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Devils, Devils, Everywhere - Scott Lamridis

By Audrey Hill,2014-11-11 13:46
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Devils, Devils, Everywhere - Scott Lamridis

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

     Kvetha Fricaya. Greetings, Friends.

     Brisingrwas a fun, intense, and sometimes difficult book to write. When I started, I felt as if the story

    were a vast, three-dimensional puzzle that I had to solve without hints or instructions. I found the

    experience to be immensely satisfying, despite the challenges it occasionally posed.

     Because of its complexity,Brisingr ended up much larger than I anticipatedso much larger, in fact, that

    I had to expand the series from three books to four. Thus, the Inheritance trilogy became the Inheritance

    cycle. I‘m pleased with the change too. Having another volume in the series has allowed me to explore

    and develop the characters‘ personalities and relationships at a more natural pace.

     As withEragon andEldest, I never would have been able to complete this book without the support of a

    whole host of talented people, to whom I am ever grateful. They are:

     At home: Mom, for her food, tea, advice, sympathy, endless patience, and optimism; Dad, for his unique

    perspective, razor-sharp observations on story and prose, helping me to name the book, and for coming

    up with the idea of having Eragon‘s sword burst into flame every time he says its name (very cool); and

    my one and only sister, Angela, for once again consenting to reprise her character and for numerous

    pieces of information on names, plants, and all things wool.

     At Writers House: Simon Lipskar, my agent, for his friendship, his hard work, and for giving me a

    much-needed kick in the pants early on inBrisingr (without which I might have taken another two years

    to finish the book); and his assistant Josh Getzler for all he does on behalf of Simon and the Inheritance

    cycle.

     At Knopf: my editor, Michelle Frey, who did an awesome job of helping me to clean up and tighten the

    manuscript (the first draft wasmuch longer); associate editor Michele Burke, who also labored over the

    editing and who helped pull together the synopsis ofEragon andEldest; head of communications and

    marketing Judith Haut, who from the beginning spread word of the series throughout the land; publicity

    director Christine Labov; art director Isabel Warren-Lynch and her team for again putting together such

    a classy-looking book; John Jude Palencar for a majestic cover painting (I don‘t know how he can top it

    with the fourth book!); executive copy editor Artie Bennett for checking every word, real or invented, in

    Brisingr with such consummate care; Chip Gibson, head of the children‘s division at Random House;

    Knopf publishing director Nancy Hinkel for her unwavering support; Joan DeMayo, director of sales and

    her team (huzzah and many thanks!); head of marketing John Adamo, whose team designed such

    impressive materials; Linda Leonard, new media, for all her efforts with online marketing; Linda

    Palladino, Milton Wackerow, and Carol Naughton, production; Pam White, Jocelyn Lange, and the rest

    of the subsidiary rights team, who have done a truly extraordinary job of selling the Inheritance cycle in

    countries and languages throughout the world; Janet Renard, copyediting; and everyone else at Knopf

    who has supported me.

     At Listening Library: Gerard Doyle, who brings the world of Ala gaësia to life with his voice; Taro

    Meyer for getting the pronunciation of my languages just right; Orli Moscowitz for pulling all the threads

    together; and Amanda D‘Acierno, publisher of Listening Library.

     Thank you all.

     The Craft of the Japanese Swordby Leon and Hiroko Kapp and Yoshindo Yoshihara provided me

    with much of the information I needed to accurately describe the smelting and forging process in the

    chapter ―Mind over Metal.‖ I highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested in learning more

    about (specifically Japanese) swordmaking. Did you know that Japanese smiths used to start their fires

    by hammering on the end of a bar of iron until it was red-hot, then touching it to a cedar shingle that was

    coated with sulfur?

     Also, for those who understood the reference to a ―lonely god‖ when Eragon and Arya are sitting

    around the campfire, my only excuse is that the Doctor can travel everywhere, even alternate realities.

     Hey, I‘m a fan too!

     Finally, and most importantly, thank you. Thank you for readingBrisingr. And thank you for sticking

    with the Inheritance cycle through all these years. Without your support, I never would have been able to

    write this series, and I can‘t imagine anything else I would rather be doing.

     Once again Eragon and Saphira‘s adventures are over, and once again we have arrived at the end of this

    wandering path . . . but only for the time being. Many more miles still lie before us. Book Four will be

    published just as soon as I can finish it, and I can promise you, it‘s going to be the most exciting

    installment in the series. I can‘t wait for you to read it!

     Sé onr sverdar sitja hvass!

     Christopher Paolini

     September 20, 2008

     THEGATES OFDEATH

     Eragon stared at the dark tower of stone wherein hid the monsters who had murdered his uncle,

    Garrow.

     He was lying on his belly behind the edge of a sandy hill dotted with sparse blades of grass, thornbushes,

    and small, rosebudlike cactuses. The brittle stems of last year‘s foliage pricked his palms as he inched

    forward to gain a better view of Helgrind, which loomed over the surrounding land like a black dagger

    thrust out from the bowels of the earth.

     The evening sun streaked the low hills with shadows long and narrow and

    far in the westilluminated

    the surface of Leona Lake so that the horizon became a rippling bar of gold.

     To his left, Eragon heard the steady breathing of his cousin, Roran, who was stretched out beside him.

    The normally inaudible flow of air seemed preternaturally loud to Eragon with his heightened sense of

    hearing, one of many such changes wrought by his experience during the Agaetí Blödhren, the elves‘

    Blood-oath Celebration.

     He paid little attention to that now as he watched a column of people inch toward the base of Helgrind,

    apparently having walked from the city of Dras-Leona, some miles away. A contingent of twenty-four

    men and women, garbed in thick leather robes, occupied the head of the column. This group moved with

    many strange and varied gaitsthey limped and shuffled and humped and

    wriggled; they swung on

    crutches or used arms to propel themselves forward on curiously short legs

    contortions that were

    necessary because, as Eragon realized, every one of the twenty-four lacked an arm or a leg or some

    combination thereof. Their leader sat upright upon a litter borne by six oiled slaves, a pose Eragon

    regarded as a rather amazing accomplishment, considering that the man or womanhe could not tell

    whichconsisted of nothing more than a torso and head, upon whose brow balanced an ornate leather

    crest three feet high.

     ―The priests of Helgrind,‖ he murmured to Roran.

     ―Can they use magic?‖

     ―Possibly. I dare not explore Helgrind with my mind until they leave, for if anyare magicians, they will

    sense my touch, however light, and our presence will be revealed.‖

     Behind the priests trudged a double line of young men swathed in gold cloth. Each carried a rectangular

    metal frame subdivided by twelve horizontal crossbars from which hung iron bells the size of winter

    rutabagas. Half of the young men gave their frames a vigorous shake when they stepped forward with

    their right foot, producing a dolorous cacophony of notes, while the other half shook their frames when

    they advanced upon the left foot, causing iron tongues to crash against iron throats and emit a mournful

    clamor that echoed over the hills. The acolytes accompanied the throbbing of the bells with their own

    cries, groaning and shouting in an ecstasy of passion.

     At the rear of the grotesque procession trudged a comet‘s tail of inhabitants from Dras-Leona: nobles,

    merchants, tradesmen, several high-ranking military commanders, and a motley collection of those less

    fortunate, such as laborers, beggars, and common foot soldiers.

     Eragon wondered if Dras-Leona‘s governor, Marcus Tábor, was somewhere in their midst.

     Drawing to a stop at the edge of the precipitous mound of scree that ringed Helgrind, the priests

    gathered on either side of a rustcolored boulder with a polished top. When the entire column stood

    motionless before the crude altar, the creature upon the litter stirred and began to chant in a voice as

    discordant as the moaning of the bells. The shaman‘s declamations were repeatedly truncated by gusts of

    wind, but Eragon caught snatches of the ancient languagestrangely twisted

    and

    mispronouncedinterspersed with dwarf and Urgal words, all of which were united by an archaic dialect

    of Eragon‘s own tongue. What he understood caused him to shudder, for the sermon spoke of things

    best left unknown, of a malevolent hate that had festered for centuries in the dark caverns of people‘s

    hearts before being allowed to flourish in the Riders‘ absence, of blood and madness, and of foul rituals

    performed underneath a black moon.

     At the end of that depraved oration, two of the lesser priests rushed forward and lifted their masteror

    mistress, as the case might beoff the litter and onto the face of the altar. Then the High Priest issued a

    brief order. Twin blades of steel winked like stars as they rose and fell. A rivulet of blood sprang from

    each of the High Priest‘s shoulders, flowed down the leather-encased torso, and then pooled across the

    boulder until it overflowed onto the gravel below.

     Two more priests jumped forward to catch the crimson flow in goblets that, when filled to the rim, were

    distributed among the members of the congregation, who eagerly drank.

     ―Gar!‖ said Roran in an undertone. ―You failed to mention that those errant flesh-mongers, those

    gore-bellied, boggle-minded idiotworshipers werecannibals .‖

     ―Not quite. They do not partake of the meat.‖

     When all the attendees had wet their throats, the servile novitiates returned the High Priest to the litter

    and bound the creature‘s shoulders with strips of white linen. Wet blotches quickly sullied the virgin cloth.

     The wounds seemed to have no effect upon the High Priest, for the limbless figure rotated back toward

    the devotees with their lips of cranberry red and pronounced, ―Now are you truly my Brothers and

    Sisters, having tasted the sap of my veins here in the shadow of almighty Helgrind. Blood calls to blood,

    and if ever your Family should need help, do then what you can for the Church and for others who

    acknowledge the power of our Dread Lord. . . . To affirm and reaffirm our fealty to the Triumvirate,

    recite with me the Nine Oaths. . . . By Gorm, Ilda, and Fell Angvara, we vow to perform homage at least

    thrice a month, in the hour before dusk, and then to make an offering of ourselves to appease the eternal

    hunger of our Great and Terrible Lord. . . . We vow to observe the strictures as they are presented in the

    book of Tosk. . . . We vow to always carry our Bregnir on our bodies and to forever abstain from the

    twelve of twelves and the touch of a many-knotted rope, lest it corrupt . . .‖

     A sudden rise in the wind obscured the rest of the High Priest‘s list.

    Then Eragon saw those who listened

    take out a small, curved knife and, one by one, cut themselves in the crook of their elbows and anoint the

    altar with a stream of their blood.

     Some minutes later, the angry breeze subsided and Eragon again heard the priest: ―. . . and such things

    as you long and lust for will be granted to you as a reward for your obedience. . . . Our worship is

    complete. However, if any now stand among you who are brave enough to demonstrate the true depth of

    their faith, let them show themselves!‖

     The audience stiffened and leaned forward, their faces rapt; this, apparently, was what they had been

    waiting for.

     For a long, silent pause, it seemed as if they would be disappointed, but then one of the acolytes broke

    ranks and shouted, ―I will!‖ With a roar of delight, his brethren began to brandish their bells in a quick

    and savage beat, whipping the congregation into such a frenzy, they jumped and yelled as if they had

    taken leave of their senses. The rough music kindled a spark of excitement in Eragon‘s heart—despite his

    revulsion at the proceedingswaking some primal and brutish part of him.

     Shedding his gold robes so that he wore nothing but a leather breechcloth, the dark-haired youth sprang

    on top of the altar. Gouts of ruby spray erupted on either side of his feet. He faced Helgrind and began to

    shiver and quake as if stricken with palsy, keeping time with the tolling of the cruel iron bells. His head

    rolled loosely upon his neck, foam gathered at the corners of his mouth, his arms thrashed like snakes.

    Sweat oiled his muscles until he gleamed like a bronze statue in the dying light.

     The bells soon reached a manic tempo where one note clashed against another, at which point the young

    man thrust a hand out behind himself. Into it, a priest deposited the hilt of a bizarre implement: a

    single-edged weapon, two and a half feet long, with a full tang, scale grips, a vestigial crossguard, and a

    broad, flat blade that widened and was scalloped near the end, a shape reminiscent of a dragon wing. It

    was a tool designed for but one purpose: to hack through armor and bones and sinew as easily as

    through a bulging waterskin.

     The young man lifted the weapon so that it slanted toward the highest peak of Helgrind. Then he

    dropped to one knee and, with an incoherent cry, brought the blade down across his right wrist.

     Blood sprayed the rocks behind the altar.

     Eragon winced and averted his eyes, although he could not escape the youth‘s piercing screams. It was

    nothing Eragon had not seen in battle, but it seemed wrong to deliberately mutilate yourself when it was

    so easy to become disfigured in everyday life.

     Blades of grass rasped against one another as Roran shifted his weight. He muttered some curse, which

    was lost in his beard, and then fell silent again.

     While a priest tended to the young man‘s wound—stanching the bleeding with

    a spellan acolyte let

    loose two slaves from the High Priest‘s litter, only to chain them by the ankles to an iron loop embedded

    in the altar. Then the acolytes divested themselves of numerous packages from underneath their robes

    and piled them on the ground, out of reach of the slaves.

     Their ceremonies at an end, the priests and their retinue departed Helgrind for Dras-Leona, wailing and

    ringing the entire way. The now one-handed zealot stumbled along just behind the High Priest.

     A beatific smile graced his face.

     ―Well,‖ said Eragon, and released his pent-up breath as the column

    vanished behind a distant hill.

     ―Well what?‖

     ―I‘ve traveled among both dwarves and elves, and nothing they did was ever as strange as what those

    people, thosehumans, do.‖

     ―They‘re as monstrous as the Ra‘zac.‖ Roran jerked his chin toward Helgrind. ―Can you find out now if

    Katrina is in there?‖

     ―I‘ll try. But be ready to run.‖

     Closing his eyes, Eragon slowly extended his consciousness outward, moving from the mind of one living

    thing to another, like tendrils of water seeping through sand. He touched teeming cities of insects

    frantically scurrying about their business, lizards and snakes hidden among warm rocks, diverse species

    of songbirds, and numerous small mammals. Insects and animals alike bustled with activity as they

    prepared for the fast-approaching night, whether by retreating to their various dens or, in the case of

    those of a nocturnal bent, by yawning, stretching, and otherwise readying themselves to hunt and forage.

     Just as with his other senses, Eragon‘s ability to touch another being‘s thoughts diminished with distance.

    By the time his psychic probe arrived at the base of Helgrind, he could perceive only the largest of

    animals, and even those but faintly.

     He proceeded with caution, ready to withdraw at a second‘s notice if he happened to brush against the

    minds of their prey: the Ra‘zac and the Ra‘zac‘s parents and steeds, the gigantic Lethrblaka. Eragon was

    willing to expose himself in this manner only because none of the Ra‘zac‘s breed could use magic, and he

    did not believe that they were mindbreakersnonmagicians trained to fight

    with telepathy. The Ra‘zac

    and Lethrblaka had no need for such tricks when their breath alone could induce a stupor in the largest of

    men.

     And though Eragon risked discovery by his ghostly investigation, he, Roran, and Saphirahad to know if

    the Ra‘zac had imprisoned Katrina—Roran‘s betrothed—in Helgrind, for the

    answer would determine

    whether their mission was one of rescue or one of capture and interrogation.

     Eragon searched long and hard. When he returned to himself, Roran was watching him with the

    expression of a starving wolf. His gray eyes burned with a mixture of anger, hope, and despair that was

    so great, it seemed as if his emotions might burst forth and incinerate everything in sight in a blaze of

    unimaginable intensity, melting the very rocks themselves.

     This Eragon understood.

     Katrina‘s father, the butcher Sloan, had betrayed Roran to the Ra‘zac. When they failed to capture him,

    the Ra‘zac had instead seized Katrina from Roran‘s bedroom and spirited her away from Palancar

    Valley, leaving the inhabitants of Carvahall to be killed and enslaved by King Galbatorix‘s soldiers.

Unable to pursue Katrina, Roran hadjust in timeconvinced the villagers to

    abandon their homes and

    to follow him across the Spine and then south along the coast of Alagaësia, where they joined forces with

    the rebel Varden. The hardships they endured as a result had been many and terrible. But circuitous as it

    was, that course had reunited Roran with Eragon, who knew the location of the Ra‘zac‘s den and had

    promised to help save Katrina.

     Roran had only succeeded, as he later explained, because the strength of his passion drove him to

    extremes that others feared and avoided, and thus allowed him to confound his enemies.

     A similar fervor now gripped Eragon.

     He would leap into harm‘s way without the slightest regard for his own safety if someone he cared for

    was in danger. He loved Roran as a brother, and since Roran was to marry Katrina, Eragon had

    extended his definition of family to include her as well. This concept seemed even more important

    because Eragon and Roran were the last heirs of their line. Eragon had renounced all affiliation with his

    birth brother, Murtagh, and the only relatives he and Roran had left were each other, and now Katrina.

     Noble sentiments of kinship were not the only force that drove the pair. Another goal obsessed them as

    well:revenge! Even as they plotted to snatch Katrina from the grasp of the Ra‘zac, so the two

    warriorsmortal man and Dragon Rider alike—sought to slay King Galbatorix‘s

    unnatural servants for

    torturing and murdering Garrow, who was Roran‘s father and had been as a father to Eragon.

     The intelligence, then, that Eragon had gleaned was as important to him as to Roran.

     ―I think I felt her,‖ he said. ―It‘s hard to be certain, because we‘re so far from Helgrind and I‘ve never

    touched her mind before, but Ithink she‘s in that forsaken peak, concealed somewhere near the very

top.‖

     ―Is she sick? Is she injured? Blast it, Eragon, don‘t hide it from me:

    have they hurt her?‖

     ―She‘s in no pain at the moment. More than that, I cannot say, for it required all my strength just to make

    out the glow of her consciousness; I could not communicate with her.‖ Eragon refrained from mentioning,

    however, that he had detected a second person as well, one whose identity he suspected and the

    presence of whom, if confirmed, troubled him greatly. ―What Ididn‘t find were the Ra‘zac or the

    Lethrblaka. Even if I somehow overlooked the Ra‘zac, their parents are so

    large, their life force should

    blaze like a thousand lanterns, even as Saphira‘s does. Aside from Katrina and a few other dim specks

    of light, Helgrind is black, black, black.‖

     Roran scowled, clenched his left fist, and glared at the mountain of rock, which was fading into the dusk

    as purple shadows enveloped it. In a low, flat voice, as if talking with himself, he said, ―It doesn‘t matter

    whether you are right or wrong.‖

     ―How so?‖

     ―We dare not attack tonight; night is when the Ra‘zac are strongest, and

    if theyare nearby, it would be

    stupid to fight them when we‘re at a disadvantage. Agreed?‖

     ―Yes.‖

     ―So, we wait for the dawn.‖ Roran gestured toward the slaves chained to the gory altar. ―If those poor

    wretches are gone by then, we know the Ra‘zac are here, and we proceed as planned. If not, we curse

    our bad luck that they escaped us, free the slaves, rescue Katrina, and fly back to the Varden with her

    before Murtagh hunts us down. Either way, I doubt the Ra‘zac will leave Katrina unattended for long, not

    if Galbatorix wants her to survive so he can use her as a tool against me.‖

     Eragon nodded. He wanted to release the slaves now, but doing so could warn their foes that something

    was amiss. Nor, if the Ra‘zac came to collect their dinner, could he and

    Saphira intercede before the

    slaves were ferried away. A battle in the open between a dragon and creatures such as the Lethrblaka

    would attract the attention of every man, woman, and child for leagues around. And Eragon did not think

    he, Saphira, or Roran could survive if Galbatorix learned they were alone in his empire.

     He looked away from the shackled men.For their sake, I hope the Ra‘zac are on the other side of

    Alagaësia or, at least, that the Ra‘zac aren‘t hungry tonight .

     By unspoken consent, Eragon and Roran crawled backward down from the crest of the low hill they

    were hiding behind. At the bottom, they rose into a half crouch, then turned and, still doubled over, ran

    between two rows of hills. The shallow depression gradually deepened into a narrow, flood-carved gully

    lined with crumbling slabs of shale.

     Dodging the gnarled juniper trees that dotted the gully, Eragon glanced up and, through clumps of

    needles, saw the first constellations to adorn the velvet sky. They seemed cold and sharp, like bright

    shards of ice. Then he concentrated on maintaining his footing as he and Roran trotted south toward their

    camp.

     AROUND THECAMPFIRE

     The low mound of coals throbbed like the heart of some giant beast. Occasionally, a patch of gold

    sparks flared into existence and raced across the surface of the wood before vanishing into a white-hot

    crevice.

     The dying remnants of the fire Eragon and Roran had built cast a dim red light over the surrounding area,

    revealing a patch of rocky soil, a few pewter-gray bushes, the indistinct mass of a juniper tree farther off,

    then nothing.

     Eragon sat with his bare feet extended toward the nest of ruby embers

    enjoying the warmthand with

    his back propped against the knobby scales of Saphira‘s thick right foreleg. Opposite him, Roran was

    perched on the iron-hard, sun-bleached, wind-worn shell of an ancient tree trunk. Every time he moved,

    the trunk produced a bitter shriek that made Eragon want to claw at his ears.

     For the moment, quiet reigned within the hollow. Even the coals smoldered in silence; Roran had

    collected only long-dead branches devoid of moisture to eliminate any smoke that unfriendly eyes might

    spot.

     Eragon had just finished recounting the day‘s activities to Saphira.

    Normally, he never had to tell her

    what he had been doing, as thoughts, feelings, and other sensations flowed between them as easily as

    water from one side of a lake to another. But in this instance it was necessary because Eragon had kept

    his mind carefully shielded during the scouting expedition, aside from his disembodied foray into the

    Ra‘zac‘s lair.

     After a considerable gap in the conversation, Saphira yawned, exposing her rows of many fearsome

    teeth.Cruel and evil they may be, but I am impressed that the Ra‘zac can

    bewitch their prey into

    wantingto be eaten. They are great hunters to do that. . . . Perhaps I shall attempt it someday .

     But not,Eragon felt compelled to add,with people. Try it with sheep instead .

     People, sheep: what difference is there to a dragon?Then she laughed deep in her long throata

    rolling rumble that reminded him of thunder.

     Leaning forward to take his weight off Saphira‘s sharp-edged scales,

    Eragon picked up the hawthorn

    staff that lay by his side. He rolled it between his palms, admiring the play of light over the polished tangle

    of roots at the top and the much-scratched metal ferrule and spike at the base.

     Roran had thrust the staff into his arms before they left the Varden on the Burning Plains, saying, ―Here.

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