Chapter 15

The Ultimate Pain

Galbatorix drew his sword and knocked Celestine’s away less than an inch from Eragon’s heart, yelling, “Eragon, four parts fool!” He pushed him away and ducked under a lethal slice, adding, “I warned you not to speak!”

Eragon shook off the shock enough to begin defending himself as Celestine pressed the attack against both of them. It was all he could do to keep up, though she seemed to be splitting her effort equally between the two of them. “I’m sorry, but why is she attacking us?”

“No time to explain. Have to plan. Ask her if you want.”

“Celestine! What are you doing?”

She said nothing. He remembered what Elva had said about Celestine being poor about shielding her mind, so he reached out with his own. A mighty chorus blared in her consciousness—sung in her voice, but in words that Eragon couldn’t fathom. And yet, the more he listened to it, the more he could feel what it meant. It was an odd sensation—like seeing a sign written in a foreign language but knowing precisely what it indicated. In it, he heard that there was no sorrow or fear or, as Galbatorix had alluded to earlier, pain. In it, he also heard the withering condemnation of unrighteousness.

That was all he managed to get before Saphira broke in. Watch out!

He blocked at the last second, but the force of the blow was still enough to send him sprawling. Without even realizing it, the song had been lulling him—calling him to lay down his burdens and rest. Saphira roared and spewed flames at Celestine. Her attention turned from Eragon to his dragon, and she sped through the fire and grabbed Saphira by the neck with her empty hand.

Eragon scrambled to his feet as Saphira tried to swipe Celestine with her claw. She blocked the attack, pulled Saphira’s head closer, and whispered in her ear. Eragon! Eragon, I can’t move! She’s going to kill me!

Eragon rushed towards them, but Celestine backed away. Without warning, a dome of rock swallowed her. He looked at Galbatorix, who cast a spell on Shruikan that would prevent him from hearing Celestine’s voice.

He then looked at Thorn as the red dragon roared. Galbatorix shouted, “No! I need you and Murtagh to defeat Elva.”

Murtagh had been watching everything in stunned silence, but Thorn’s roar and Galbatorix’s words brought him out of it. “What? But you couldn’t defeat her. You think I stand a chance?”

“You’re our only chance now,” Galbatorix said. “That won’t hold Celestine for long.” Even as he said it, a loud crash bespoke a large crack that formed in the shell. “I’ll have to handle yet another of Eragon’s mistakes.”

“Hope you handle this one better than the last,” he said.

“Let’s further hope you stop making such spectacular mistakes,” Galbatorix said as another fissure spread from the top of the dome to its base.

“Don’t kill her,” Murtagh said.

“Eragon, get over here,” Galbatorix shouted. “Murtagh, you worry about your own task.”

Eragon and Galbatorix mounted Shruikan and took to the air as the earthen cage finally shattered. “So, what is she?” Eragon asked above the noise of the black dragon’s powerful wings.

“Based on what she told Murtagh and what I’ve read, she’s part angel… or demon. I admit I’m not sure which,” he said, looking below them. “Try not to distract me—I need to keep track of Murtagh.”

“He’s right there,” Eragon said, pointing. “Why do you need to know?”

“Tactics and strategy, boy,” he muttered. “Watch and learn.”

Celestine soared above them.

“She can fly? She couldn’t fly when she fell off Thorn!”

“She can now. Pay attention, both of you,” Galbatorix said, “This is what I need.”

Eragon’s head filled with angles and lines and distances. Galbatorix wanted them lined up in a particular way, with little margin for error. He heard Shruikan say, It won’t be easy.

It never is. Eragon said.

Galbatorix and his dragon both laughed as the black beast began to maneuver. In the air, Celestine preferred diving attacks, soaring above them and swooping down for a strike. Galbatorix and Eragon kept him protected with their swords and spells. The fifth time Celestine got above them, Eragon heard Shruikan lament, Not quite.

Eragon pointed his finger at Celestine and yelled, “Brisingr!”

He wasn’t sure he would get enough power for it with Saphira unable to contribute, but Glaedr unexpectedly added most of his strength to it, and a blazing orb seven times hotter than dragon fire hurtled at the girl. She dodged to the side and dove.

Galbatorix stood in the saddle and readied his sword. He deflected her blow, but his sword went spinning out of his hand in the process. “Be ready,” he said, jumping off after her.

Celestine turned to climb once more, but Galbatorix grabbed hold of her hand as he hurtled past, then, speaking the Ancient Language to add as much force to the throw as possible, flung her towards the ground. Eragon could hear the very air booming as she fell far into the distance.

Shruikan caught the king, and they all landed as a cloud mushroomed up in the distance. “Who would’ve thought I’d live to see two of these here?” Galbatorix said to himself.

“Is she…?” Eragon asked.

“Alive? Most certainly,” Galbatorix said. “Now pay attention. There’s not much time. Hide behind that rock and, this time, do not intervene no matter what she does. Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes, I promise,” Eragon said, running behind the boulder.

Celestine arrived shortly thereafter. She paused for only a moment, assessing the situation, before charging Galbatorix. The king spoke the Ancient Language with every move he made, casting spells so fluidly that Eragon could barely follow half of them. He caught spells to increase strength, augment armor, add force to an attack, and Galbatorix blended them effortlessly while fighting unarmed against his sword-wielding opponent.

Every block produced a clap like thunder against his gauntlets. Every punch or kick would knock Celestine back several feet before she moved back in, undaunted. Once, Celestine leapt several feet above him and dove with a slice. Galbatorix grabbed her by the wrist and used her momentum to throw her over his shoulder with such force that the impact left a small crater in the ground. Soon, however, Eragon noticed something was wrong. Galbatorix was weakening, slowing down, growing tired.

Surely not. He must be trying to trick her. Lull her with a false sense of confidence to get her to make a mistake. He would wait for an opening and then exploit it with unexpected vigor.

Celestine swung down. Galbatorix reached up and grabbed her wrist once more. This time she stepped one leg behind his and slammed her open palm against his chest with such force that he bounced when he hit the ground.

It was wrong. It was all wrong! It couldn’t be part of the plan. What kind of plan involved dying? He had to do something. If Galbatorix died, Celestine might very well kill everyone. And if she didn’t, Elva would. But just before he burst from his hiding place he said to himself, No. No more mistakes. Galbatorix knows I’m here. If he needed my help, he would say so.

Celestine drew back her sword. Galbatorix coughed and said, “Pay attention, girl. Don’t miss what’s right in front of you.”

Celestine looked to where he was pointing, and Eragon followed her eyes. Murtagh was down on one knee, breathing heavily, and propping himself up with Zar’roc. Suffering was keeping Thorn at bay, and Elva raised up some sort of fiery whip, saying, “Well, you’ve been a fun plaything, but it’s time to put you away.”

Elva, as if sensing that she had been noticed, looked up to see Celestine staring at her. The child’s mouth dropped open and she said, “Oh, bloody murder,” just before Celestine charged her, leaving Galbatorix forgotten on the ground.

Galbatorix—slowly and with great effort—joined Eragon at the rock. “She’ll kill Elva,” Eragon said.

“Possibly.”

“Then she’ll kill the rest of us.”

Galbatorix chuckled. “Will she? You have much to learn.”

“She once asked me if I knew about angels, but I hadn’t heard of them. What are they?”

“Some type of being made by Dayus to serve him.”

“How do you know about this? Did she tell you?”

“Tell me? No. I read her book.”

* * *

Even as she methodically took Murtagh apart, Elva had felt every pain Celestine had inflicted on Galbatorix during their fight, but she’d felt no pain from Celestine—not even when the king cast her to the ground with a mighty throw. Fighting her would be problematic. She could still anticipate every pain that Celestine would inflict on her, but she had no idea how best to attack her. It also left the unsettling question in her mind: if nothing could hurt her, could anything kill her?

She would have to be clever. What if she attacked Celestine in the way she would attack Galbatorix? Surely if something would damage the king, it would damage his hireling. And the first thing she had done was remove his magical wards.

She spoke the spell, ordering the magic to dissipate under the order of the Name of Names. Celestine broke off her charge in order to slash at the departing lights, obviously not understanding that they had been her wards. Without them, Celestine would be vulnerable to any spell she cast. No longer distracted by the disappeared wards, Celestine looked at Elva. Elva spoke the spell to stop her heart. It had no effect. Celestine resumed her charge.

Elva frowned. Why no effect? She had no wards left; how could she have stopped that? She had to do something fast, so she reached for the utmost destruction possible. She commanded Celestine to cease existing and sealed the spell with the Name of Names.

Celestine stopped, stunned, as the air reverberated with the power of the Name. Celestine, however, did not cease to exist. Instead, she stared at Elva, and a knowing smile spread across her face. Elva’s eyes widened and the color drained from her face. Celestine charged once more.

Elva spoke, and lances of air sped towards her foe. The first two missed as Celestine weaved her way towards her, but one hit her square in the chest. It knocked her back a few feet, but she charged forward and the rest of the lances spiraled off an invisible shield. So, it appeared her spells couldn’t affect Celestine directly, but could still have an indirect effect. Elva spoke again, and spikes burst from the ground. Nimble as ever, Celestine avoided most of them, but one cut her arm and still she felt nothing. Despite that, however, Elva grinned with a small twinge of triumph, recalling the old adage: If it can bleed, it can die.

The spikes blocked Celestine’s forward progress. She backed away and reconstituted her shield. A fiery cloud formed above Elva’s head. Incoming pain—from above.

She ran to Suffering. “To the air!”

Guided by her sense, Elva avoided two large drops of fire. A third one was too large for her to avoid, and she had to cast a spell to deflect it. Soon, she was mounted, and her and Suffering rapidly rose above the cloud.

Incoming pain—below now. Possibly leery of a repeat of Galbatorix’s power throw, Celestine changed her method of air attack. Instead of getting above to dive down, she now rose from below, slashing on her way up. As Celestine neared Suffering, Elva cast the same spell Galbatorix had placed on Shruikan—he wouldn’t be able to hear Celestine’s voice.

Using the sense he shared with Elva, Suffering avoided all of Celestine’s opening slices. However, she followed up with something that hadn’t hurt at all. She gently grabbed hold of his tail. He whipped it as violently as possible, but couldn’t shake her off. Slowly, Celestine made her way up the tail, grabbed hold of the hind leg, and swung to the foreleg. Incoming pain—the wing. Suffering’s wing twitched as Celestine reached up, almost casually, but he had no way to stop her from crushing the hollow wing bone where it connected to the shoulder.

I can’t fly! Going to crash! said Suffering as he dropped rapidly.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you.

Elva cast a spell to cushion the fall. Incoming pain—from behind. Celestine wouldn’t even give her a moment’s breath, but pressed the attack. Elva summoned a sword and let her sense guide her swordplay. At least Celestine now appeared to be ignoring the grounded dragon.

“What are you? What are you!” Elva screamed.

Celestine’s movements were so fast that if she didn’t know where they would land beforehand, Elva would’ve been cut to ribbons within moments. Each motion was so powerful that Elva had to cast spells to empower every deflection. As immense as the power store was that she had looted from beneath the rock, it wouldn’t hold out for much longer. Then, out of the corner of her eye, Elva saw Eragon slowly approaching. She had one last idea.

She pushed Celestine as far back as she could with a spell before dropping her sword and sprinting towards Eragon. “Help me!” she cried. “She’s going to kill me! I yield! I yield!”

Eragon put his own sword down and held his arms open. “I’ll protect you,” he called back as she neared.

“I know you will,” Elva said, using her sense to draw her dagger in such a way that he wouldn’t see until it was too late.

Incoming pain—the ankle. Elva jerked her foot away in just enough time to avoid a small thin sword wielded by that stupid werecat that had lain forgotten on the battleground this whole time, his misery a ceaseless melody in the background of the battle’s symphony. Avoiding the strike caused her to lose her footing, though, and she fell face first to the ground. Before she knew it, she was rolled over in Eragon’s arms, looking up at him.

She looked down to find her dagger. It was lodged in her chest. With some surprise, she thought, How odd. That didn’t hurt at all.

She sensed one last opportunity for pain, however, and muttered a counter to the healing spell Eragon tried to cast. She let the sensation wash over her—shock, confusion, regret… Pain. She smiled.

“Elva…” Tears streamed down his face. “Why did you…? Why?”

She coughed, blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. “I’m going through a door, Eragon. Do you know what’s on the other side?”

“No.”

Elva shook her head softly as she closed her eyes. “Neither do I. It’s… terrifying.” She shuddered then lay still.

* * *

Murtagh told Thorn, Stay back. I’m going in.

It’s too dangerous! She’s out of control!

That’s why I’ve got to do something. I may be the only one who can. I was told I would she would need me… before the end.

Before the end of what?

I don’t know. Maybe everything.

His chance came rapidly. Elva forced Celestine back before fleeing towards Eragon. Murtagh ran to intercept as Celestine recovered and pursued. She didn’t even seem to notice as he ran towards her, so when he got close enough, he grabbed her by the wrist to make her stop. She swung her sword around but stopped it at his neck. “Celestine…”

She said something, and though he didn’t recognize a single word she had said, he understood her meaning perfectly, “Release me.” It was an odd sensation. She pulled her hand free and turned to continue after Elva. Murtagh grabbed at her wings, but his hand passed right through them—they were just shadows. Undaunted, he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her feet off the ground before she could speed off. She twisted in his grasp until she faced him. She said something else, “Do not hinder the doom of the wicked,” before breaking out of his hold through sheer force.

“I won’t let you kill her!” Murtagh yelled, dashing around Celestine to obstruct her path. “It’s not what you want.”

She put the tip of her sword to his throat and said, “Move.”

“No. You’ll have to kill me,” he said, “but perhaps you’d rather…” He held up her necklace. “This. You want to wear this again?”

She looked at the necklace, but didn’t move her sword.

Slowly, Murtagh reached with his free hand and pushed the blade to the side. She didn’t resist. One step at a time, he walked up to her. She looked from the necklace to his eyes. “Murtagh,” she said, letting her sword hang at her side.

He didn’t know how the necklace worked, or even if it would do what he hoped it would do, but no sooner did he clasp it around her neck than a tremendous wave of force knocked him flat on his back. When he looked up, the shadows were gone. Her eyes were a regular blue, and her hair no longer glowed. Celestine had returned to normal.

She blinked several times. Then she rushed to his side. “Murtagh! Speak to me!”

He groaned. “What should I say?”

She caressed his face. “Did I do this? Did I hurt you?”

“You don’t remember? The necklace knocked me down. The rest of this was Elva’s doing.”

“Where’s Elva? Did I kill her?”

“No, she ran off…” he pointed weakly, pausing when he saw Eragon weeping over Elva’s prone body. “Oh… She was alive when I interrupted your fight.”

Celestine rushed over to them. She realized quickly that Elva was beyond healing. “What happened?” she asked, stifling a sob.

“She acted as though she wanted me to save her from you. She meant to kill me. I didn’t even see her draw the dagger,” he said. “Grimrr tried to stab her as she ran past. She jerked her foot away… Fell…” He added with sudden ferocity, “I tried to heal her! She stopped me. One last twist of the knife, I suppose.”

By then, Galbatorix approached slowly, wearily. Suffering lay on the ground, snorting and moaning, rubbing his face in the dirt and clawing the ground. Galbatorix said, “It is never easy for a dragon to lose a Rider—even when they’d only known each other for days.”

“Will he be all right?” Celestine asked.

“In time, perhaps. Not all who suffer loss remain mired in it.”

“Will you be all right?” she asked, looking at Eragon.

“Why should she suffer for my mistake?” Eragon asked. “Shouldn’t it have been me?”

“I don’t know. All I know is that you must do what is right with the life you have left.”

Eragon nodded and said nothing.

Murtagh limped to her. As she healed him, she said, “Thank you for stopping me. I know it couldn’t have been easy. I’ve seen what I look like in that state. Facing down a demon can be… terrifying.”

“You once told me angels and demons look the same, but it doesn’t matter how they look. You know them by what they do.”

“Indeed,” Galbatorix interrupted, “and all that remains is to know what you all intend to do next.”

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Comment

  1. Creature_NIL on 21 June 2013, 19:08 said:

    Squeeeeee!!!

  2. Finn on 22 June 2013, 16:11 said:

    Poor Elva D: but I like how things have turned out so far. I’m excited to see how it ends :)

  3. Brendan Rizzo on 24 June 2013, 15:01 said:

    Everything happened so fast. I’m a little confused now.

  4. Asahel on 25 June 2013, 11:55 said:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. I always appreciate feedback.

    Squeeeeee!!!

    Poor Elva D: but I like how things have turned out so far. I’m excited to see how it ends :)

    Thanks. The ending should be fairly interesting!

    Everything happened so fast. I’m a little confused now.

    Well, I do write action scenes fairly fast-paced. Perhaps a little too fast this time? Is there anything in specific that confused you? Like, were you confused about what was going on with Celestine, or did something in the fight itself seem confusing? If you ask some specific questions, I’ll give the other readers a chance to chime in and then provide my own commentary by the end of the week.

    Thanks again!

  5. Sìlfae on 25 June 2013, 13:31 said:

    I have to say, while her nature as half-angel/demon was already a pretty solid certainty, I’d almost expected the amulet to also be something more (that particular necklace she talked about some time ago), but I guess it was already a stretch after the last chapter…

    Good work, anyway, although there is still the conclusion to go to have a complete vision of the current situation.

  6. Potatoman on 25 June 2013, 15:03 said:

    Well, this certainly is an interesting idea using the characters from Eragon :) These seem a lot more realistic (for wont of a better term) than the books themselves. Nice.

    Any tips for writing action scenes? I am not particularly good a them. Actually does anybody know where I can get other people to critique my work? Just curious.

  7. Brendan Rizzo on 25 June 2013, 21:45 said:

    Well, it’s really more like I didn’t know which parts featured Celestine and which featured Elva. After Celestine pretty much went berserker, I had no clue what was going on until Elva died.

  8. Nate Winchester on 25 June 2013, 22:11 said:

    Any tips for writing action scenes? I am not particularly good a them. Actually does anybody know where I can get other people to critique my work? Just curious.

    Other than our forum? ;-)

  9. Potatoman on 28 June 2013, 13:13 said:

    Other than our forum? ;-)

    Shivers in fear and starts to sweat uncontrollably Uh, Nate… I’m not so sure… I don’t think I’m mentally prepared for that :/ But I’ll try it maybe :)

  10. Asahel on 29 June 2013, 11:43 said:

    Any tips for writing action scenes?

    Make sure actions that would be very quick in real life are described very quickly. And keep dialogue realistic: if someone’s in the thick of a fight, they either won’t talk or will talk in short sentences. If there’s a lull in the fight, you can have a longer exchange. Those are good places to start.

    Well, it’s really more like I didn’t know which parts featured Celestine and which featured Elva. After Celestine pretty much went berserker, I had no clue what was going on until Elva died.

    I see. The first section before the *** break is Galbatorix and Eragon’s fight defending themselves from Celestine and is from Eragon’s POV. The second section is the fight between Elva and Celestine and is from Elva’s POV. I tried to make sure that any “she” or “her” words were connected to the appropriate combatant. Are there any particular sentences where you weren’t sure if something was supposed to refer to Elva or Celestine?

  11. Ardev on 14 February 2014, 12:29 said:

    Poor, stupid Eragon.

    WHY IS HE EVEN TRY TO SAVE ELVA?

    Eragon put his own sword down and held his arms open. “I’ll protect you,” he called back as she neared.

    I suppose his morals aren’t fully recovered from lack of use–or his common sense, either, for that matter. Seriously? This is someone who wants to end the world, who is fully prepared to kill every one on Alagaesia and everything, and already has killed people, and HE WANTS TO SAVE HER BECAUSE SHE SAID “help me” WHEN SHE’S LOSING?! Does the concept of lying not occur to him at all.

    I get that he’s a changed person who’s no longer so psychopathic and all, and is trying to value life and have mercy and stuff… but… on Elva…?

    Sorry for rant. I suppose I’m still a little frustrated by his stupidity at the end of the previous chapter–how hard is it to listen to someone and KEEP QUIET/NOT MOVE when someone just told you to?

  12. Asahel on 15 February 2014, 11:59 said:

    I get that he’s a changed person who’s no longer so psychopathic and all, and is trying to value life and have mercy and stuff… but… on Elva…?

    Thanks for the comments. I always find it interesting what readers see in the writing. The above is part, but only part, of the rationale behind Eragon’s action in that scene. The other part (and it would be highly debatable how strong this influence would be) is guilt over the fact that the reason Elva is in this situation at all is because of him. So, if she dies, it was his fault. That’s got to be a strong motivator to ensure she lives.

    Let’s also not forget that in the books, Elva displayed the power to say exactly what would get the reaction she wanted—even stopping Eragon from trying to fix his failed attempt at fixing her with just a handful of words. She’s using that power against him again.

    Sorry for rant. I suppose I’m still a little frustrated by his stupidity at the end of the previous chapter–how hard is it to listen to someone and KEEP QUIET/NOT MOVE when someone just told you to?

    No need to apologize—feel free to rant away! As for Eragon’s action at the end of the last chapter, I personally chalk that up more to carelessness than stupidity. I may not have conveyed it well enough, but Eragon was far enough away from Celestine that he didn’t think she’d notice if he whispered, and his curiosity (one of Eragon’s purported traits in the books) was so strong that he just had to ask. He obviously didn’t anticipate that she would notice.

    But again, thanks for the comments.

    Also, looking at the date on this one… Sorry, everyone, that the last chapter is taking so long. It’s been a winding road with way more revisions than any of the other chapters (let’s hope that means it will be the best chapter yet!), but it’s in the final set of revisions now, and I expect it to be out soon!