Page 16

 Christopher Paolini

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How much can we tell him?Eragon asked Saphira, thinking quickly.
He’s always treated us fairly, but we can’t know what he may have promised other people. We’d best be cautious until Nasuada actually takes power.
Very well.
“Saphira and I have agreed to help her. We won’t oppose her ascension. And”—Eragon wondered if he was going too far—“I plead that you do the same; the Varden can’t afford to fight among themselves. They need unity.”
“Oeí,” said Hrothgar, leaning back, “you speak with new authority. Your suggestion is a good one, but it will cost a question: Do you think Nasuada will be a wise leader, or are there other motives in choosing her?”
It’s a test,warned Saphira.He wants to know whywe’ve backed her.
Eragon felt his lips twitch in a half-smile. “I think her wise and canny beyond her years. She will be good for the Varden.”
“And that is why you support her?”
Hrothgar nodded, dipping his long, snowy beard. “That relieves me. There has been too little concern lately with what is right and good, and more about what will bring individual power. It is hard to watch such idiocy and not be angry.”
An uncomfortable silence fell between them, stifling in the long throne room. To break it, Eragon asked, “What will be done with the dragonhold? Will a new floor be laid down?”
For the first time, the king’s eyes grew mournful, deepening the surrounding lines that splayed like spokes on a wagon wheel. It was the closest Eragon had ever seen a dwarf come to weeping. “Much talk is needed before that step can be taken. It was a terrible deed, what Saphira and Arya did. Maybe necessary, but terrible. Ah, it might have been better if the Urgals had overrun us before Isidar Mithrim was ever broken. The heart of Tronjheim has been shattered, and so has ours.” Hrothgar placed his fist over his breast, then slowly unclenched his hand and reached down to grasp Volund’s leather-wrapped handle.
Saphira touched Eragon’s mind. He sensed several emotions in her, but what surprised him the most was her remorse and guilt. She truly regretted the Star Rose’s demise, despite the fact that it had been required.Little one, she said,help me. I need to speak with Hrothgar. Ask him: Do the dwarves have the ability to reconstruct Isidar Mithrim out of the shards?
As he repeated the words, Hrothgar muttered something in his own language, then said, “The skill we have, but what of it? The task would take months or years, and the end result would be a ruined mockery of the beauty that once graced Tronjheim! It is an abomination I will not sanction.”
Saphira continued to stare unblinkingly at the king.Now tell him: If Isidar Mithrim were put together again, with not one piece missing, I believe I could make it whole once more.
Eragon gaped at her, forgetting Hrothgar in his astonishment.Saphira! The energy that would require! You told me yourself that you can’t use magic at will, so what makes you sure you can do this?
I can do it if the need is great enough. It will be my gift to the dwarves. Remember Brom’s tomb; let that wash your doubt away. And close your mouth—it’s unbecoming and the king is watching.
When Eragon conveyed Saphira’s offer, Hrothgar straightened with an exclamation. “Is it possible? Not even the elves might attempt such a feat.”
“She is confident in her abilities.”
“Then we will rebuild Isidar Mithrim, no matter if it takes a hundred years. We will assemble a frame for the gem and set each piece into its original place. Not a single chip will be forgotten. Even if we must break the larger pieces to move them, it will be done with all our skill in working stone, so that no dust or flecks are lost. You will come then, when we are finished, and heal the Star Rose.”
“We will come,” agreed Eragon, bowing.
Hrothgar smiled, and it was like the cracking of a granite wall. “Such joy you have given me, Saphira. I feel once more a reason to rule and live. If you do this, dwarves everywhere will honor your name for uncounted generations. Go now with my blessings while I spread the tidings among the clans. And do not feel bound to wait upon my announcement, for no dwarf should be denied this news; convey it to all whom you meet. May the halls echo with the jubilation of our race.”
With one more bow, Eragon and Saphira departed, leaving the dwarf king still smiling on his throne. Out of the hall, Eragon told Orik what had transpired. The dwarf immediately bent and kissed the floor before Saphira. He rose with a grin and clasped Eragon’s arm, saying, “A wonder indeed. You have given us exactly the hope we needed to combat recent events. There will be drinking tonight, I wager!”
“And tomorrow is the funeral.”
Orik sobered for a moment. “Tomorrow, yes. But until then we shall not let unhappy thoughts disturb us! Come!”
Taking Eragon’s hand, the dwarf pulled him through Tronjheim to a great feast hall where many dwarves sat at stone tables. Orik leaped onto one, scattering dishes across the floor, and in a booming voice proclaimed the news of Isidar Mithrim. Eragon was nearly deafened by the cheers and shouts that followed. Each of the dwarves insisted on coming to Saphira and kissing the floor as Orik had. When that was finished, they abandoned their food and filled their stone tankards with beer and mead.
Eragon joined the revelry with an abandon that surprised him. It helped to ease the melancholy gathered in his heart. However, he did try to resist complete debauchery, for he was conscious of the duties that awaited them the following day and he wanted to have a clear head.