A Chance to Reflect

Eragon, Saphira, Grimrr, and Glaedr had been flying at a brisk pace the last two days—and they were only halfway to Narda where Grimrr said they would rest up for the final flight to Doru Araeba. The mountains of the Spine jutted up underneath them like cruel daggers of bone. They hadn’t seen Thorn, Murtagh, or Celestine since leaving Dras-Leona.

“Perhaps they’re not going where we’re going,” Eragon said.

Perhaps they’re ahead of us, Glaedr remarked.

Not at the pace we’ve been going, Saphira said.

“Perhaps they are not taking the most direct route,” Grimrr offered.

Eragon continued in silence for a while. “Do you…” he began. “Is it wrong to kill those who oppose us?”

Why are you asking? Saphira asked.

“After I told them that I killed Durza, the priest mentioned Dorias, and Celestine gave me a look as she said she’d exorcised Dorias’ spirits without killing him.”

“What sort of look?”

“It was just like the ‘Why doesn’t he know better?’ Arya gives me all the time.”

Her own conduct indicts her—she hardly held back at Belatona, Glaedr said.

“Did she? She spared Roran and his men when it would’ve been better for her if she’d killed them. Given how much power she demonstrated in her fights with Arya and even while injured against Carn, who’s to say she couldn’t have killed far more at Belatona? Perhaps she could’ve killed everyone.”

What are you trying to say, Eragon? Saphira asked.

Eragon shook his head. “She told me never to take a life lightly because lives are easy to take but impossible to return. I assumed she was lying to me after Belatona, but after the mortally wounded soldier outside the camp, and after Roran… Maybe she meant it.”

“And if she did mean it?” Grimrr wondered, licking his paws.

“Then how does she decide who to kill and who to spare? It’s not based on what’s beneficial to her, or Roran would be dead.”

Why are you wasting time on this chasing after the wind? You’ll only bring back the nightmares, Saphira told him.

Eragon shuddered, but he said, “Maybe I’ve killed people I shouldn’t. There was that Imperial soldier—just a boy—he was unarmed, trying to run, begging for his life. But if he’d gotten away, Arya and I might’ve been caught, so I… But when Celestine had the chance to kill Roran, knowing if he got away, he’d report back to me, she let him live. One of us must be wrong.”

How would it have done any good if you and Arya had been caught and killed? Saphira asked.

“So, it would’ve been right to kill Roran? They have to either both be right or both be wrong!”

Eragon, Roran is your cousin, close to you as a brother. That boy was just some faceless, nameless soldier of the Empire.

“No! He had a face and a name! And just as surely as Roran and I have each other, that boy had parents, maybe brothers, maybe a young woman that loved him, hoped to wed him!” Eragon shocked himself into silence. He could’ve easily imagined those words coming from Celestine’s mouth.

Grimrr yawned. “Perhaps you were wrong then.”

“Perhaps… But I don’t understand why.”

“She may kill when there’s no other choice. Consider Belatona. She made promises to its lord to protect his people, and she only killed when it was attacked and stopped killing as soon as the army fled. The mortally wounded man outside the camp, then. She healed him because she could; he was no threat to her life. The same with Roran and his men.”

“But they were a threat to her life,” Eragon insisted. “They got back to me with information on her position and direction, enabling me to track her down. In her weakened state she stood no chance against me.”

“Yes, a better way to say it would be to say that they were not a direct threat to her life. After all, she did let them live, yet she did not die. It seems she did not see the risk she was taking as worth killing over.”

Eragon nodded his head. “What would’ve happened if I’d spared that boy? There’s a chance we would’ve gotten out of Imperial territory before he could’ve even warned anyone, I suppose. Even if he did tell anyone, unless it was Murtagh, they probably couldn’t have caught up to us or overpowered us if they had. Even if it was Murtagh, Arya and I could probably have defended ourselves.” Eragon bowed his head. “It wasn’t worth killing him.”

Arya agreed that you did the right thing, Saphira reminded him.

“Arya isn’t necessarily right all the time,” Eragon replied. “There’s something else. Murtagh said he forgave me. The way that I’ve been treating him…” Eragon looked off into the distance, but there was no answer in the skies. He thought of when he’d first met Murtagh. “Maybe I needed his forgiveness.”

There’s nothing wrong about how you’ve treated Murtagh, Glaedr said. Even his disembodied voice growled as he said it. He’s your enemy, and you’ve treated him as an enemy.

“He wasn’t always my enemy. Once he was my friend. And he didn’t turn against me by his own choice—he was made to,” Eragon said. “That night, outside the cave, I thought he’d try to kill me. Thorn had Saphira pinned. After what I’d just done to Celestine, I was sure I had a fight on my hands, but instead he told me that if our situations were reversed, he wouldn’t want me holding a grudge against him, so he wouldn’t hold a grudge against me. If you don’t like it, don’t do it to others. I should forgive him, too.”

Are you going to go the whole way and forgive Galbatorix as well? Glaedr demanded. Did we train you for nothing? Did Oromis die in vain?

“No,” Eragon said. “I’ll forgive Murtagh, but not Galbatorix. He’s the one who’s behind this anyway. He’s the one who set Murtagh against me, and he probably did the same to Celestine.”

Do what you will. As for me, I’ll never forgive Murtagh.

After further thought, Eragon suddenly announced, “I was right to kill Durza.”

Are we back on Durza, now? Saphira asked.

“Sorry, I was just thinking about it,” Eragon said. “I wasn’t as powerful then as I am now. Even now I’m not sure I could defeat someone like Durza without killing him. So, I had no other option. I was right to kill him.”

Are we going to go back through everyone you’ve killed now?

“Maybe we should,” he said. “The trouble is there’s too many to remember… Maybe that’s the point. Maybe I should’ve been thinking about this before I killed anyone.”

* * *

It had taken them two and a half days to reach Teirm and restock. It was a picturesque city with buildings that grew taller the closer they were to the center of town. Celestine imagined that would make it fairly easy to run from rooftop to rooftop. She stayed with Thorn while Murtagh got the supplies. When he returned from the warehouse district, she helped attach the packs to Thorn. He handed her one of the satchels. She went over to the saddle and manipulated the leather strap. “Like this?” she asked.

Murtagh glanced over and nodded. “Yes.”

“This should last us until get back from Vroengard?”

Murtagh nodded again. “Should.”

They flew for the rest of the day, setting down in a relatively flat clearing as the sun began to dip below the horizon. Celestine prepared the fire. After dinner, Murtagh sat in front of the fire, his elbows propped up on his knees. He’d hardly said anything to her since… She took in a deep breath. “Forgive me, please,” she said.

Murtagh looked her in the eyes, his expression unreadable. Was it sorrow? Disappointment? Vague surprise?

“I abused your affection for me,” she continued. “I used your emotions for me to make you call Galbatorix against your strong preference not to. I was wrong.”

“What’s done is done,” he said before adding, “I forgive you.”

Celestine brushed some loose strands of hair behind her ear. “There’s more, isn’t there?”

Murtagh nodded again, looking into the fire for a time before returning his gaze to her eyes. “We don’t know what we’re facing in Vroengard except that it isn’t good. Galbatorix is going to be there. Maybe he’s the force of destruction that needs stopping.”

Celestine shrugged. “I suppose that’s possible.”

“And Eragon says he’s going elsewhere, but he doesn’t know where we’re going. What if he’s going to Vroengard?” Murtagh grinned and said, “He could be a great force of destruction.”

Celestine grinned along with him. “Don’t be so mean to your brother. Honestly, I think a part of him wants to do what’s good. When he was deciding whether or not to kill me, I could see the two parts at war inside him—one wanting to do what he thought he had to and the other wanting to do what was right.”

Murtagh’s expression grew somber again. “The green dragon Rider, Galbatorix, maybe even Eragon—we could all end up at the same place. What a glorious mess that would be.”

“Do you fear death?”

“Don’t you?”

She looked down at the ground. “I’ve had time to think about it,” she said. “I’ve… I’ve known for a while that whoever destroys the Mirror will die in the process.”

“You’re going home just to die?”

Celestine walked over and sat beside him. She leaned her head against his shoulder. “One of my earliest memories was at worship when I was six. When the priest slit the bull’s throat, I pressed my face against my mother’s shoulder. She whispered, ‘Don’t dishonor his sacrifice. That creature is giving its life for our sins.’ And, besides,” she added, “if I don’t do it, then it will either be Angelina or Eve dying. So, I don’t think of it as going home to die. I’m dying so that others can live.”

“What, then, if you die before you get home? If you oppose Galbatorix, he may kill you.”

“I’m not particularly concerned about Galbatorix,” she said. “What concerns me is this mystery Shade who took the dragon. I like to have a better idea what I’m facing.”

Murtagh draped his arm across her shoulders. “I know exactly how you feel.”

“Murtagh… The battle may grow quite pitched. I want to ask you a special favor,” she said, turning her face towards his.

“Anything.”

Her left hand went to her chest, lifting her necklace up just a little. “My brother made this especially for me. It has a very powerful protective charm on it. Please, don’t let me be separated from it.”

“If it’s such a powerful protective charm, I’m surprised that fall injured you so badly.”

Celestine shook her head. “It doesn’t protect me. It protects everyone else.”

* * *

Two days later, as they were approaching Narda, Murtagh said, “That’s… odd.”

“What is?” Celestine asked.

“We’re approaching Narda, but I’m barely sensing any living things at all. Thorn can see it in the distance, but he can’t discern any battle damage.”

“Then, what happened to all the people?”

Murtagh shrugged. “I suppose we’ll have to find out on the ground.”

As they approached for a landing, Thorn and Murtagh easily spotted Saphira. They landed nearby and walked towards Eragon. He looked pale. “Brother,” Murtagh said, “what has happened here?”

Eragon shook his head. “I don’t know. We’ve been all over the city. There’s no one. Listen. Do you hear that?”

They listened carefully. Finally, Celestine said, “I don’t hear anything.”

“That’s right! There’s nothing. Not even a dog barking!” Eragon said. “All I’ve been able to find are these etchings,” he said, pointing to one scrawled on a wall. “There are dozens of them. Maybe hundreds.”

The words carved in stone read: “If you go to the island, you will find Pain. If you run, Pain will find you. Pain is inevitable.”

Goosebumps ran down Celestine’s arms. “We should stay together.”

“I think—” Eragon began.

I will not ride with Murtagh! Glaedr’s voice resounded in their minds.

Glaedr… Eragon began.

Glaedr! Murtagh said. You’re alive? Ah, of course; you must’ve given Eragon your Eldunarí. I’m glad you survived.

Spare me your sentiments, whelp.

“I’m sorry,” Celestine said, “what’s an Eldunarí?”

“A dragon’s heart of hearts. I’m sure you have several, Murtagh. You haven’t shown her yet?” Eragon asked.

“Never really came up before,” Murtagh said, drawing a gem slightly larger than a man’s fist from his leather pouch. “Here’s one.”

Celestine gasped. “It’s magic!”

“Of course it is,” Eragon said.

“No, you don’t understand,” she insisted, bending down to peer at the jewel-like object. “It’s densely packed, solid magic of the sort I’m used to. It’s like… well, it’s even more like the dragons from my world than I’ve seen here before.”

“You mean to tell me that looks more like a dragon in your world than that?” Eragon asked, pointing from the Eldunarí to Saphira.

“Physically, Saphira looks more like a dragon, but I also see magic, and magically, that heart of hearts looks more like a dragon than any other magic I’ve seen in this world.”

“So, dragons in our world have a heart of magic?” Murtagh asked. “I wonder how such a thing came about.”

They heard a loud shout of “You!” Celestine looked up to see Angela sprinting at her, raising a transparent blade. Celestine ran to the side to gain distance as she heard Eragon yell, “Angela!”

The fortune teller was undeterred. As she swung, Celestine rolled to the side, barely missing the blade’s edge. She rolled to her knees and said, “Isblaed.”

Three razor sharp blades of ice crackled through the air, heading towards Angela. The woman just smirked and with three swift swings knocked all of them away. “I’m tired of your meddling. It ends here. Maybe then we can get the right story back on course,” she said.

“And I’m sick of you not making sense!” Celestine said, gathering nearby magic lines around her and shaping them into invisible spirals. With a flourish, she sent them cascading towards her opponent, turning into electricity in the air.

Angela ran towards Celestine. She intercepted the lightning attack with her sword. Celestine’s eyes widened. Whatever that sword was made of, it was non-conductive. Just before Angela could reach her, Eragon stepped in front of the girl and again yelled, “Angela! Stop this!”

She stopped her slice just shy of Eragon’s shoulder. She stood there, dumbstruck, for but a moment before sitting down and tossing her sword aside. “Oh, it is too late, then!” she said. “You’re on her side now.”

Eragon shifted uncomfortably. “It’s not like that. You know that Murtagh was forced into serving Galbatorix. I believe he’s also been manipulating Celestine into working for him. It’s not right to fight either of them—the true enemy is the king.”

“This has gone so far off the rails, I don’t even know who the true enemy is anymore! Now that Galbatorix has been given reasonable motivations, he’s much more likely to become some kind of antihero—the green dragon Rider should be enough villain for one story. Why couldn’t you have kept it simple? Good versus evil! Good wins! Boom! Done!” Angela said. “But, no, you have to let these characters live their lives instead of making them fit the narrative. And what happens if they ruin the narrative, hmm? Ever think of that?”

“Angela, are you feeling all right?” Eragon asked.

“No, but nothing’s going to help that now. It’s all changed. Even if I kill her, there’s no getting back to where we were going from here. Just go on to Vroengard. We’ll all just have to see what happens from there. Or don’t go! We don’t even know yet what you’ll decide,” Angela said, tossing her hands in the air.

“We have to go,” Celestine said. “Or at least I have to. I was supposed to keep the green egg safe, so dealing with the repercussions of losing it is my responsibility.”

“Right, of course,” Angela said. “That deep sense of personal responsibility is a defining character trait.” She looked at Murtagh, “And you changed your true name for her, so I guess we can expect you to follow her come hell or high water.”

“Come what or high water?” Murtagh asked.

“You’ve changed your true name?” Eragon asked. “You’ve broken free of Galbatorix’s control?”

Murtagh nodded. “It was when I decided to let go of those negative feelings I had towards you. So, in a sense, I owe my freedom to you as well as her.”

“Brother, I…” Eragon began. “It’s not right to say I forgive you because I see now that you’ve never done me wrong.”

“And I suppose that means you’re going.”

“I have to anyway,” Eragon said. “They’re going where Grimrr has been leading me.”

“I almost forgot about that old werecat,” she said. “Where is he anyway?”

“Listening in,” Grimrr said, softly padding out of a dark alleyway.

A wistful half-smile spread on Angela’s face. “I still remember when we met, I was going to say, ‘Cheep, cheep!’ There’s not much point to it now, is there?”

“No, there is not,” he said, licking his whiskers.

“Isn’t it delightfully eclectic, though?”

Celestine rolled her eyes. “That’s one word for it at least.”

Thorn said, Let’s go ahead and go.

“Right,” Murtagh said.

Did you not hear me before? I will go nowhere with those two that killed my Oromis!

“Oh, now there’s a conundrum!” Angela said. “They’re all supposed to be protagonists, but Glaedr has quite a legitimate complaint against Murtagh and Thorn. What if he insists on staying? Or even if they carry him along against his will, what if he refuses to help? Even all of them together stand such a slight chance against the green Rider, what if his refusal is the tipping point? Would you let them die—Eragon, Murtagh, even precious, little Celestine—to let Glaedr behave as he wants to?”

Celestine tugged on Murtagh’s arm. “She’s really creepy. Can we just leave?”

“Yes, of course,” he said, helping her into the saddle.

Glaedr… Eragon began.

The old dragon interrupted. I… will go with you because of the threat of the green Rider. I will protect you, Eragon and Saphira. But I will not protect Murtagh or Thorn. They can die for all I care.

And Celestine?

I would gladly let her die, too, knowing how much it would hurt Murtagh.

Angela watched as Thorn and Saphira took to the air, diminishing to the size of glimmering red and blue dots in the distance. She whispered, “Oh brother, what would you think if you saw what they’ve done to your magnificent story?”

Tagged as: , , , , , ,

Comment

  1. Taku on 9 February 2013, 18:26 said:

    I absolutely LOVED the first half of this chapter, it is exactly what the original series was missing.

    I must say, though, I am decidedly and emphatically not a fan of breaking the forth wall like that, it really soured the rest of the chapter for me.

  2. Brendan Rizzo on 9 February 2013, 21:39 said:

    “This has gone so far off the rails, I don’t even know who the true enemy is anymore! Now that Galbatorix has been given reasonable motivations, he’s much more likely to become some kind of antihero—the green dragon Rider should be enough villain for one story. Why couldn’t you have kept it simple? Good versus evil! Good wins! Boom! Done!” Angela said. “But, no, you have to let these characters live their lives instead of making them fit the narrative. And what happens if they ruin the narrative, hmm? Ever think of that?”

    I knew this was going to become a bashfic eventually.

  3. Asahel on 10 February 2013, 01:15 said:

    I absolutely LOVED the first half of this chapter, it is exactly what the original series was missing.

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed that part.

    I must say, though, I am decidedly and emphatically not a fan of breaking the forth wall like that, it really soured the rest of the chapter for me.

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy that part. Metahumor is real hit or miss, and I guess it was a miss for you. However, if it makes you feel better, Angela’s involvement in the story is over. Also, if this helps, there is an in-story reason to account for Angela that doesn’t involve breaking the fourth wall. Consider that perhaps what was going on before Celestine arrived was a god using his divine powers to tell a story, creating all of Alagaesia and setting up the people involved, and even letting his sister get in on the story because they liked it so much. That sister didn’t quite fit in the story (for one thing, her name is Angela, but the cultures in the story don’t know about angels), but that’s ok because he makes people do what he wants without them even realizing, so they’ll accept her place in the story. Then Celestine comes along and there’s a new god (Dayus perhaps?) breaking into the story, and not only does this new god mean the old one is no longer telling the story, he doesn’t seem to be telling one so much as watching everyone acting according to their own free will.

    So, Angela’s talk of stories, narratives, and protagonists makes sense to her—she’s aware that she is (or at least was and presumably still is) part of a story. She’s not necessarily aware that there’s an audience for the story (that’s what I would consider true fourth wall breaking).

    I knew this was going to become a bashfic eventually.

    No, no, it is and always has been a fixfic.

  4. Finn on 10 February 2013, 03:03 said:

    I loved this. And I really like breaking the fourth wall, so I was fine with Angela’s rants.

    She looked down at the ground. “I’ve had time to think about it,” she said. “I’ve… I’ve known for a while that whoever destroys the Mirror will die in the process.”

    Celestine’s story continues to draw me in. Please, please let us know when your book is published, okay? It sounds so interesting, I can’t wait to read it…

    “Maybe we should,” he said. “The trouble is there’s too many to remember… Maybe that’s the point. Maybe I should’ve been thinking about this before I killed anyone.”

    Eragon did more logical thinking in this chapter that he did in all four of the Inheritance cycle books put together.

    Sometimes I wonder what Paolini would think if he read this fic. He probably never will, but sometimes I really wish he would.

  5. Asahel on 11 February 2013, 15:26 said:

    Celestine’s story continues to draw me in. Please, please let us know when your book is published, okay? It sounds so interesting, I can’t wait to read it…

    Thanks, I will definitely let everyone know when it gets published. Personally, I hope it doesn’t take too long, but I know it can even take a year after a publisher decides to pick it up (which hasn’t happened yet). At any rate, let’s keep those fingers crossed!

  6. Darsaan on 2 April 2013, 06:16 said:

    You’re obviously quite a talented storyteller: congrats! I eagerly anticipate reading your novel whenever it comes out.