taking in consideration the Rider was still to leave as soon as possible to continue his travel to Du Weldenvarden. Another echoing boast of protests unfortunately gave the opportunity for Gannel to address the matter directly to her.

“Arya, your companion seems to have some… lack in restraint and manners.”

“He is young and has lived secluded from society till little ago, Grimstborith. You’ll have to excuse his… detachment from the bonds of mannerism.”

“Of course. Growing up in the wild, without any moral guides, any… fear of rightful reckoning from above may very well cause indiscipline and indeed wickedness.”

“Is that so?”

Arya crossed without blinking the satisfied look on Gannel’s face as the dwarf raised a cup to his lips.

We’ll see what he’ll say tomorrow…

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She spent some time to prepare without fretting herself over the following day’s departure, waiting to receive confirmation that Eragon had accepted the invitation to Celbedeil. Finding Lomyolèndri wasn’t as easy as she expected, to the point she started wondering if he wasn’t already there or had completely left them without any warning. Finally, she found him in the kitchen, spoiling and mixing the food reserves of Ûndin’s palace.

“Lomyolèndri-finiarel, yesterday you asked about the Dragon War. Would you still like to learn something about it?”

“The what now? (shaking a cloud of flour from himself) You sure have a tricky tone… is there something naughty about it?”

“Perhaps…”

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“You know, that’s that first time in a long time I managed to enter in a stuck-uppity temple, you really do suck at abjuration!”

For some reason, the young elf had decided to hide himself in the silver ring taken from the veiled dwarves for the short travel, forcing Arya to carry him, but, once inside, he had emerged again, flying from a room to the other. It wasn’t long before they reached Eragon and Gannel near a majestic mosaic representing the history of Alagaësia from the dwarves’ point of view. Arya approached the two first, inclining her head to the dwarf priest.

“Grimstborith.”

“Arya.”

Gannel looked suspiciously at the flying elf, careful he did not touch anything while admiring the mosaic from close range, a preoccupation he shared with Eragon himself, apparently.

“May I ask what brings you and your companion here?”

“I meditated upon your words from yesterday night, Grimstborith, and brought young Lomyolèndri here, so that you could teach him the respect and humility of the dwarven ways.”

“You know only members of our clans can be educated on the matters of faith.”

“You mean your wishful thinking. Here I was offering you the chance to prove the effectiveness of your teachings, if not the… contingency… of your gods.”

“Hu-hu! Someone’s racing for the Wall of the Faithless…”

Arya gave an uncertain look to her kindred, cutting any answer coming from Gannel.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you sweetly implied the inexistence of gods. You know, you’re something, that’s the one thing that makes them all really mad.”

Now she was aghast.

“You… believe in gods?”

(shrugging) “What’s to believe? They’re there. Like humans. Or roaches. Fluttering around the world to pour quests over every band of nitwits who happens to be gullible enough to listen to them…”

Apparently ignoring the last sentence, Gannel gave Arya a flown smile.

“It pleases me not everyone of your kind is lost to darkness and uncertainty. Perhaps there’s still hope for you, son, if your faith is strong, Gûntera may grant you to return to the rightful path.”

“Who? Anyway, who said anything about faith? Don’t you know for every time you pray, a god gets stronger? That’s horrible! Stupid powermongering whining self-bearing leeches, think they’re the masters of the Multiverse just because they can warp reality to their whims. Pfh.”

While yet unsure what to make of those strange beliefs, Arya was reassured by the new current taken by the argument, unlike Gannel.

“How dare you insult..?!”

“Hey! Cleric dwarfy! Who’s that?”

Anticipating Gannel, Eragon closed in, flanking the young elf near the picture.

“This is the first Eragon, Lomy. We talked about him to you, remember?”

“Not really, it was insignificant back then and it is now waaait a second! (teleporting over Gannel, grinning with surprise) This is a dwarf temple! And you have depicted in the place of honor a freaking elf! Isn’t that blasphemous or something?”

Gannel looked back at him, furious and confused.

“We honor the sacrifice and bravery of…”

“Fluff-fluff blah-blah! Nah, don’t get rhetoric, this should be… kind of obscene for you midgets! An elf! In your gods’ temple? By this point you should pretty much hear the sound of your ancestors rolling over their graves muttering, ‘Wwwwhhhyyyy?!?’ It’s just like that, seriously.”

“You know nothing of our traditions and customs! Don’t you dare fester this temple with your malicious assumptions!”

“What’s to know? You don’t like us, we don’t like you. And yet here’s a monument to one of our kind. Hidden jealousy anyone? It’s not like I never traveled in the dreams of dwarves secretly wishing to be all tall and elfeminate…”

“You shall speak no more in the presence of a gods’ emissary!”

(looking around) “Who? Where? Didn’t see any archons coming here. Or did you keep them in those silly lanterns? That would explain a lot…”

“Your insults diminish your race and will call the gods’ wrath upon you! Your indecent behavior and your faithlessness shall not protect you when your time comes.”

“Suuure. But still, no paladin is coming here to actually try and smite me, so..? What? (thoughtful) It is kinda weird, actually, where is the lightning of righteous divine anger?”

Arya shook her head, hiding a smile, answering in the priest’s stead.

“Nothing is going to happen, young friend. I don’t know about yours, but the dwarven gods are not as much proactive as their statues.”

“That’s very Aoish of them. (lighting up himself) Wait a second! That means nothing’s stopping me for desecrating the Pandemonium out of this place, right?”

“No!”

(zapping away) “Right!”

Arya saluted Gannel with a calm expression. Then Gannel threw himself on the pursuit of the young elf. Arya addressed Eragon, who was looking at both dumbstruck.

“Come on, Eragon, let’s go. Our work here… is done.”

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