Chapter 4

Meeting Dragons

“All right, then,” Celestine said, “I’ll do it. I’ll talk to Eragon—try to get him to see your side of it.”

“Wonderful, my dear, simply wonderful,” Galbatorix said. “However, I haven’t gotten this far by not considering worst case scenarios. The Varden may react to you with hostility. You need something… well, something more.”

“I assure you I can handle myself,” she said, sliding her dish aside.

“Eragon is more dangerous than you know,” Murtagh said. “A wise person wouldn’t turn away assistance.”

“I was simply expressing assurance that I’m up to the task,” she said. “Of course I’d be willing to accept help.”

Galbatorix said with a nod, “Very well, follow me.”

He led them through halls and down several flights of stairs. Eventually Murtagh asked, “You’re taking her to the rookery?”

Galbatorix nodded. “I want to see if the third egg will hatch for Celestine.”

Celestine stopped suddenly. “What? Why would it hatch for me? I’m not from your world.”

“You are here for a reason, Celestine,” Galbatorix said. “Fate brought you here; perhaps fate intends to grant you a dragon. There’s no harm in trying, after all.”

“No harm? What if it does hatch? I don’t want to be a Dragon Rider in this world. I’ve got my own world to get back to!”

“You said—”

“I know what I said!” she interrupted. Cutting off royalty was ill-advised, though, so she continued in a much softer tone, “I’m sorry, but I have tremendous responsibilities back home. I don’t think I should be taking on a responsibility like this here.”

“Consider the opportunity!” he said. “A dragon friend is no small gift. He can even make your magic more powerful.” Celestine stood still, so he continued, “Besides, this isn’t something that needs to bind your concerns to this world. Once I have Eragon and his female dragon on my side, you need not stay. You could return to your world with a powerful ally, which would make your responsibilities there a bit easier. What do you say?”

Celestine considered him. Kings rarely took no for an answer, and he seemed so… excited by the prospect. “No harm in trying, I suppose,” she said.

After reaching the bottom of the stairs and going down a long hallway, they stood before a nondescript door. “Here we are!” Galbatorix declared.

“I expected something a bit more… well, more,” Celestine said.

“Don’t be fooled by appearances,” Murtagh told her.

“Indeed,” Galbatorix said.

He removed a key ring from his pocket. Hanging from it were five keys of different metals—gold, silver, iron, and two bronze. He first inserted one of the bronze keys and twisted it in the lock. He followed it with the gold key, then the iron, then the silver, and finally the other bronze key. When he had used all the keys, the keyhole shimmered and disappeared. Behind it was a stone block with an octagonal indentation. Galbatorix pressed his ring into the notch. When he pulled his hand away, the octagon had changed into an eight-pointed star. The king took a star-shaped pendant from around his neck and placed it in the stone. Finally, he whispered, and the door opened.

There on a pedestal sat a green dragon egg. It looked like a smooth cut emerald, though it would be impossible to mistake for a natural gem.

“Go on,” Galbatorix prodded. “Pick it up.”

Celestine stepped lightly over to the pedestal and held the egg in her hands. After a moment, she asked, “Am I supposed to say anything?”

“There’s no ritual. Say whatever you want.”

“Oh,” she said, then looking at the egg added, “Hello. My name’s Celestine.” She looked back at the king. “How do I know if it’s working?”

She could tell as soon as she saw his downcast face what the answer would be.

“I can read its thoughts. He isn’t interested.”

Celestine gingerly set the egg back on the pedestal. “I’m sorry.”

Galbatorix just smiled and laughed. “Sorry about what?” he said. “If a dragon doesn’t want to hatch for you, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Still, you seemed so disappointed.”

Galbatorix chuckled. “Yes, I am, but I’m also concerned. This was intended to increase your power in case of hostilities.”

“With all due respect, more power is not always the answer. Clever application of power is much more important.”

“Very well,” Galbatorix said. “Murtagh, go to the courtyard. Once Shruikan and Thorn are done with their afternoon routine, prepare to take Celestine to Belatona.”

“Of course,” he said, leaving immediately.

As Galbatorix and Celestine left the room, the king asked, “You mentioned there are dragons in your world. What are they like?”

“They’re what we call cast creatures,” Celestine said, “because they were made by a very powerful wizardess a very long time ago. They resemble large, winged lizards, but the ones on the western continent—where they were first created—tend to be smaller than the ones in the east. Only the westerners ride dragons.”

“They were created by a magician? A human?”

“Yes. She was the ruler of the world’s first empire, which she carved out of the western kingdoms with the power of her own dragon riders,” she answered. “Unfortunately, it was so long ago that, after her defeat at the hands of a foreign dragon rider, her rise to power, her creation of the dragons, and the charm she cast to ensure her immortality changed from history to legend, from legend to myth, and then myth was forgotten.”

“How does one defeat someone who is immortal?”

“She bound her soul to a necklace and placed upon the necklace an irresistible compulsion charm. If no one was wearing the necklace, whoever saw it would need to wear it. When worn, however, she would possess your body,” Celestine said. “So, she had immortality of a sort. As long as someone was present whenever she died, her soul could take on another body. That one weakness was how she was defeated. The man that last killed her gave himself a mortal wound as she was dying. They died alone in a sealed room, undisturbed for thousands of years.”

Galbatorix said, “That implies a recent disturbance.”

“I don’t want to talk about her any more. She was a terrible woman that didn’t care who else suffered as long as she gained from it,” Celestine said. “Instead, I want to ask you about magic.”

“Very well.”

Celestine gave him a thankful smile. She looked around and said, “It’s just that the magic here is so odd.”

“Odd how?”

“It’s… primal. Yes, that’s it! It’s just like in Gabbrith’s Journey to the Distant Land. He wrote that on the farthest island in the sea—uninhabited—the magic was primal. No complex shapes in the magic field because no spells were ever cast there! That’s what magic is like here!” she said in a rush. “No one here casts spells the way I do. But, if that’s the case, what’s magic like for you?”

“In our world, everything has a true name. This name doesn’t just describe it—it defines it. Know the word and you can control the thing,” he replied.

“You have the power to alter reality at its most fundamental levels?” she asked, eyes wide.

“Yes, but there are limitations. Knowledge of the ancient language is the first limiter. If you cannot articulate your spell, it cannot be cast. Power is the second limiter,” he told her. “You must have enough power to accomplish the task in a mundane way in order to accomplish it in a magical way.”

“So… if you wanted to lift a heavy object using magic, it would require as much energy as lifting it normally? What happens if you cast a spell that requires more energy than you possess?”

“Then you die.”

“Oh my.”

“Yes, well there are also ways of borrowing energy from sources around you, so power isn’t much of an issue for a learned magician. What about for your people? What are the limitations of your power?”

“It takes great strength of mind to make magic respond to you. Our power is based on how much magic we can control and the complexity of forms we can weave them into,” she said.

“And how powerful are you?”

“I’m a sorceress,” she said. “That’s above a witch and below a wizardess—the highest category. I hope to become a wizardess before twenty.”

“Best of luck to you,” Galbatorix said with an encouraging smile.

“So, you said everything in your world has a true name?”


“People, too?”


“What happens if someone knows your true name?”

“Then you’d better hope that person doesn’t intend you ill,” he replied, stopping. “For example, I know Murtagh’s true name. I’m sure he’ll mention the oath to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Murtagh’s had a hard time of life. As a result, he’s grown… bitter and exasperated. Once he ran away from the capital. When I found him again, he’d arrived at Farthen Dûr with Eragon. Fortunately, I had some agents there—twin magicians who had infiltrated the Varden for me—and they were able to bring him safely home after Durza and his army were defeated,” he said. He sighed and continued, “He actually wanted to join them and fight alongside Eragon against me! What could I do? Let the people that had killed his father corrupt his son? No. I failed Morzan in life; I swore I would not fail his son. I made Murtagh swear an oath of loyalty using his true name. He cannot break it.”

“You’re forcing him to serve you against his will?” she asked.

“Ah, but there is more to it than that. This spell is for his own good. Unlike fire, which cannot change its nature, people can change. I don’t want Murtagh to remain bitter and spiteful,” Galbatorix said, placing a hand on Celestine’s shoulder. “I want him to become the better man I know he can be. He is his father’s son! When he changes his nature, his true name will change, and then the oath will no longer apply,” he said with a confident smile. “And that, young lady, will be a good day indeed.”

“Why tell me?”

Galbatorix said, “I believe you can help him change.”

“I don’t know what power you believe I have, but there are no spells to increase a person’s virtue.”

“Oh, the virtue is already there, hidden beneath a troubled youth,” he said, “but I wasn’t referring to magic.”

Celestine wondered about that. Her greatest power had always been her magic. “I… can sing. Do you want me to sing to him?” Celestine asked, following Galbatorix as he climbed the stairs again.

The king smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll figure it out eventually.”

When they reached the castle courtyard, Galbatorix opened the door. Murtagh leaned against the wall to their left, looking towards a large open area where two dragons faced each other—one red like the setting sun, the other black as the blanket of night. The red one was the smaller of the two, but both were larger than western dragons. They looked at each other with such intensity that Celestine figured they must be communicating somehow. She’d never heard of dragons using telepathy, which was a rare feat in itself. Could it be?

Suddenly, a red claw swiped at the black wing. The black dragon tucked its wing and batted it away. The red dragon’s heavy tail swung round. When the black dragon reared up to avoid it, the red one lunged for its neck. The black dragon swatted his opponent’s head and snaked his own head underneath, latching powerful teeth against soft flesh.

Celestine gasped, but the black dragon released the red one and a strange scene unfolded before her eyes. The exact same attack sequence happened again, only this time slower and with the black dragon attacking first and the red defending. They did it twice more—faster each time—and when the red dragon let go of the black dragon’s neck the final time, the mentor nodded with a snort.

“Celestine, meet my dragon Shruikan,” Galbatorix said, face beaming with pride, “and Murtagh’s dragon Thorn.”

Though he hadn’t specified which was which, Celestine thought it obvious that the black dragon—the one doing the teaching—was Shruikan. “Goodness,” Celestine said, walking towards them. “Such fine examples of your species!”

Thorn looked from Celestine to Shruikan. When the older dragon nodded, Thorn also turned towards her and nodded. “You must be Shruikan,” Celestine said to the black dragon. “An outstanding teacher for this young one.” She then looked at Thorn and said, “Of course, it helps when you have such an excellent student in Thorn, yes?”

Shruikan nudged Thorn’s shoulder with his tail. The red dragon inclined his neck and wings in a way that resembled a bow. When Galbatorix approached, Celestine whispered, “Do dragons not speak in your world?”

“Telepathically,” he replied. “They speak verbally in yours?”

“Constantly. Some Mages say there’s nothing a dragon loves more than the sound of its own voice.”

“How intriguing.”

Murtagh approached and said, “Thorn will be ready to depart now that his exercises have concluded.”

“Before we go, I have a request, your majesty,” Celestine said. “I can’t broker peace on words alone. I need something I can offer them. What concessions am I authorized to make on your behalf?”

“Concessions? My dear, they invaded my territory unprovoked. I’m not willing to give up even an acre more of imperial soil,” Galbatorix said.

“It doesn’t have to be land,” Celestine said. “Your main goal is to show Eragon your sincerity in rebuilding the Riders. I need something that proves your sincerity.”

After some thought, Galbatorix said, “I can only think of one thing.”

“What is it?”

“The green egg,” he said. “It will show Eragon my sincerity, as you say, and if it hatches for one of them, I will have another Rider to join the ranks.”

“But, your majesty, is that not too valuable?” she asked.

“Indeed. The egg is like a child to me,” he said. “However, because it is valuable, Eragon will know my desire is true. You may offer it in exchange for peace, but if they refuse peace, the egg must return to me. I will not brook having yet another Rider standing against me. You may take it to Belatona,” he said before pointing directly at Murtagh and saying, “and you must keep it safe.”

Galbatorix looked at Shruikan, who then flew off. He said, “I’ll go to the rookery—yet again—and retrieve the egg. In the meantime, why not spar each other? You need to know what you’ll be up against if Eragon reacts to you with hostility.”

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  1. Beldam on 13 July 2011, 10:56 said:

    I just finished reading chapter three today, and what luck that this would turn up right after I’d finished. It must have been fate.
    It’s been a long time since I picked up Eragon, but I do like how you make it so that the various perspectives involved actually churn out different stories—I think there are a lot of writers who forget that no single story is identical between different people. Perspective is really everything. Though I wonder, whose the good guy now? Is Eragon just a tempestuous child and Galbatorix simply cast in ill-light by his enemies? Is Eragon still the hero and Galbatorix just cleverly manipulative? Are they both good? or both evil? We’ll see, I guess.
    For some reason, there’s always at least one line in all your chapters that make me laugh—this one, it was the line where she offered to sing to Murtagh. And it give this very sudden sense of emersion when I smiled at the same time as Galbatorix, which was a lucky coincedence.
    I do wish there was more prose though. I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t like it when there’s more talking than people feelings things and doing stuff. I feel like such writing is better suited to a script…but I’m sure the story will kick off any moment now, so I’ll be patient. Still, I do want to know more about Celestine’s inner thoughts. Like, when Tori (sorry) asks if she’s ever fought, she just does a few breathing excercises. I would have liked a brief mention of what she was remembering—you know, the brief recollection of a battle cry, or the weight of blood of her hands, or the smell of a battle feed—just to have a better sense of what she was feeling. I know show don’t tell is probably in effect here, but there are a lot of ways to show, and telling has its place as well.
    Anyway, in spite of all my nitpicking, this was a good chapter, and I’ve rather endeared myself to your Tori (I’m so sorry). To the next one~!

  2. Inkblot on 13 July 2011, 15:53 said:

    That may be the most elaborate medieval security system I’ve ever heard of. Reminds me of the scene in UP where the old guy unlocks the fifteen or so deadbolts holding his door shut. Be careful with that – as it is now, it does do a good job of showing how protective G. is of the egg without explicitly saying anything, but it also stretches on for just long enough that it becomes a bit comic. Since Celestine doesn’t notice or think to herself that it’s just a bit ridiculous, it’s unfortunately similar to a crude and blatant fourth-wall gag for the benefit of the audience.

    On a related note, I concur with Beldam that a bit more of a peek inside Celestine’s head would do wonders for some spots, the example I gave being among them. Also, I’m a sucker for background – the characters seem to all be floating in a white void. :P Just a hint of stage-setting…

    Finally, I find myself becoming more interested in the tidbits of C.‘s history, which IIRC is your own creation, than in the reimagined Alagaesia. Your dialogue and backstory are solid and enough of a compelling draw that I’m sucked in. Keep it up!

  3. Julian on 15 March 2012, 06:55 said:

    Once again, brilliant!

    Oh, and “With all due respect, more power is not always the answer. Clever application of power is much more important.” is WIN!