"Why didn't you say anything?"

"I beg your pardon?"

They'd been running since sunrise and it was almost midday. He was growing increasingly anxious, but Eragon had assured him they'd reach their destination soon. Dovahkiin was also upset. Not over their disagreement the previous night – he didn't regret that. What bothered him was how he'd slipped during the fight, and what might have happened.

He remembered his fight with Alduin, how he'd felt when confronting the ancient dragon-god. When his eyes met the dragon's, the effect had been overpowering. He'd wanted to flee and scream and despair, to cower in fear and desperation. At the same time, he'd wanted to give in, to obey, to be ruled. The mixture of fear and submission brought by the dragon's stare crushed his mortal soul, dominating and destroying at the same time, and he had felt his spirit scream as it was slowly and painfully ravaged. He understood then why they called him the World –Eater, and who was him, puny mortal, to deny Akatosh's firstborn what was rightfully his?

Then the beast inside him had roared. He was a dragon as well. He had the Thu'um, and he'd show the dragon whose was stronger. He'd snapped out of Alduin's aura of fear and reacted, letting his voice free, lashing him with mortality, with the power of Nord fury. But the moments where Alduin had taken over his soul would be forever engraved in his memories. And he was grateful for that.

He was grateful, for that had been the first time Dovahkiin felt the hold that himself imposed on people. He hadn't known until then what caused such terror in his enemies, what made even the fiercest foes whimper. He'd always assumed it was the fear of death. It wasn't; it was the fear of having their wills, their very souls, shattered into submission. He hadn't even known he did that, not until Aela had censored him.

"Would you please stop doing that? It's unsettling."

"Doing what?"

"Staring at them like that. The way you look at your foes, it gives me chills."

"Should I smile as I run them through?"

"That's not what I meant. It's…as if you're not only killing them, but also breaking them inside. It's unnatural. You have the eyes of a dragon, Dovahkiin, and it sometimes scares me. I'm glad we're on the same side."

He had sought out Paarthurnax, who'd explained how his dragon soul longed for power, how it took over weaker willed souls. Ever since, Dovahkiin has made a lot of effort to stop it from happening. He kept his dragon self at bay, trying to follow the Way of the Voice. It wasn't always easy, however, and Dovahkiin wouldn't hesitate to use his power if necessary – he just tried not to abuse it, so as to avoid waking the beast within. Sometimes, he slipped. He had been able to stop himself from doing any real harm to the girl the night before, fortunately.

He was shaken out of his thoughts by Eragon's voice.

"You knew we were lying. Why didn't you say anything?"

Ah, so that's what it was about.

"We are traveling together, Eragon, not getting married. I needn't to know your every secret, just have a common destination."

Eragon seemed taken aback by his reply. They walked in silence from that moment on, until around midafternoon, when the Varden came into view. Eragon's mood suddenly turned cheery.

"We made it! Murtagh, Thorn, hundreds of soldiers, Galbatorix's pet magicians, the Ra'zac - none of them could catch us. Ha! How's that for taunting the king? This'll tweak his beard for sure when he hears of it."

Dovahkiin was impressed. He didn't know who were Murtagh and Thorn, or what exactly was a Ra'zac, but it seemed the king had put great effort in finding Eragon – and failed miserably. He wondered, if their foe was this incompetent, how come they hadn't won the war yet. And mostly he wondered, if Eragon was this important, why hadn't the king come for him himself.

"He will be twice as dangerous then," warned Arya.

She was such a killjoy.

"I know," he said, grinning even wider. "Maybe he'll get so angry, he'll forget to pay his troops and they will all throw away their uniforms and join the Varden."

Dovahkiin found that unlikely, but appreciated his optimism nonetheless.

"You are in fine fettle today," she added

And why shouldn't he be?

"And why shouldn't I be?" Eragon asked

His point exactly.

He observed the approaching horseman, eager to finally join the rebels and get on with the action. Then the whispers coming from Eragon's hand seemed to intensify, rising into the full blown dragon-song he was familiar with. He was reminded once again of Skyrim's guards warning. Watch the skies, traveller. He looked above…

A sapphire-blue dragon dove out of a cloud. Dovahkiin's pulse quickened, adrenaline shooting through his veins. It spiraled to the ground, wings tucked close to its body. Its jaws opened, a stream of fire coming out of them, making the horses panic and bolt away. There goes his ride.

It hadn't said the words, Yol Toor Shul, but Dovahkiin wasn't too surprised with that – dragons could do that somehow, especially with the more physical, simpler shouts – Fus, Yol and Fo. On his first meeting with Alduin, for instance, the dragon had destroyed Helgen with Unrelenting Force without uttering a single word. On a whole different level, lesser dragons would extend the word, making the shout last longer while turning it into a roar.

The dragon landed with a thunderous crash, and Dovahkiin had to bite back Dragonrend. Friendly dragon. Friendly dragon. Think Paarthurnax, Odahviing and Durnehviir. That wasn't really helping – even "friendly dragons" weren't all that amiable. He couldn't help it - he reached for his sword, just in case. A blast of air struck his face, and the earth shuddered underneath him… then he noticed something. Something wrong. He blinked and counted again, just to make sure – but there they were. Four legs. Besides the usual back legs and wings, it also had two limbs sprouting from its front chest, deadly claws sticking out of the two front paws. Great, he thought, as if they weren't already dangerous enough.

The dragon fold its wings , and something about the graceful way it did it immediately told Dovahkiin the dragon was actually a "she". He hadn't even known there were female dragons – as far as he was aware, dragons came from Akatosh himself; they were closer to daedra than they were to mortals or animals. He'd heard stories of dragonlings and dragon eggs in the Iliac Bay, but those had been proven false. Perhaps those were not true dragons – they did look different, after all. Or perhaps- and that seemed increasingly likely – things just worked in distinct ways here. It was another world, so why not?

Eragon ran towards the dragon, climbing, leaping from foreleg to shoulder to neck, then hugging its neck, and Dovahkiin could not help but think that was such a bad idea. The dragon did not seem upset, however- it actually hummed, seemingly satisfied.

"Greetings, Saphira" said Arya, twisting her hand over her chest in a peculiar way.

He now knew it was definitely a she; Saphira – what a very un-dragonesque name that was. He wasn't sure about how to greet the dragon. He'd always be greeted by Odahviing with a powerful flame torrent, almost scorching him on spot. Dovahkiin knew he did it on purpose. Odahviing had taken to the way of the voice, controlling his rampaging instincts, and even though he'd much rather aid in wrecking and destroying, the dragon had become gradually more civilized – he had even stopped challenging Dovahkiin for power over and over. But still. Odahviing took pleasure in comparing his Thu'um, and Divines knew Dovahkiin was ablaze so often he sometimes wished he was Dunmer.

Paarthurnax, on the other hand, had taken mercy on his flammable nature, skipping the fire breath and greeting him with Drem Yol Lok instead. That was also how Durnehviir greeted him - or almost greeted him; the undead dragon was usually so eager to be free of the Cairn that he'd just barely say the first word.

He just decided to go with simple.

"Hi, dragon."

The beast turned to face him. For an instant, they locked eyes, and Dovahkiin shivered, struggling to control his own inner savagery that just wanted to leap on and show Saphira who would rule. Then the dragon spoke to him in his mind.

"Greetings, human."

He'd had people speak on his head before, from crazed mages to queen Potema herself – which, he supposed, still counted as a crazed mage – but never a dragon. He blinked , confused.

"Surprised?" Eragon remarks, "You did not take her for a simple beast, did you?"

He was surprised, but not for the reason the boy thought.

"That… that is not what I thought… I just did not expect her to speak in my head, that is all."

That seemed to amuse Eragon greatly.

"What, did you presume she'd open her jaws and speak?"

And why not? He took note of that as another singularity from this world.

"Ah, I suppose you are right. Then again, I've never had to worry about how was I to address a dragon."

Eragon reacted grimly to this.

"All that the wretched king's fault! One day, I swear, dragons will flourish in Alagaesia once again, their glory restored, and none will be ignorant to their ways."

The way he said it, as if that was something admirable, gave Dovakiin chills. He wondered if "dragon rider" was a species of "dragon priest", and his grip on Dawnbreaker grew tighter. Eragon took notice of that.

"You fear them, as all do, but you fail to commend to their beauty and glory."

Dovahkiin was outraged. He'd slain more dragons than he could count, one of which just happened to be a god. He most certainly did not fear them. He was wary of them, knew their strengths and weakness, knew their very nature better than any mortal possibly could, but fear? Not only it was shameful to fear the beasts he was born to hunt, he simply couldn't afford this kind of feeling, not if he wanted to stay alive.

However, before he could give Eragon piece of his mind, or rather, of his fist, he was approached by two men. They explained how Eragon had instructed them to find Dovahkiin a tent, where he should wait for orders. They beckoned him to follow, and he did, but not before looking for Eragon and realizing he was already far ahead. Just him wait.

They led him to a simple tent, nothing but a bedroll and a box where he could store his belongings inside. Above the box, he noted gratefully, they had left him a bowl of steaming food. Dumping his bag on the floor, he ate and, not bothering to get off his armor, crept in the bedroll and slept.

Early the next day, he was contacted by a courier, who said he was to report to their leader's pavilion, in the center of the encampment, as soon as possible. He picked up his bag – he never went anywhere without it – and, digging for the remaining supplies of the trip, he found some bread he ate on his way. The tent was easy to spot, for it was bigger than most, and it had a double row of guards on either side.

Some of those guards were of a species unknown to him – they looked like especially humongous orcs with horns. Others, he noted, were even more bizarre, looking like miniature men, as if someone had given an adult the body of a child. If he didn't find a "Pocket Guide to Alagaesia", he decided, he'd write his own.

One of the orc-things challenged him, saying,

"Who goes there?"

"I am Colin. A messenger went by my tent and told me your leader wanted me to report."

The man turned towards the tent.

"A man by the name of Colin requests an audience with you, Lady Nightstalker.", he announced.

"You may admit him", came the answer from inside.

He entered, curious about the one they called Nightstalker. The woman sat in a grand chair in a mostly empty pavilion – the only other furniture was a mirror, a low table, and a row of chairs arranged in a semicircle around the throne; those were, however, all empty. More guards were present; he counted at least twelve of them. On one end of the pavilion, he saw an opening, though for which purpose he could not tell.

The woman herself had ebony skin and mosslike hair, looking not so different from the Redguards he knew from Tamriel. Linen bandages encased her forearms, making Dovahkiin think perhaps the resemblance to the Redguards wasn't only physical.

"Greetings," he said, "Have you sent for me?"

She frowned, seemingly upset, and he wondered what he had done wrong. One of her guards was quick to clear that up.

"Do you not bow to your superiors, ruffian?"

He didn't, as a matter of fact. The whole servile attitude wasn't common in Tamriel, especially not amongst the proud nords. Even the jarls treated the lowest of beggars with equal footing. Perhaps the Cyrodillic milk-drinkers still held such subservient traditions, but he doubted even that – the age of slave-like customs was long past. Besides, if they did have such habits, people would bow to him and not the other way around.

He didn't want to make an issue out of that, but he didn't want to bow, either. Not only he did not acknowledge anyone as being above him, asides from the Nine and the Princes, but he also wasn't too good in taking orders. Besides, he was a dragon in everything but body, and dragons do not bow. He'd have to abide by their customs, though, but he refused to look this pathetic. He took a witty way out.

"Ordinarily, I do not", he said, with a grin, "But ordinarily, my superiors aren't beautiful ladies." He punctuated the sentence by bowing theatrically.

The man made as if to attack, but Nightstalker raised her hand. She narrowed her eyes at Dovahkiin.

"Eragon warned me about your sharp tongue, Colin, and I suggest you keep your wooing to yourself."

His grin turned into a mischievous smirk.

"As you wish, Lady Nightstalker.", he said, scorn evident in his eyes.

He was happy to see she didn't buy his compliant attitude. He wanted to make clear he'd take her orders only if he wanted to.

"As I stated before, Eragon told me of your deeds. You helped him. You also attacked him. "

That wasn't really fair, but he didn't protest, instead letting her finish.

"Truth is, Colin, I do not know what to think of you, and your little attitude does not speak in your favor. The one way I see to know for sure where your loyalties lie is to have one of my mages to check your mind. It's quick and painless, if you do not resist, and you'll be allowed to join the Varden immediately after. "

That was too much. He exploded.

"You seem to assume, Lady Nightstalker, that I'll permit your grunts to probe in my thoughts. I suggest you think again. Was it Eragon's idea, to ask you for what he couldn't get himself? Or are you all that meddlesome?", he snorted.

"I've barely met you rebels and so far I've been assaulted, physically and mentally, twice, by both the leader and her fabled first knight. I'm starting to repent my choices – I should go somewhere they'll respect my sodding privacy. The king, for instance, sounds like a better alternative every second."

She opened her mouth to reply, when laughter echoed from behind them. A little girl strolled casually inside, though how she had gotten past the guards was beyond him. She had piercing violet eyes and a marking on her forehead. Immediately, he knew it was the same Eragon had – the mark whispered to him morosely.

"He does have a point, you know." The little girl spoke, and like her eyes, her voice was that of a grown woman, though she looked no older than four. She walked in his direction, standing in front of him. She looked up, catching his eyes.

"So much pain in this one", she whispered, "such a great inner battle you fight every second."

Rather than scared, he found himself moved. There was something fundamentally wrong with the girl, and one so young shouldn't have to suffer. Despite himself, he smiled warmly.

"Don't worry about me, Durkiir ",he said, "I'm tough as nails."

Durkiir. Curse Child. The word seemed appropriate. A ruckus was heard outside, and a voice called out,

"Lady Nightstalker, Greta the caretaker requires an audience."

She turned to him.

"We'll discuss this later, Colin. I have more pressing issues.", then, in a louder tone, "Let her in."

Dovahkiin felt his skin crawl and reached for the pommel of the sword, then dropped his hand, as he heard a heavy thud, and the dragon stuck her head inside, through the opening in the tent. Ah, so that is what it is for. At the same time, an old woman entered the tent. Realizing this did not concern him anymore, he turned to leave, but felt a tug on his legs and looked down.

"Stay", the little girl told him. Nightstalker's neck whipped towards them.

"This does not concern him, Elva ."

"It concerns me, and I want him to stay."

Before they could argue any further, Dovahkiin's least favorite person in this world entered. Eragon was followed by a young woman with thick, curly brown hair and flashing eyes.

"You are late", said Nightstalker as they found seats in the rows of chairs. Realizing he was the only left standing, Dovahkiin took a seat for himself.

Eragon and the woman, whom he found out to be Angela, apologized for their tardiness. Then Nightstalker, whose name was actually Nasuada, discoursed about her importance to the Varden. Dovahkiin was horrified. Apparently the little girl had been cursed as a baby, by none other than Eragon himself, to feel the pain of those around her. And then, what was worse, they wanted her to keep the curse, for it was useful to them. It disgusted him that they would even consider to use a child in such treacherous ways.

Nasuada spoke, appealing to the girl's noble sentiments, the very ones she did not seem to have. When she was finished, Elva, who had been resting her small, pointed chin on her fists, raised her head and said, "No."

He hadn't expected any less. She continued. She spoke of her suffering, of how she felt the other's pain and had no choice but to endure it to. She told how other kids shunned away from her, how even adults shunned away from her. Then she finished with the most horrifying of it all – she hadn't even celebrated her second birthday.

Dovahkiin clenched his fists. He watched nauseated as they tried again and again to convince her. Then he observed as Eragon attempted to lift her curse. One thing caught his attention in the process – the fact that the magic was fueled by stamina rather than from the magic reserves. He knew magic flowed down from Aetherius into people – he'd been in the realm of the Aedra himself, and felt the essence of his magic energy. If these people's fuel had to come from their bodies, it could only mean their connection to Aetherius was weaker than his own, thus they had to compensate what they lacked in magic essence with the body's energy.

Eragon failed to remove her curse, and for some reason, Dovahkiin wasn't at all surprised. Then, in a completely unexpected twist, she realized though the feeling was still there, the side effects were gone, and, if controlled, her curse could now be turned into a gift. The desperation of having a new power not under their control was clear in Eragon and Nasuada's face, which amused him greatly.

It still bothered him that she could not, in the end, have the peace she wanted. Then a stray thought occurred to him. Elva turned to leave and he rose from his seat.

"Wait, Durkiir!" She stopped and faced him. He knelt down, so that they could look each other eye to eye.

"Yes?" she said, her tone stoic.

"I… I would like to try something, if I may. It might give you peace, if only for a brief moment."

He saw a flash of hope pass her eyes. She didn't say anything, so he took that as a consent. He opened his arms and embraced her in a hug, bringing his lips close to her ear so that only her could hear what he was about to say. Then, reaching deep within himself, he closed his eyes and whispered.

Kaan Drem Ov!

He felt the little girl relax in his arms as Kyne's peace swept over her. It was a shout more commonly used to tame wild beasts, but he knew the word's essence, and their purpose was exactly what it claimed to be: bring peace. They stood like that, Elva in his arms, for a couple of minutes, and no one dared to speak. Then she stiffened, and he knew the goddess' blessing was over. He released her, and saw she had tears in her eyes.

"Thank you", she said, and he knew her words were true. Then she turned to Nasuada, defiance stamped in her small features.

"Nasuada? If you want my aid, there are a few things I want in return. The first? He stays, and no mind reading."

The Varden leader seemed too flabbergasted to say anything, and Eragon was still in shock from the girl's previous verbal attacks at him. Elva swept off to the entrance and left, no one making a move to stop her. The members in the tent still seemed too stunned to actually do anything, so Dovahkiin decided he'd be better off somewhere else.

As he exited the tent, he couldn't bite back a fit of laughter. Who would have guessed he'd have friends in high places, after all?

And here's another chapter. Thanks for everyone who reviewed! I'm sorry this took this long - school getting in the way and all. Special thanks for those who make suggestions - they really help a lot! There is probably more I should say, but I'm just too sleepy, so I'll leave it at that.

Thanks for reading!