Page 21

 Christopher Paolini

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“No,” said Eragon, quick and sharp. That was one rumor he would not tolerate. “They might, but I don’t. Whatever my fate may be, I don’t aspire to rule.”
“And it’s wise of you not to. What is a king, after all, but a man imprisoned by his duties? That would be a poor reward indeed for the last free Rider and his dragon. No, for you the ability to go and do what you will and, by extension, to shape the future of Alagaësia.” She paused. “Do you have any family left in the Empire?”
What?“Only a cousin.”
“Then you’re not betrothed?”
The question caught him off guard. He had never been asked that before. “No, I’m not betrothed.”
“Surely there must be someone you care about.” She came another step closer, and her ribboned sleeve brushed his arm.
“I wasn’t close to anyone in Carvahall,” he faltered, “and I’ve been traveling since then.”
Trianna drew back slightly, then lifted her wrist so the serpent bracelet was at eye level. “Do you like him?” she inquired. Eragon blinked and nodded, though it was actually rather disconcerting. “I call him Lorga. He’s my familiar and protector.” Bending forward, she blew upon the bracelet, then murmured, “Sé orúm thornessa hávr sharjalví lífs.”
With a dry rustle, the snake stirred to life. Eragon watched, fascinated, as the creature writhed around Trianna’s pale arm, then lifted itself and fixed its whirling ruby eyes upon him, wire tongue whipping in and out. Its eyes seemed to expand until they were each as large as Eragon’s fist. He felt as if he were tumbling into their fiery depths; he could not look away no matter how hard he tried.
Then at a short command, the serpent stiffened and resumed its former position. With a tired sigh, Trianna leaned against the wall. “Not many people understand what we magic users do. But I wanted you to know that there are others like you, and we will help if we can.”
Impulsively, Eragon put his hand on hers. He had never attempted to approach a woman this way before, but instinct urged him onward, daring him to take the chance. It was frightening, exhilarating. “If you want, we could go and eat. There’s a kitchen not far from here.”
She slipped her other hand over his, fingers smooth and cool, so different from the rough grips he was accustomed to. “I’d like that. Shall we—” Trianna stumbled forward as the door burst open behind her. The sorceress whirled around, only to yelp as she found herself face to face with Saphira.
Saphira remained motionless, except for one lip that slowly lifted to reveal a line of jagged teeth. Then she growled. It was a marvelous growl—richly layered with scorn and menace—that rose and fell through the hall for more than a minute. Listening to it was like enduring a blistering, hackle-raising tirade.
Eragon glared at her the whole time.
When it was over, Trianna was clenching her dress with both fists, twisting the fabric. Her face was white and scared. She quickly curtsied to Saphira, then, with a barely controlled motion, turned and fled. Acting as if nothing had happened, Saphira lifted a leg and licked a claw.It was nearly impossible to get the door open, she sniffed.
Eragon could not contain himself any longer.Why did you do that? he exploded.You had no reason to interfere!
You needed my help,she continued, unperturbed.
If I’d needed your help, I would have called!
Don’tyell at me, she snapped, letting her jaws click together. He could sense her emotions boiling with as much turmoil as his.I’ll not have you run around with a slattern who cares more for Eragon as Rider than you as a person.
She wasn’t a slattern,roared Eragon. He pounded the wall in frustration.I’m a man now, Saphira, not a hermit. You can’t expect me to ignore . . . ignore women just because of who I am. And it’s certainly not your decision to make. At the very least, I might have enjoyed a conversation with her, anything other than the tragedies we’ve dealt with lately. You’re in my head enough to know how I feel. Why couldn’t you leave me alone? Where was the harm?
You don’t understand.She refused to meet his eyes.
Don’t understand! Will you prevent me from ever having a wife and children? What of a family?
Eragon.She finally fixed one great eye on him.We are intimately linked.
And if you pursue a relationship, with or without my blessing, and become . . . attached . . . to someone, my feelings will become engaged as well. You should know that. Therefore—and I warn you only once—be careful who you choose, because it will involve both of us.
He briefly considered her words.Our bond works both ways, however. If you hate someone, I will be influenced likewise. . . . I understand your concern. So you weren’t just jealous?
She licked the claw once more.Perhaps a little.
Eragon was the one who growled this time. He brushed past her into the room, grabbed Zar’roc, then stalked away, belting on the sword.
He wandered through Tronjheim for hours, avoiding contact with everyone. What had occurred pained him, though he could not deny the truth of Saphira’s words. Of all the matters they shared, this was the most delicate and the one they agreed upon least. That night—for the first time since he was captured at Gil’ead—he slept away from Saphira, in one of the dwarves’ barracks.
Eragon returned to their quarters the following morning. By unspoken consent, he and Saphira avoided discussing what had transpired; further argument was pointless when neither party was willing to yield ground. Besides, they were both so relieved to be reunited, they did not want to risk endangering their friendship again.