The Council of Elders
breathing quickened, and she opened her eyes, yawning
expansively. Good morning, little one.
it? He looked down and leaned on his hands,
compressing the mattress. It's terrible . .
. Murtagh and Ajihad . . . Why didn't sentries in
the tunnels warn us of the Urgals? They shouldn't
have been able to trail Ajihad's group without being
noticed. . . . Arya was right, it doesn't make sense.
may never know the truth, said Saphira gently.
She stood, wings brushing the ceiling. You need
to eat, then we must discover what the Varden are
planning. We can't waste time; a new leader could
be chosen within hours.
agreed, thinking of how they had left everyone yesterday:
Orik rushing off to give King Hrothgar the tidings,
Jörmundur taking Ajihad's body to a place where
it would rest until the funeral, and Arya, who stood
alone and watched the goings-on.
rose and strapped on Zar'roc and his bow, then bent
and lifted Snowfire's saddle. A line of pain sheared
through his torso, driving him to the floor, where
he writhed, scrabbling at his back. It felt like
he was being sawed in half. Saphira growled as the
ripping sensation reached her. She tried to soothe
him with her own mind but was unable to alleviate
his suffering. Her tail instinctually lifted, as
if to fight.
took minutes before the fit subsided and the last
throb faded away, leaving Eragon gasping. Sweat
drenched his face, making his hair stick and his
eyes sting. He reached back and gingerly fingered
the top of his scar. It was hot and inflamed and
sensitive to touch. Saphira lowered her nose and
touched him on the arm. Oh, little one. . .
was worse this time, he said, staggering upright.
She let him lean against her as he wiped away the
sweat with a rag, then he tentatively stepped for
you strong enough to go?
have to. We're obliged as dragon and Rider to make
a public choice regarding the next head of the Varden,
and perhaps even influence the selection. I won't
ignore the strength of our position; we now wield
great authority written the Varden. At least the
Twins aren't here to grab the position for themselves.
That's the only good in the situation.
well, but Durza should suffer a thousand years of
torture for what he did to you.
grunted. Just stay close to me.
they made their way through Tronjheim, toward the
nearest kitchen. In the corridors and hallways,
people stopped and bowed to them, murmuring, "Argetlam,"
or "Shadeslayer." Even dwarves made the motions,
though not as often. Eragon was struck by the somber,
haunted expressions of the humans and the dark clothing
they wore to display their sadness. Many women dressed
entirely in black, lace veils covering their faces.
the kitchen, Eragon brought a stone platter of food
to a low table. Saphira watched him carefully in
case he should have another attack. Several people
tried to approach him, but she lifted a lip and
growled sending them scurrying away. Eragon pretended
to ignore the disturbances and picked at the food.
Finally, trying to divert his thoughts from Murtagh,
he asked, Who do you think has the means to
take control of the Varden, now that Ajihad and
the Twins are gone?
hesitated. It's possible you could, if Ajihad's
last words were interpreted as a blessing to secure
the leadership. Almost no one would oppose you.
However, that does not seem a wise path to take.
I see only trouble in that direction.
agree. Besides, Arya wouldn't approve, and she could
be a dangerous enemy. Elves can't lie in the ancient
language, but they have no such inhibition in ours-she
could deny that Ajihad ever uttered those words
if it served her purposes. No, I don't want the
position. . . . What about Jörmundur?
called him his right-hand man. Unfortunately, we
know little about him or the Varden's other leaders.
Such a short time has passed since we came here.
We will have to make our judgment on our feelings
and impressions, without the benefit of history.
pushed his fish around a lump of mashed tubers.
Don't forget Hrothgar and the dwarf clans; they
won't be quiet in this. Except for Arya, the elves
have no say in the succession-a decision will be
made before word of this even reaches them. But
the dwarves can't be-won't be-ignored. Hrothgar
favors the Varden, but if enough clans oppose him,
he might be maneuvered into backing someone unsuited
for the command.
who might that be?
person easily manipulated. He closed his eyes
and leaned back. It could be anyone in Farthen
Dûr, anyone at all.