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Eldest

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Eldest

Eldest

    Christopher Paolini ? TABLE OF CONTENTS ? ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ABOUT THEAUTHOR A TWINDISASTER THECOUNCIL OFELDERS TRUTH AMONG FRIENDS RORAN THEHUNTEDHUNTERS REQUIEM FEALTY A SORCERESS, ASNAKE, AND ASCROLL HAMMER ANDTONGS RETALIATION CELBEDEIL DIAMONDS IN THENIGHT UNDER ADARKLINGSKY DOWN THERUSHING MERE-WASH DRIFTING ARYASVIT-KONA CERIS WOUNDS OF THEPAST WOUNDS OF THEPRESENT ARROW TO THEHEART THEDAGSHELGRINVOCATION THEPINEWOODCITY OUT OF THEPAST CONVICTION REPERCUSSIONS EXODUS THESECRETLIVES OFANTS

    UNDER THEMENOATREE A MAZE OFOPPOSITION HANGING BY ATHREAD ELVA RESURGENCE BLACKMORNINGGLORY THENATURE OFEVIL IMAGE OFPERFECTION THEOBLITERATOR NARDA THEHAMMERFALLS THEBEGINNING OFWISDOM BROKENEGG ANDSCATTEREDNEST THEGIFT OFDRAGONS IN ASTARRYGLADE LANDFALL TEIRM JEODLONGSHANKS ANUNEXPECTEDALLY ESCAPE PREMONITION OFWAR REDBLADE,WHITEBLADE VISIONSNEAR ANDFAR GIFTS THEMAW OF THEOCEAN TOABERON THEBURNINGPLAINS THECLOUDS OFWAR NARGARZHVOG THESTORMBREAKS CONVERGENCE ELDEST INHERITANCE REUNION END OFBOOKTWO

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    ?

    ? Kvetha Fricäya.

    ?

    ? As with many authors who undertake an epic the length of the Inheritance trilogy, I have

    Eragon, and now Eldest, has become my own personal quest, one thatfound that the creation of

    has proven every bit as transforming as Eragon’s.

    ?

     I was fifteen—not quite a boy and not yet a man—just out? When first I conceived Eragon,

    of high school, unsure of what path to take in life, and addicted to the potent magic of thefantasy literature that adorned my shelves. The process of writing Eragon, marketing it

    across the world, and now finally completing Eldest has swept me into adulthood. I am twenty-

    one now and, to my continual astonishment, have already published two novels. Stranger thingshave occurred, I’m sure, but never to me.

    ?

    ? Eragon’s journey has been my own: plucked from a sheltered rural upbringing and forced torove the land in a desperate race against time; enduring intense and arduous training;achieving success against all expectations; dealing with the consequences of fame; andeventually finding a measure of peace.

    ?

    ? Just as in fiction when the determined and well-meaning protagonist—who really isn’t allthat bright, now is he?—is helped along his way by a host of wiser characters, so too have Ibeen guided by a number of stupendously talented people. They are:

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    ? At home: Mom, for listening whenever I need to talk about a problem with the story orcharacters and for giving me the courage to throw out twelve pages and rewrite Eragon’sentrance into Ellesméra (painful); Dad, as always, for his incisive editing; and my dearsister, Angela, for deigning to reprise her role as a witch and for her contributions to herdoppelgänger’s dialogue.

    ?

    ?

    ? At Writers House: my agent, the great and mighty Comma Master, Simon Lipskar, who makes allthings possible (Mervyn Peake!); and his brave assistant Daniel Lazar, who keeps the CommaMaster from being buried alive underneath a pile of unsolicited manuscripts, many of which Ifear are the result of Eragon.

    ?

    ?

    ? At Knopf: my editor, Michelle Frey, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty inperforming her job and has made Eldest so much better than it would have been otherwise;

    publicity director Judith Haut, for once again proving that no feat of promotion is beyond herreach (hear her roar!); Isabel Warren-Lynch, art director nonpareil who, with Eldest, has

    exceeded her previous accomplishments; John Jude Palencar, for a cover painting that I likeeven better than the one for Eragon ; copy chief Artie Bennett, who has done a splendiferous

    job of checking all the obscure words in this trilogy and probably knows more than I do aboutthe ancient language, although his Urgal is a mite weak; Chip Gibson, grand master of thechildren’s division at Random House; Nancy Hinkel, publishing director extraordinaire; JoanDeMayo, director of sales (much applause, cheers, and bowing!) and her team; Daisy Kline, whowith her team designed the wonderful and eye-catching marketing materials; Linda Palladino,Rebecca Price, and Timothy Terhune, production; a bow of thanks to Pam White and her team, who

    Eragon to the four corners of the world; Melissa Nelson, design;have helped to spread

    Alison Kolani, copy editing; Michele Burke, Michelle Frey’s dedicated, hardworking assistant;and everyone else at Knopf who has supported me.

    ?

    ?

    ? At Listening Library: Gerard Doyle, who brings the world of Alagaësia to life; Taro Meyerfor getting the pronunciation of my languages just right; Jacob Bronstein for pulling all thethreads together; and Tim Ditlow, publisher of Listening Library.

    ?

    ?

    ? Thank you all.

    ?

    ?

    ? One more volume to go and we shall reach the end of this tale. One more manuscript ofheartache, ecstasy, and perseverance. . . . One more codex of dreams.

    ?

    ? Stay with me, if it please you, and let us see where this winding path will carry us, bothin this world and in Alagaësia.

    ?

    ? Sé onr sverdar sitja hvass!

    ?

    ?

    ? Christopher Paolini

    ?

    ? August 23, 2005

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    ABOUT THEAUTHOR ? ? Christopher Paolini’s abiding love of fantasy and science fiction inspired him to begin

    Eragon, when he graduated from high school at fifteen after beingwriting his debut novel,

    homeschooled all his life. He became a New York Times bestselling author at nineteen.

    Christopher lives in Montana, where the dramatic landscape feeds his visions of Alagaësia. He

    is at work on the final volume in the Inheritance trilogy. ? ? You can find out more about Christopher, Eldest, and Inheritance atwww.alagaesia.com . ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

    ? is also available in an unabridged audio edition from Listening Library ? ? Cassette ISBN 1-4000-9862-9 $45.00 U.S. / $65.00 CAN. ? ? ? CD ISBN 0-307-28072-1 $55.00 U.S. / $77.00 CAN. ? ? ? ? ? ?

A TWINDISASTER

    ?

    he songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living.? T

    ?

    ? So thought Eragon as he stepped over a twisted and hacked Urgal, listening to the keening ofwomen who removed loved ones from the blood-muddied ground of Farthen Dûr. Behind him Saphiradelicately skirted the corpse, her glittering blue scales the only color in the gloom thatfilled the hollow mountain.

    ?

    ? It was three days since the Varden and dwarves had fought the Urgals for possession ofTronjheim, the mile-high, conical city nestled in the center of Farthen Dûr, but thebattlefield was still strewn with carnage. The sheer number of bodies had stymied theirattempts to bury the dead. In the distance, a mountainous fire glowed sullenly by FarthenDûr’s wall where the Urgals were being burned. No burial or honored resting place for them.

    ?

    ? Since waking to find his wound healed by Angela, Eragon had tried three times to assist inthe recovery effort. On each occasion he had been racked by terrible pains that seemed toexplode from his spine. The healers gave him various potions to drink. Arya and Angela saidthat he was perfectly sound. Nevertheless, he hurt. Nor could Saphira help, only share hispain as it rebounded across their mental link.

    ?

    ? Eragon ran a hand over his face and looked up at the stars showing through Farthen Dûr’sdistant top, which were smudged with sooty smoke from the pyre. Three days. Three days since

    he had killed Durza; three days since people began calling him Shadeslayer; three days sincethe remnants of the sorcerer’s consciousness had ravaged his mind and he had been saved bythe mysterious Togira Ikonoka, the Cripple Who Is Whole. He had told no one about that visionbut Saphira. Fighting Durza and the dark spirits that controlled him had transformed Eragon;although for better or for worse he was still unsure. He felt fragile, as if a sudden shockwould shatter his reconstructed body and consciousness.

    ?

    ? And now he had come to the site of the combat, driven by a morbid desire to see itsaftermath. Upon arriving, he found nothing but the uncomfortable presence of death and decay,not the glory that heroic songs had led him to expect.

    ?

    ? Before his uncle, Garrow, was slain by the Ra’zac months earlier, the brutality that Eragonhad witnessed between the humans, dwarves, and Urgals would have destroyed him. Now it numbedhim. He had realized, with Saphira’s help, that the only way to stay rational amid such painwas to do things. Beyond that, he no longer believed that life possessed inherentmeaning—not after seeing men torn apart by the Kull, a race of giant Urgals, and the ground abed of thrashing limbs and the dirt so wet with blood it soaked through the soles of hisboots. If any honor existed in war, he concluded, it was in fighting to protect others fromharm.

    ?

    ? He bent and plucked a tooth, a molar, from the dirt. Bouncing it on his palm, he and Saphiraslowly made a circuit through the trampled plain. They stopped at its edge when they noticedJörmundur—Ajihad’s second in command in the Varden—hurrying toward them from Tronjheim.

    When he came near, Jörmundur bowed, a gesture Eragon knew he would never have made just daysbefore.

    ?

    ? “I’m glad I found you in time, Eragon.” He clutched a parchment note in one hand.“Ajihad is returning, and he wants you to be there when he arrives. The others are alreadywaiting for him by Tronjheim’s west gate. We’ll have to hurry to get there in time.”

    ?

    ? Eragon nodded and headed toward the gate, keeping a hand on Saphira. Ajihad had been gonemost of the three days, hunting down Urgals who had managed to escape into the dwarf tunnelsthat honeycombed the stone beneath the Beor Mountains. The one time Eragon had seen himbetween expeditions, Ajihad was in a rage over discovering that his daughter, Nasuada, haddisobeyed his orders to leave with the other women and children before the battle. Instead,she had secretly fought among the Varden’s archers.

    ?

    ? Murtagh and the Twins had accompanied Ajihad: the Twins because it was dangerous work andthe Varden’s leader needed the protection of their magical skills, and Murtagh because he waseager to continue proving that he bore the Varden no ill will. It surprised Eragon how muchpeople’s attitudes toward Murtagh had changed, considering that Murtagh’s father was theDragon Rider Morzan, who had betrayed the Riders to Galbatorix. Even though Murtagh despisedhis father and was loyal to Eragon, the Varden had not trusted him. But now, no one waswilling to waste energy on a petty hate when so much work remained. Eragon missed talking withMurtagh and looked forward to discussing all that had happened, once he returned.

    ?

    ? As Eragon and Saphira rounded Tronjheim, a small group became visible in the pool of lanternlight before the timber gate. Among them were Orik—the dwarf shifting impatiently on hisstout legs—and Arya. The white bandage around her upper arm gleamed in the darkness,reflecting a faint highlight onto the bottom of her hair. Eragon felt a strange thrill, as healways did when he saw the elf. She looked at him and Saphira, green eyes flashing, thencontinued watching for Ajihad.

    ?

    ? By breaking Isidar Mithrim—the great star sapphire that was sixty feet across and carved inthe shape of a rose—Arya had allowed Eragon to kill Durza and so win the battle. Still, thedwarves were furious with her for destroying their most prized treasure. They refused to movethe sapphire’s remains, leaving them in a massive circle inside Tronjheim’s central chamber.Eragon had walked through the splintered wreckage and shared the dwarves’ sorrow for all thelost beauty.

    ?

    ? He and Saphira stopped by Orik and looked out at the empty land that surrounded Tronjheim,extending to Farthen Dûr’s base five miles away in each direction. “Where will Ajihad comefrom?” asked Eragon.

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    ? Orik pointed at a cluster of lanterns staked around a large tunnel opening a couple of milesaway. “He should be here soon.”

    ?

    ? Eragon waited patiently with the others, answering comments directed at him but preferringto speak with Saphira in the peace of his mind. The quiet that filled Farthen Dûr suited him.

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    ? Half an hour passed before motion flickered in the distant tunnel. A group of ten menclimbed out onto the ground, then turned and helped up as many dwarves. One of the men—Eragonassumed it was Ajihad—raised a hand, and the warriors assembled behind him in two straightlines. At a signal, the formation marched proudly toward Tronjheim.

    ?

    ? Before they went more than five yards, the tunnel behind them swarmed with a flurry ofactivity as more figures jumped out. Eragon squinted, unable to see clearly from so far away.

    ?

    ?Those are Urgals! exclaimed Saphira, her body tensing like a drawn bowstring.

    ?

    ? Eragon did not question her. “Urgals!” he cried, and leaped onto Saphira, berating himselffor leaving his sword, Zar’roc, in his room. No one had expected an attack now that the Urgalarmy had been driven away.

    ?

    ? His wound twinged as Saphira lifted her azure wings, then drove them down and jumpedforward, gaining speed and altitude each second. Below them, Arya ran toward the tunnel,nearly keeping apace with Saphira. Orik trailed her with several men, while Jörmundur sprintedback toward the barracks.

    ?

    ? Eragon was forced to watch helplessly as the Urgals fell on the rear of Ajihad’s warriors;he could not work magic over such a distance. The monsters had the advantage of surprise andquickly cut down four men, forcing the rest of the warriors, men and dwarves alike, to clusteraround Ajihad in an attempt to protect him. Swords and axes clashed as the groups pressedtogether. Light flashed from one of the Twins, and an Urgal fell, clutching the stump of hissevered arm.

    ?

    ? For a minute, it seemed the defenders would be able to resist the Urgals, but then a swirlof motion disturbed the air, like a faint band of mist wrapping itself around the combatants.When it cleared, only four warriors were standing: Ajihad, the Twins, and Murtagh. The Urgalsconverged on them, blocking Eragon’s view as he stared with rising horror and fear.

    ?

    ? No! No! No!

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    ? Before Saphira could reach the fight, the knot of Urgals streamed back to the tunnel andscrambled underground, leaving only prone forms behind.

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    ? The moment Saphira touched down, Eragon vaulted off, then faltered, overcome by grief andanger. I can’t do this. It reminded him too much of when he had returned to the farm to findhis uncle Garrow dying. Fighting back his dread with every step, he began to search forsurvivors.

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