Cythraul's Amulet

Chapter Ten: The Ties that Bind


[Alagaesia] - [The Broddring Kingdom]

[Evander]

The vast plains that surrounded the capital of Alagaesia often bustled with traveling merchants, vagabonds, or other simple travelers now that times were safer. Because of this, Eragon had advised that they fly above the clouds to avoid being seen.

Evander had silently protested this, though he reluctantly obeyed. He would have rather enjoyed flying over the rolling lands of Alagaesia. The terrain on the island was mostly forests and mountains - and that was just what they had discovered so far. Alagaesia was much more open and Evander wanted nothing more than to raise his arms in the air and fly with Lenora through grassy meadows and silver lakes.

"It is a feeling like no other." His father suddenly commented. Evander blinked as he realized that his mental barriers were not up.

His father seemed amused. "Do not worry, Evander." Eragon began. "Even though our time here now is not for pleasure I promise you we will return one day soon after all this is over." He said with a smile.

His father seemed far away for a moment, distant in thought. Evander wondered if their discussion reminded his father of past events, when he was on the run with Brom, his grandfather.

"I still do not understand why we cannot fly below the clouds..." Evander grumbled, looking away from his father.

"I would rather not attract attention right now." Eragon replied, wearing a grin at his son's reaction. "I was never fond of the attention Dragon Riders got anyways, and besides, while there is peace in Alagaesia I feel that many people of this land are still wary of trusting the Riders." Eragon explained. "We will descend once we near Ilirea."

Evander nodded in silent understanding as they flew high above the clouds. It was a good point he not even thought of. Evander had always known Vroengard; and, although he had made many travels to Alagaesia, he had not seen as much then as he had on this journey. It made him envious of his father, for he yearned to be a part of something as magnificent a journey as the great Eragon Shadeslayer had.

Evanders thoughts soon drifted as he glanced at Angela. He was surprised to see that she didn't seem bothered or uncomfortable, despite the wary look on her face. Most people would probably never get back on after reaching to such heights, or from the extreme chafing the saddle gave to your legs.

But Angela raised no qualms as she gazed outwards as they flew between the clouds and the blue sky. Even Evander had to admit the sight was breath taking, yet something still did not feel right.

"What troubles you, little one?" Lenora asked.

"It's nothing…I just had a strange feeling, like…." Evander paused as a sour look covered his face. "It's probably nothing." He said, brushing it off.

"I doubt that." Lenora replied as a plume of smoke ejected from her large nostrils.

"Why would you doubt that?" Evander asked curiously.

"Because, as a dragon rider you are bound to certain laws of nature, and of magic, and these 'feelings' that you get are probably not a mere coincidence." Lenora replied.

Evander chuckled. "Are you saying that I am having premonitions?"

Another large plume of smoke ejected from Lenora's nostrils as she glanced back at Evander. "Do not think the idea so far-fetched, little one, after all your father had unexplainable vision's when your mother was imprisoned, and Selena – for whatever reason – has a strange connection to the amulet your father carries."

"What are you saying?" Evander asked with a frown.

"I am saying that while you are certainly no prophet, your deep connection with magic may give you instinctual warnings of dangers to come, but that is not to say it may also simply be a stomach ache." Lenora replied.

"Well, I'd rather it be a stomach ache than storm clouds…" Evander replied.


[Capitol City – Ilirea] – [Alageasia]

[Eragon]

The group arrived at the bustling capital of Ilirea, and Eragon was surprised to see that Roran was there too. Murtagh, Nausada, Roran and the remaining members of the high council greeted them, and Lenora and Saphira flew off to the Dragon Hold where Thorn had been resting, to join him for a hunt.

"Roran, my cousin, I did not expect to see you here." Eragon said as he approached his cousin, greeting him with a hug.

"Aye," Roran replied with a smile. "I received word several days ago to deal with a troublesome incident in Dras Leona." His face suddenly fell grim. "Actually it's rather a good thing you showed up now, we may need your help."

Eragon appeared surprised. "What with? What has happened in Dras Leona?" He asked curiously.

"Let us not speak of such things outside." Nasuada replied in a hushed tone. "We shall speak more inside the Council Chambers, where unwanted ears cannot pry.

oOo

Nasuada led Eragon, Evander and Angela inside the large chambers of the Court of the High Council. The members of the High Council all stood as Eragon stepped through the threshold, followed closely by Evander and Angela.

"Lord Eragon and company, let me introduce to you our members of the High Council." Nasuada began. "We have Leon who represents Dras Leona, Aeron who represents Gil'ead and Hanna who represents Therinsfold. You, of course, already know myself and Roran so there is no need for an introduction there." She explained. "Unfortunately Lord Risthart, who represents Teirm, could not make it. However we have sent a message by raven informing him of recent events. He should be arriving in Dras Leona within the week."

"I see." Eragon replied as he scanned the room. He looked back at Nasuada and motioned for her to step away from the group. "Are you sure they can be trusted?" Eragon asked her in a low tone as they faced away from the council.

Nasuada looked oddly at Eragon. "Of course." She replied with certainty. "Everyone here as sworn an oath in the ancient language – Murtagh saw to that personally…." Nasuada eyed Eragon curiously. "I am surprised you would ask such a question – not that you cannot, you are Lord Rider after all, but what could make you question the High Council's loyalty?"

"It's not the Councils loyalty I question." Eragon began with a sigh. "Recent events have made it difficult to know who can be trusted – Nausada, I carry with me something far more dangerous than I thought when I left Vroengard."

Nasuada's eyes fell to the bag slung across Eragon's chest. "Is that why Angela is with you?" She asked.

"All shall be revealed." Eragon replied as he walked past Nasuada and towards the large table. "I apologize for out sudden arrival, council members." Eragon began, giving everyone a curt bow.

Nasuada walked past Eragon and took her seat at the head of the table, with Murtagh and Jormundur on either side of her.

"Recent events on the island of Vroengard have forced me to return to Alagaesia, and the capitol." Eragon continued. "Nasuada has informed me that you all have taken an oath as members of the high council by Murtagh, my brother, and that relieves me greatly." Eragon paused and continued to eye the members with some scrutiny. "However I must stress that what I am about to tell you must remain within these walls, and are not to be repeated to anyone other than ourselves, is that understood?"

"You have my full support, Lord Eragon." Representative Leon replied with a curt bow. Representative Hanna and Aeron too bowed and replied with a simple but honest 'Aye'. Eragon seemed pleased by the response, and then placed his bag on the table before opening it and removing the amulet.

"What exactly are we looking at?" Roran asked curiously.

"Clearly it's a trinket of some sort. A piece of jewelry?" Representative Aeron replied, scratching his chin.

"It is much more than that." Eragon said, and then he proceeded to explain to everyone what has happened thus far.

The group, who had all taken a seat by now, was silently pondering the information Eragon had given them.

"But, there is no way to determine whether or not this…object truly means us harm?" Aeron asked after several minutes of silence.

"The evidence is clear enough for me." Eragon replied. "What happened to my daughter, and what I experienced at Osilon cannot be explained, not even by any magical means that I know of."

The group appeared even more worried after hearing this.

"So, what now?" Representative Hanna asked. "We have our own problems to deal with and cannot possibly extend all our resources to uncover this mystery." She explained.

"And I do not ask that of any of you." Eragon replied, eyeing everyone intently. "We are only here to search for something hidden in this castle."

Everyone looked at each with some confusion. "Something hidden? How is that possible?" Nasuada asked. "Did not you, Murtagh and Arya search this castle from top to bottom after the war?"

Eragon nodded. "Indeed, we did, Queen Nasuada. However, at the time I was not as strong as I am now." Eragon took a moment to pause and look everyone. "I do not mean to boast, however it has been twenty years since then, and as Lead Rider I have made much progress is easing the minds of many of the Eldunari hidden within the Vault of Souls." He explained. "Unlike then, now I have much more help, and we – " Eragon glanced at Angela, "Believe that Galbatorix was much more cunning than any of us had ever imagined."

Everyone remained silent for a moment.

"Under what grounds do you base this belief?" Aeron suddenly asked.

"Lord Aeron, you will watch your tone when speaking to Lord Eragon. He is not under my, or any other, rule but his own." Nasuada replied warningly.

"Peace, my Queen." Aeron replied with a raised hand. "I meant no offense, my Lord," He said, looking at Eragon, "however it seems unlikely that Galbatorix kept anything else concealed from us."

Eragon nodded. "No need to concern yourself, Representative Aeron, you're questions are reasonable." He began. "But I have given this much thought, and have counseled not only with Angela – who is very well versed in the history of this land, and Saphira, whose wisdom is not to be ignored, but also the Eldunari's of Glaedr and Umaroth-elda. We feel that, despite the fact that Galbatorix was defeated by me. It does not mean that there are things he knew about that he kept to himself…"

"He said something to you, didn't he?" Nasuada asked, eyeing Eragon intently.

"He did, but it's much more than that." Eragon began. "Take, for instance, his right hand, Durza."

"What about Durza?" Hanna asked with interest.

"Durza was the one who taught Galbatorix much of the black magic that he knew that allowed him to overthrow the Riders, and we never found any books or scrolls that would hint at the knowledge he had learned." Eragon explained.

"Surely Durza taught him by word-of-mouth." Aeron replied, looking skeptical at the theory.

"Possibly, but I highly doubt it." Eragon replied. "Before the being 'Durza' came around that man was just another human – a child of a nomadic tribe, so where did he learn magic?" Eragon asked, but no one could answer him. "Galbatorix enjoyed reading – especially about history…and magic, of course. It would be hard to imagine that Galbatorix threw away those books on black magic, or who knows what else?" Eragon said, throwing a hand up.

The room fell silent as everyone took in what Eragon had said. Finally Nasuada raised her head. "Your words are quite valid, Eragon. Know that you have my fullest support." She replied.

"Thank you, Queen Nausada." Eragon replied with a curt bow and a small smile on his face.

"Very good, the rest of us shall focus our energy towards uncovering the truth at Dras Leona." Nasuada delegated.

"What exactly is going on in Dras Leona?" Eragon asked curiously. Ever since his first visit to that city Eragon had always felt uneasy about it. To him, it had always been a center of death and morbid cults.

Nasuada sighed and knitted her brow with her right hand. "The situation grows more and more complex as we continue to gather information. As of right now Lord Marcus Redbeard has been declared missing for many weeks. Despite or best effort the city is demanding a re-election."

Eragon frowned. "Marcus is not the kind of man who would lightly abandon his duties, do you have any idea what could have happened?"

"He was due to meet with Lady Lorena in Feinster regarding the whereabouts of her Captain of Guard – Brion Weiman." Representative Leon replied. "I was with him when he first received the message by raven, but at the time we were dealing with…rising issues of Cult Order of Helgrind."

Eragon's eyes widened. "I thought they were disbanded by order of Queen Nasuada, so what happened?"

"Unfortunately it is not as easy as simply banning the Cult all-together." Nasuada began as she licked her lips. "The group has found ways of maneuvering around our Kingdoms laws, making it difficult to stop them."

"They cut off their own limbs as sacrifice and homage to their deities!" Eragon exclaimed. "What more could you need to ban them?"

"But that's just it, my Lord." Representative Leon began. "Since the original ban on such atrocious practices we have not found any evidence that they are continuing any forms of dark magic or bodily sacrifice."

"Either they have become smarter in their ways or something else is going on. In any case, a proper examination of the situation is necessary." Nasuada spoke.

Eragon released a heavy sigh. He did expect to have to deal with such matters on his return. "Has anyone stepped forward as a candidate?"

"One man, Jameel Olocas, has been chosen by the People's Party to be elected." Representative Leon explained.

"That's it?" Eragon replied, seeming baffled that no one else would want to step forward. "What do we know about this 'Jameel'?"

"Not much." Nasuada replied with the shake of her head. "Which is why I am sending Murtagh back with Representative Leon to look into these matters and decide if Jameel can be trusted."

"We were hoping that you, Lord Eragon, could also accompany us." Representative Leon said, looking hopeful. "You presence will surely make things easier, and it will make those who still view the Broddring Kingdom as an enemy afraid to step out and cause disruptions."

Eragon glanced at Angela and Evander to see their reactions. It didn't seem like a good idea. His main reason for being here was to locate any credible proof that the amulet he carried was indeed a threat to them, not to get involved in political matters of Alageasia's largest kingdom. And then there was the matter of being a Dragon Rider. Many of the citizens of this land still carried animosity towards his kind, and showing his face could very well make things worse.

"What do you think, Saphira?" Eragon counseled to his dragon.

"It is something to think about, little one." Saphira replied. "I do not think it would be wise to ignore these events in Dras Leona…"

She paused for a moment and Eragon got the feeling that something was wrong. "Saphira? What is it?" Eragon asked curiously.

"Something is different, something has changed in Alagaesia since we returned," Saphira replied. "I can taste it in the air – a very strong and distasteful metallic flavor."

Eragon frowned. "I have felt the same way ever since that night in Osilon not the metallic taste, but that something is different,." He quickly added. "It's not just different." Eragon continued, then. "Alageasia has become almost unknown to me. Even though I was born and raised in this land, after the war everything and everyone changed."

"I think it would be wise to travel to Dras Leona and see for yourself what is going on." Saphira advised.

"But I need to remain in the capitol to search for any possible clue Galbatorix may have left behind." Eragon reminded her.

"I agree, but you do not necessarily have to be here once you do find any hidden rooms. You can leave Angela to work on finding what she's looking for while you and Murtagh go to Dras Leona with Representative Leon."

Eragon pondered the idea for a moment before giving a mental nod. "Alright, that could work. Anyways Angela usually prefers to work alone, so we may be better off that way."

"Eragon…? What does Saphira say?" Murtagh asked curiously as everyone stared at Eragon as he stared blankly at the wall ahead. Everyone else in the room looked at Eragon with a questioning look.

Eragon blinked and eyed everyone. "Please, forgive me. Saphira and I have decided that it would be better if I accompanied Murtagh and Representative Leon to Dras Leona in order to uncover the truth about Marcus Redbeard."

Angela suddenly coughed and everyone eyed her, including Eragon. "I hope you haven't forgotten the real reason why we came here, Lord Rider?" She asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Of course not, Angela, in fact I was just getting to that part." Eragon replied to her. "As I have said, we have come to Ilirea for another reason which regards the amulet I have shown you all. In the Dwarven Kingdom Angela and I searched through their Great Library and were lucky enough to find a journal entry that talks about an ancient amulet that had traveled across the lands of Vroengard and Alagaesia until it finally ended up in the possession of King Palancar." Eragon explained. "The journal was torn and incomplete, so we could not find much more information, or any definitive clues that would explain any dark magic, but Ilirea was mentioned, so it is possible that either the remaining contents of that journal are somewhere here, or perhaps any clue lies hidden within these ancient walls."

"What do you propose we do, then, if you are required to two places?" Nasuada asked.

"We will search Ilirea first for any hidden rooms or indications of areas that Galbatorix wanted to remain secret or even forgotten, after which I will leave with the others to Dras Leona." Eragon explained. "We will need your help: Murtagh and Evander, and that of Lenora and Thorn. Together, with the Eldunari I have, I doubt that any hidden barriers could evade us."

Nasuada and everyone else seemed to agree with this. "Very well." The Queen replied as she stood up. "You all know your tasks, I will let you get to work." She bowed to the Council and then stepped out through a side door, followed closely by Jormundur.

"I hope that is alright with you, Angela." Eragon said, eyeing the old woman. She looked tired; her face was sunken and there were faint dark lines under her eyes.

"I suppose it cannot be helped." Angela replied with a sigh. She got up from the table and stretched her body. "I will be in my quarters – send someone to get me once you have found something useful."

Eragon seemed to agree with this as he gave her a curt nod. "Very well. If I do not see you before I go then I wish you good luck on your endeavor."

Angela chuckled. "You'll need all the luck, I'm sure. Don't cause any riots while you're in Dras Leona – you know how trouble likes to follow your family around."

Eragon grinned. "Indeed, it does seem that way. But I'm sure we'll be fine – the thought is appreciated, however." He said, flashing her a smile.

Angela gave him one last look before leaving the High Council chambers, following a guard to her quarters.

oOo

Murtagh, Eragon, Roran, Evander and Nasuada all stood outside of the castle as they waited for Lenora, Saphira and Thorn to return from a hunting trip. As they walked out into the large main square before the wide steps of the castle, Rikon could be seen approaching them.

The boy was tall and bore shaggy black hair, and had dark brown eyes. He skin tone was darker than Eragon, Evander Angela and Even Murtagh, but not darker than his mother, Nasuada.

"Uncle Eragon!" Rikon cried out when he noticed the group. "It's wonderful to see you, when did you get here?" He inquired, walking up to them.

Eragon chuckled. "About a couple of hours ago. We had to speak with the High Council regarding a few matters." Eragon stopped and eyed his nephew closely. "You've grown stronger over the many years we've been apart." He observed with a smile while placing a firm hand on Rikon's shoulder.

"Father has been teaching me everything he knows about swordplay and combat." Rikon replied with a grin.

"Is that so?" Eragon said with a chuckle. "Well, your cousin has been training hard too, perhaps a contest is in order in the near future?" He suggested.

Evander and Rikon looked at each, and for a moment it seemed that neither would greet the other. Then, suddenly, the two stepped closer and grabbed each other friendly embrace. Evander's uncle stood beside his father, with his arms folded across his chest. He was dressed in a simple red tunic and wore a tan, leather belt. Evander noticed that there was a money pouch, a hunting dagger and a small set of keys secured to the belt, but Zar'roc was nowhere to be seen.

"This is indeed a surprise." Rikon stated happily. "It is good to see you, Evander."

"Aye, it is good to see you as well, cousin." Evander replied, and the two stepped off to the side to catch up.

"He's a good fighter." Murtagh commented as he glanced at the boys. "And he quite the scholar." He added with a chuckle.

"Rikon is a fine young man, you have raised him well." Eragon replied. "Is he to accompany us to Dras Leona?"

Murtagh sighed. "I was not planning on it, but…perhaps it would be a good learning experience for the boy." Murtagh said. "If this Jameel Olocas is as worthy a successor to Marcus as the People's Party says, then our task will have become that much easier, and we can focus our attention on the whereabouts of Marcus Redbeard."

"And if not?" Eragon replied.

"Then we will need to keep a watchful eye over Jameel, for it may be very likely that a connection lies between the two men." Murtagh said. "In either case, something has happened to Marcus and I must uncover the truth."

The two remained silent for a moment before Roran suddenly spoke up. "Do you really think Galbatorix has hidden something inside the castle that we haven't already been found?" He asked Eragon. Evander's uncle stood beside his father, with his arms folded across his chest. He was dressed in a simple red tunic and wore a tan, leather belt. Evander noticed that there was a money pouch, a hunting dagger and a small set of keys secured to the belt before his father spoke, bringing his attention back to the conversation.

"I do." Eragon replied. "Galbatorix was too cunning and greedy to have thrown away documents that helped him gain knowledge in dark magic. After all, he spent nearly forty years researching the Name of names." Eragon pointed out.

"And succeeded in finding it." Murtagh added.

"Indeed. What is more, we don't even know where he found the name of names or what led him to the location of it." Eragon said. "As far as I know, there are only two places in all of Alagaesia that held any significant meaning to Galbatorix; Uru-Baen and The Spine. Since the Spine gave him more grief than anything else I doubt he would have hidden anything in those mountains, so that leaves this castle."

Eragon glanced at Murtagh with a hopeful expression. "Can you not remember any secret that he might have let slip when he held you prisoner?"

Murtagh sighed and shook his head. "Other than the secret chamber we found in his quarters? No. After you left Nasuada had many of the lower chambers and halls closed off, including the deepest of chambers which Galbatorix used at dungeons..."

"It is no surprise that Nasuada would want to be rid of the cell that had held her captive by his wicked claws." Eragon said, and then, suddenly, a thought entered his mind. "The dungeons…" He whispered to himself.

"What?" Murtagh asked, looking slightly confused.

"You said that after I left you had sections of the castle blocked off." Eragon repeated.

Murtagh remained silent for a moment. "..Yes, I did, what of it? They were already searched." He reminded Eragon.

"Yes, but not since they were closed off…has anyone gone down there since?" Eragon asked curiously.

"No." Murtagh replied immediately. "We constructed a stone wall to seal off the lower basement from the chambers above so no one could physically enter, and I placed powerful wards to prevent any magical attempt to gain access." He explained.

"Good." Eragon replied. "It will mean that if there is something down there, it should still be there." He said. Just then a loud roar erupted from somewhere in the distance.

Evander and Rikon both looked up into the sky ahead as another powerful roar came from around the same general area. "That must be Saphira." Eragon said with a grin, recognizing the sound of his dragon.

"I don't see them…." Rikon stated as he perused the sky.

"There!" Evander said, pointing to an area in the vastly empty skies. Indeed, Rikon would not be able to spot the three dragons from such a distance as he had no magical training and was also completely human. But, minutes later most of the people of Ilirea could see the massive, winged creatures heading towards them as many people scrambled to high points in the city to gain a better vantage point, while others didn't seem to care.

The three magnificent dragons descended from the sky and landed in a large field just outside the wall. Eragon and the others exited the castle and meet with the flying creatures.

"It is good to see you, little one." Saphira said to Eragon as he approached her.

Eragon smiled and placed a gentle hand on her snout before running it up and down in circles. "How was your hunt?" Eragon asked.

"Eventful, the amount of wild animals that were available surprised me." Saphira replied as she shifted her weight; her large talons digging up large chunks of dirt from the ground.

"With the war over and Galbatorix finally gone, Alagaesia now has time to heal its own wounds." Eragon replied.

"Have you reached a decision regarding the supposed hidden room?" Saphira asked curiously as she stretched her enormous neck, causing Eragon to back up.

"Aye, I believe we may need to combine our energy together in order to root out its location." Eragon said. "But there is other news." He said, looking serious. "Governor Marcus Redbeard and the Captain of the Feinster Guard: Bryon Wayman are both missing, and have been for some time now."

"Do they know what has happened?" Saphira asked.

Eragon shook his head. "There have been no leads so far, and Dras Leona must be appointed someone to watch over the cities affairs until a proper leader can be chosen."

"Nasuada will be busy, no doubt." Saphira noted.

"There's more." Eragon said. "The people of Dras Leona have already chosen a candidate to steward the duty, someone by the name of Jameel Olocas."

"And what do know of this Jameel Olocas?" Saphira asked.

"Nothing, no one in the council has even heard of him, and that has the council worried. They have asked me to accompany Murtagh and Representative Leon back to Dras Leona after we have finished our task here." Eragon explained.

"Do you think it is wise to stray from the very reason why we came here?" Saphira asked.

"Once we find what we're looking for it will be up to Angela to uncover the missing parts to the journal we found in the Dwarven Library. And…something about Lord Redbeard's disappearance troubles me, and the fact that nobody has any notion of where he might have gone troubles me even more." Eragon replied as he brushed Saphira's front legs.

Saphira released another a puff of smoke as she craned her neck down and lowered her head to Eragon's. "Little one, I know more than anyone else how much you wish to take responsibility for everything around you. But be careful, despite the time that has passed not everyone is so welcoming to dragon riders now that a tyrant is no longer preventing them from voicing their opinions." She warned.

"Which is why Murtagh and I will use magic to disguise our appearance." Eragon said with a grin. "It wouldn't be the first time…at least for me anyways."

Saphira released a short plume of smoke and stared at Eragon knowingly. "And let's not forget that trouble seems to follow you everywhere you go." She added.

"Saphira that was twenty years ago, I think I can handle myself now." Eragon replied with a chuckle.

"Never-the-less, it would be wise to exercise caution." Saphira said, flicking her tongue out.

"Aye, you are right Saphira, as always. The sooner we can uncover the truth surrounding the amulet and the recent events that have transpired in Dras Leona, the sooner we can return home." Eragon replied with a smile as he patted Saphira's side gently.

"We should begin soon if we want to make it to Dras Leona before the elections begin." Murtagh asked as he approached his brother.

"Aye." Eragon said as he looked around at the group. "Let's get started." Everyone nodded and Eragon could begin to feel the dragon's magic entering him. Eragon took in a deep breath and drew more energy from the few eldunari he had with him. He was soon ready to cast the spell as Murtagh finished removing the wards he had cast in the lower dungeons.

But, before Eragon could go through with the spell, a loud roar erupted across the sky, causing everyone to turn back in shock and surprise.

"Expecting company?" Murtagh asked curiously.

Eragon shook his head. "No." He took a few steps forward and scanned the skies, pin-pointing the dragon and it's rider, recognizing the boy almost immediately.

"It's Zack."


[Vroengard] – [Doru Araeba]

[Arya]

Arya descended the stairs from her chambers and made her way down to the main hall, dressed in her full gear. Blodhgarm stood before the opened doors that lead out to the city. "sé du evarína varda ono, Arya Svitkona." (may the stars watch over you) He said with a curt bow. "I am glad to see you are well again, but please, allow some of our spellcasters to accompany you – the journey through the shadow lands hasn't been done properly on foot, you know this."

Arya bowed her head and touched two fingers to her lips, honoring the greeting tradition. "Here me, Blodhgarm, I am deeply grateful for your loyalty. But I must do this – for when Eragon returns we will need all of our dragons ready to train…or die in battle." She said, looking away.

"Arya…" Blodhgarm replied softly, unable to say anything more.

"I must take my leave – do not worry, Blodhgarm, I shall return soon. I trust you to watch over the people while I'm gone."

Blodhgarm silently nodded and Arya left for the Dragon's Keep. Arya entered the tower as this thought weighed on her mind. Months ago she would have never imagined there would be a level of magic that she could not detect. But since the discovery of the amulet and recent events Arya feared that they had another powerful enemy to face.

The inside of the tower was relatively dark, save for the door-less windows and the large circular opening at the top of the doomed tower.

"Firnen?" Arya called out cautiously as she crept deeper into the darkness. "Firnen!" She called again, a little louder this time. The sound of heavy movement and sharp claws scraping against stone caused Arya to look up. Her eyes had adjusted quickly to the darkness, and she could now see a large dragon flying down towards her.

Arya backed up as Firnen neared the ground, gently flapping his wings as he landed with grace. "There is no need to shout, youngling." Firnen spoke through their connection.

Arya sighed in relief. "It is good to see you, Firnen. Forgive me, I did not know the full extent of your situation." Arya began. "How are you?"

"It is good to see you as well, my partner-of-mind-and body." Firnen replied, giving Arya a loving and playful nudge with his big snout, and she chuckled while patting his nose affectionately. "So far as we remain here the noise does not affect us greatly."

Arya raised an eyebrow. "Noise, what noise?" She asked in confusion, for she could hear nothing out of the ordinary.

"Do you not hear it?" Firnen asked in surprise. "It comes from the mountain – a powerful and agonizing sound pierces every fiber of my being!" He said, appearing in discomfort. "Blodhgarm along with other elven spell casters have managed to place protective wards against the sound, but I fear the wards are beginning to break."

"Do not worry, Firnen." Arya replied as she gently placed her hand against Firnens lower neck and trailed her hand down in a comforting manner. "For I am off to the mountain now to see what is going on."

Firnen appeared released at the sound of this. "How fairs your offspring?" He inquired.

Arya sighed and shook her head. "I do not know, but certainly not well. I fear now that we may be dealing with a level of magic beyond anything we have encountered." She replied with a look of concern.

"How is that possible?" Firnen asked as he released a plume of smoke high up in the air.

"Don't you find it troubling that the amulet was under the mountain this whole time and we knew nothing about it? Even Glaedr and Umaroth-elda did not recognize it….we should have at least been able to sense it." Arya said, looking frustrated.

"It is troubling, indeed, however Glaedr and Oromis-elda did not know where the Vault of Souls or the Rock of Kuthian were." Firnen pointed out. "Perhaps it was kept a secret…or erased from their minds?"

Arya paused for a moment; she had not thought about this. "Are you saying someone made them forget about the amulet? Someone like Cuaroc?" She said. "But that would not explain why Umaroth-elda does not know anything..." Arya pondered this for a moment as a temporary silence enveloped the two. Things were beginning to get more complicated and danger was looming just around the corner.

"You had better leave, my rider. The day presses on and these wards will not last long." Firnen said, breaking the silence. It was clear that he wished to be rid of whatever noise was plaguing him and the other dragons.

Arya gave a nod. "I shall return soon and then we may ride and speak with each other as the wind lashes against us." She said, giving him a smile.

"I look forward to it." Firnen said as he shifted his body to take off. Arya stood back as Firnen's wings blew large clouds of dust in the air as his body lifted off from the ground and rose higher and higher into the darkness until it could no longer be seen.

Arya's eyes stayed fixed on the last spot where she had seen Firnen before pulling away and making for the exit. Just as he reached the threshold Firnen's voice softly echoed in her mind. "Be safe…"


[Surda] – [Aroughs]

[Decimus]

Decimus and his small company waited patiently by their ship on the docks in the early hours of the day. It was so early, in fact, that the sun hadn't even risen yet.

Decimus was standing with his back to the city; he staring at the vast, Blue Ocean that seemed to stretch on for endless leagues. His face was hard in deep thought, yet he carried with him a calm demeanor.

"I tire of this peaceful façade you've chosen to show these humans." The man with hair growled. "We know they have a crystal here – Galbatorix was the only reason we never returned and he's gone - so let's just take it and conquer this land!"

"Patience Ronan!" Decimus replied. He paused and eyed the vicinity. "If ruling over this pathetic land is all you want then by all means take the crystal now, but unless you've forgotten, the crystals from our land are now depleted." Decimus whipped around and stood mere inches from Ronan. "So, brother, if you wish to keep your longevity I suggest you follow my lead." He snapped.

Ronan grunted. "I still see no reason why need time to prepare…I doubt there's anyone here who could match our power."

Decimus smirked, seeming to agree with this statement as he played with the jewel on his left earring.

"I doubt there are even Dragon Riders left on this pathetic land." Roran said with a disgusted look.

"Whether there are or are not is of no relevance to me." Decimus replied coolly. "We must first locate the one who defeated Galbatorix." There was a sparkle in his eyes as he paused and watched the sunlight dance on the water as it lapped against the port deck. "Anyone with that level of power cannot be allowed to interfere with our plans."

"I will kill whomever would dare try." Ronan declared through narrow eyes.

"Indeed…" Decmius replied, trailing off as he noticed Admiral Hart and his men approaching them. "Dragon Riders may be few in numbers, but there are still other forces who could get in our way, and we have no army." He explained. "If I can bring King Orrin to our side then we will have a better chance of standing up against the other powers in this land."

Ronan uttered no response to his brothers' tactics and shifted his attention to Admiral Hart.

"Let me do the talking when we see the King, brother." Decimus said in a low voice as Admiral Hart drew nearer. He turned and looked at the others. "After we meet with the King, Ronan and I will seek an audience with him alone to discover the events that have transpired since Galbatorixs' downfall – and by no means are we to reveal our knowledge of him, Dragon Riders or that can use magic. We don't want to draw any more attention than we already have right now."

The three remaining men stood in silent agreement as Decimus turned his back to them. "Good, you're all here." Admiral Hart said as he and his men stood a few feet from Decimus. "We'll be departing soon from that ship." Admiral Hart said as he pointed to a medium-sized ship with yellow and black sails anchored to their right. "I suggest you get all your things on board, you'll be staying in Aberon for some time." He explained.

Decimus bowed curtly. "Very well, we shall meet you aboard the ship." He and his men grabbed what little belongings they had with them and boarded the ship, while Admiral Hart watched them suspiciously through narrow eyes.


[Shadow-Lands] – [Vroengard]

[Arya]

Arya sliced through a thick tangle of vines and branches with a large, curved hunting dagger. Támerlein had proven too long and cumbersome in the thick jungle, and so it remained strapped to her waist-belt. Arya continued to hack and slash until an opening large enough for her to slip through formed.

Despite the fact that the sun was high in the sky, the tall canopy prevented most sunlight from even reaching the jungle floor, and so Arya tread through the dark wilderness crouching low with her dagger held tightly in her right hand with the blade facing towards her. She held the dagger parallel to her and half an arms-length out, while her left arm remained low to her side and bent slightly in a defensive stance.

Arya was well aware of the dangers in the Shadow-Lands, which was probably why Umaroth had her investigate the strange energy emanating from the northwestern mountains. With any luck Arya would reach the foot of the mountain in a few hours. Using her natural abilities, Arya continuously searched for large creatures that could prove to a threat and avoided such areas entirely.

Like the Snalglí, there were other animals that Eragon had named after learning the name-of-names. But there were more living things out there which they knew nothing about, save for the fact that their biology had been severely affected by the warped magic on the land.

The sound of movement behind her caused Arya to spin around quickly with her dagger pointed outwards, ready for an attack. She closed her eyes and tried to extend her mind out with magic, but she could sense nothing around her.

Odd… Arya though to herself as she approached the brush where she had heard the sound. I could have sworn I heard something just now. Another minute of silence passed before Arya stood up straight and continued her journey; dismissing the event as nothing more than mind games. That is, until a magnificently colored bird suddenly appeared where she had been standing.

Arya turned around and was taken aback by how beautiful the animal was. The bird's belly was a vibrant yellow while it's back and sides were a bright red. The bird cawed at Arya and adjusted its wings as it shifted its weight on the tree branch. Arya stared at the bird with amazement as it used its long beak to scratch a section of its back.

Arya slowly approached the bird, hoping to connect with it through her mind, but as she neared the feathered creature ti suddenly jerked its head towards her and cawed defensively as it began to retreat. Arya stopped in her tracks, now only three feet from the bird, and closed her eyes before expanding her mind outwards.

The bird cocked its head to one side as it watched Arya curiously as she attempted to calm it down. She soon felt its mind and was surprised to find it blocked off. "Eka malabra ono né haina, Atra nosu waíse fricai." (I mean you no harm, let us be friends)

The bird cocked its head to the other side and slowly walked across the branch, closer to Arya. She smiled and extended one hand out to touch it. The bird no longer seemed to be afraid of Arya, but remained cautious as she inched her fingers closer to the softs tufts of feathers. Just as she was about to touch the bird when two bright eyes flashed in the darkness of the woods. Noticing this out of the corner of her eyes, Arya barely managed to duck low as a large cat-like animal lunged forward over her in a lethal attack.

The mysterious bird cawed in fright and flew off as the cat-like animal dugs its long, sharp claws into the dirt as it came to stop and turned to face Arya. She stood as tall as she could and drew Támerlein and took a defensive stance as she and the wild beast circled each other. The animal was unlike anything Arya had seen before. It was at least three or four times the size of her and bore a coat of thick black fur. Its tail was long and split off into two ends as it flicked back and forth against the creature's body. But the strangest part was the animal's head and face. It had four eyes and its nose was pushed in, appearing more like slits than a nose, and four ears – two on each side. It also had four large fangs protruding from either side of its mouth.

The animal growled threateningly, revealing several rows of inner, sharp teeth as foam frothed forth. Arya held her ground as the animal slowly began to close the circle. The creatures' eyes were ravenous and its behavior erratic. Arya took in a deep breath and tried to calm the animal down, but the moment her mind connected with it she was met with a sharp pain. Just like the bird, this animal too had its mind blocked to her. But what was strange was how strong its mental barrier was.

The creature suddenly lunged at Arya, claws and mouth ready to tear open flesh, but Arya managed to catch her sword parallel in the teeth of animal's mouth as it tackled her to the ground. Arya struggled to fend off the beast as it clamped down hard on Támerlein as it used more strength to get closer to Arya's face as saliva dripped hungrily from its open mouth.

The beast tried to swipe at Arya with one of its paws, but she twisted her sword managing to cut the inside of its mouth. Screeching in pain, the beast reared up in anger and Arya took her chance to roll out of the way at it came crashing back down. Arya got back up to her feet just as the beast lunged at her again, its mouth and lips bloody from the cut.

Arya just managed to lift up her sword when the beast knocked her down again, sending Támerlein flying off a few feet behind her. Lying face-first in the dirt, Arya looked up to see her sword positioned with its hilt closest to her. The beast roared with anger as it ran full speed after Arya.

With fear in her eyes, Arya crawled as fast as she could towards her sword. She was so close now, only the tips of her fingers were touching the green pommel as she tried to pull it towards her. Just as she did, the beast dug its claws into her leg, cutting deep into her flesh.

"AHHH!" Arya cried before managing to grab ahold of Támerlein just as the beast pulled her back. As Arya was dragged across the ground towards the animal, she rolled over to lay on her back and adjusted Támerlen as the beast now stood over her. But just before it could attack, Arya sat up and drove her blade halfway through the creatures' chest, near its heart. The beasts' cries of agony were soon silenced as Arya plunged the rest of Támerlein deep into the animal's body, killing it.

Arya quickly pulled her sword out and moved out of the way as the animal fell to the ground, and she stood over its dead body holding a bloody Támerlein. Arya clenched her teeth and examined her bloody leg before healing the wound and continuing on towards the mountain.


[Capitol City – Ilirea] – [Alagaesia]

[Zack]

Eragon and the others met Zack outside the castle walls on a hill where Fundor had landed.

"Eragon-elda, Evander, I'm so glad I was able to find you – " Zack began to say as he approached the group.

"Zack, why have you come?" Eragon began to ask as the group approached him. "Is everything alright?" He continued to say, now looking worried.

Zack shook his head, looking even more worried than Eragon had. "No, I have bad news…is there someplace we can talk in private?"

oOo

Eragon and the others once again found themselves standing in the empty council chambers as Zack stood before them. Brazen lit torches crackled along the walls bringing a dim glow to the center of the room.

"Well? What was so important you had to fly all the way from Vroengard and interrupt us from uncovering a dark, hidden secret within the castle walls?!" Angela huffed.

"I…what?" Zack said in confusion.

"It's a long story," Eragon began, "but we think Galbatorix may have hidden a clue about the origins of our mysterious amulet somewhere within the castle walls." He explained.

"Galbatorix?" Zack repeated, looking even more confused.

"Aye, as I said it is a long story and we have little time, so why don't you tell us why you came all the way here." Eragon said.

"Aye, but I won't tell you, I'll show you." Zack replied before opening up his mind to the group. The events that befell the inhabitants of Vroengard played through everyone's minds

"Arya and Selena…are they – " Eragon started to ask once the memory ended, a worried expression on his face.

"They're alive, but…" Zack replied, biting his lip.

"But what?" Eragon asked tensely.

"But they were both unconscious when I left." Zack revealed.

"BLAST!" Eragon yelled, slamming his fist against the table surface. "How could this happen?"

"We must return to Vroengard, Eragon-elda." Zack said. "Blodhgarm-elda was the one who sent me. We won't stand a chance against an attack without your help."

"How can you be certain there will be another attack?" Nasuada asked.

"Because it wanted something." Zack said. "Something that was taken from it."

"The amulet…" Eragon whispered. Everyone stared at him with confusion; everyone except for Angela, that is, who seemed to be in her own world as a puzzlingly dark shadow crept across her face. "It must be the amulet that…whatever that thing was, wanted. It's the only thing that makes sense – none of this started happening until after Selena found it deep within the Northern Mountains." He explained. "That would certainly make this object related to dark magic, something we already assumed."

"Does that mean we no longer have to search the castle?" Evander asked.

"I think it would still be a good idea." Eragon said. "Beyond the possibility of discovering more of Galbatorix's secrets it may be likely that he found a weakness in the amulet's magic or a way to counter its effects." He explained. "What do you think, Angela?"

The group turned to Angela, who was still looking aimlessly with a strange look on her face, and waited for her to respond. "…Angela?" Eragon said again when she did not reply.

"Hmm? Oh, please forgive me I was just thinking…." Angela answered. "It's possible that a counter spell or a weakness was found...but the odds of Galbatorix having made the discovery seems rather improbable; given the level of magic displayed by the amulet…I'll have to think it over." She said before slowly walking towards the doors. "I've been feeling rather tired lately and I wish to rest." She said. "Let's discuss this in the morning…" Angela didn't say another word, and the group watched in silence as she mysteriously got up and left the council chambers.

"What was that about?" Roran asked, noticing Angela's odd desire to leave right in the middle a conversation dealing with the very reason why there were all in the capitol in the first place.

"It does seem odd," Eragon began, "but if Angela says she's tired then we should take her word for it and respect her wishes."

"And what if she's leaving something important out? Something she's not telling us?" Nasuada suggested.

"I trust Angela just as much as you all." Eragon said. "If she is holding something back it must be for a good reason." He deduced.

"What about Doru Araeba?" Zack asked.

"Let's finish the task at hand first." Eragon said. "Then we can decide what to do."

Everyone agreed to this, and the group left the council chambers to resume what had been interrupted not long ago.

oOo

[Murtagh]

It was late in the night now as Murtagh entered his chambers. The search for any hidden passages or chambers within the castle took many hours, as Eragon would only cease once every corner had been thoroughly searched.

Murtagh's loyalty to his brother had never wavered since he had been freed, but he found it hard to believe that Galbatorix had indeed kept a hidden chamber from them that they could not find before. So, you can imagine the shock on Murtagh's face when Eragon eventually stated that he found something odd in the lower dungeons below ground; the one's Murtagh had sealed off many years ago.

Whatever Eragon had discovered was beneath too much thick stone and wards for him to ascertain what exactly it was that he had sensed, but he was certain there was magic down there. Whatever that may be, they all decided to do a proper search early the next morning before leaving for Dras Leona.

Murtagh took a seat in an elegant wooden chair and began to unlace his boots. As he did, images of Zack's shared memory played through his mind. What had befallen Vroengard? Was this all really connected to the strange amulet that Eragon brought with him? More importantly, would Doru Araeba be able to hold off on their own should they fall under attack?

"What troubles you?" A soft, lilting voice came from the doorway.

Murtagh turned in his chair to see Nasuada standing at the threshold. "Just tired." He said before resuming to take his boots off.

"You're worried for Eragon and the others, we all are." Nasuada said as she approached him from behind and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"I've never seen such magic before…not even from Galbatorix." Murtagh whispered under his breath. "Eragon will have no choice but to return to Vroengard with his student – Zack."

"How long do they have before…" Nasuada began to say, but found the last words difficult to complete.

"A little over three months." Murtagh said. "But with the time it takes to travel to the island – even at Saphira's speed – it would leave them with only two months, perhaps a little more."

"I promise to aid them with whatever we can – grain, supplies, men, armor, clothes, they are not alone in this fight; our resources are well stocked." Nasuada replied as she rested her head in the crouch of Murtagh's neck and placed her lips on his cheek.

Murtagh released a comforting sigh as he reached up and took one of Nasuada's hands in his before planting a kiss on her soft, dark skin. He kissed high and higher up her hand and arm, unable to let her go as his hands slowly wrapped around her body more and pulled her down into his lap.

Nasuada moaned softly and straddled Murtagh as their lips met. Nasuada found her hands moving from Murtagh's neck to his hair as she ran her fingers through his luscious, black locks of shoulder-length hair. Her movements were slow and passionate, matching Murtagh's own pace as his hands traveled down Nasuada's back until her reached her thighs and buttocks.

He squeezed them tightly and another soft moan escaped Nasuada's lips as their passionate embrace grew more intense. Nasuada removed her hands from Murtagh's hair and placed them on his chest, momentarily breaking lips in order to rip each other's shirts off.

Murtagh kicked off his boots and stood up, holding Nasuada firmly in his large, rippling arms as his taught muscles glowed in the moonlight that poured in from the window. Laying Nasuada down gently on their bed, Murtagh removed her boots and undid the straps to her breeches. Sliding them off, Murtagh kissed every inch of flesh he could, traveling up Nasuada's legs and reaching her waist.

Nasuada watched in anticipation as Murtagh removed her lower undergarments, revealing her pink, supple womanhood to him. Murtagh trailed his fingers over Nasuada's skin causing her to shiver as her kissed the insides of her legs, moving slowly up.

"Oh~ Murtaaaaagh!" Nasuada cried suddenly as she felt something soft and wet enter between her legs. Murtagh's thirst seemed to never be quenched as he ravenously devoured her womanhood, hungrily wolfing down her sweet juices. Nasuada moaned in blissful ecstasy and squirmed in bed as her hands twitched under the enormous waves of pleasure rocking her body.

When Murtagh stopped and lifted up his head, Nasuada pulled him towards her and their lips crashed in loving embrace. Their naked body's snaked together as Nasuada lifted one leg and curled it around Murtagh's waist.

Murtagh lowered his head and began to kiss Nasuada's neck as his hands roamed her chest, squeezing her now hard breasts. Nasuada in turn twisted her hand down between them and gently grasped Murtagh's rock hard member. Murtagh's kisses grew hotter and hotter as Nasuada began to stroke his tool.

Murtagh trailed his lips back up to Nasuada's and his face hovered over hers for a moment. "I love you." He said, looking deep into her eyes.

"And I you." Nasuada replied, and the two locked lips once again as their passion grew to a new level. Murtagh grabbed tightly onto the leg Nasuada had wrapped around his waist, and with his other free hand Murtagh positioned his tool at the entrance of Nasuada's womanhood before slowly and gently pushing it inside.

"Ahhhh~!" Nasuada cried as Murtagh fully entered her. Nasuada wrapped her other leg around Murtagh as he slowly increased his pace. Their hips met in euphoric harmony as desire clouded their minds. Murtagh thrust into Nasuada over and over, deeper and deeper in ever increasing pleasure as his lips crashed against Nasuada's neck.

Nasuada found herself clawing at Murtagh's back, leaving streaks of red from her long nails as her body reached new heights of rapturous bliss. Murtagh began to slow down a bit and he lifted his head up to kiss Nasuada with fiery passion. Nasuada eagerly returned the action before placing her hands on his chest and flipping him over. Nasuada straddled Murtagh and gently lowered herself onto his manhood, groaning in delight as she did.

With their previous rhythm gone, the two set out to start a new one as Nasuada slowly rode her body on Murtagh, feeling his tool deep inside her as it strove to delve further and further. Nasuada moaned louder as she began to rock her body faster and faster. She moved her hands to Murtagh's burly chest as her buttocks clapped against his thighs.

Murtagh groaned in delight as waves of pleasure ran through his body as their hips gyrated in perfect harmony. Murtagh sat up and kissed Nasuada as their hands snaked around each other. Their eyes met as Murtagh pulled his lips away. He looked passionately into her eyes as she continued to rotate her hips, and a spark flashed in Murtagh's eyes before he began to thrust into her repeated, building up a massive crescendo until they both climaxed and fell down onto their bed.

Nasuada laid her head against Murtagh's chest as the both panted from their recent activity as the two slowly drifted off into the world of dreams…


[Surda] – [Aberon]

[King Orrin]

The large and burly king sat upon his throne wearing as much dignity and honor any human male king might after managing to double the lands of his kingdom. But it was not enough.

The King of Surda wanted more. At the very least he should be ruler of half of Alagaesia. Instead, Nasuada Ajihadsdaughter gets to reclaim her ancestor's lands while he had yet to the lands his lineage had taken over since Palancar had fallen.

He needed away to gain leverage or a foothold over Nasuada, and that was really the only reason why he allowed these supposed travelers from another land. It was highly doubtful, but if they could somehow produce some form of proof of their connection to King Palancar then he could use that to his advantage. But there was something else he worried about. What would they want in return?

"Excuse me, sire." A young man called as he bowed before approaching the king. "Admiral Hart has just arrived with the foreign travelers…Captain Nylus is speaking with them now."

"Excellent, make sure the rooms are ready for our guests and inform the cooks to begin preparations for dinner." Orrin said.

"As you wish, sire." The man said as he bowing once before leaving the room through a door on the right.

Not long after, Admiral Hart, Captain Nylus and the group of foreigners entered through the main doors and stood before the King of Surda. "My Lord, Admiral Hart has arrived with the foreigners." Captain Nylus stated with a low bow.

"Sire, it is good to see you and an honor to be in your halls." Admiral Hart said as he clapped a fist to his chest.

"Nonsense, Admiral, you are always welcome here!" Orrin boomed as he stepped down from his throne and patted the Admiral firmly on his shoulders. He then turned to Decimus and his men. And you must be the travelers I've been told about; you've caused quite a bit of gossip and curiosity in Surda."

"My kinsmen and I only wished to return and see what has become of our homeland. Forgive us, we did not mean to cause any trouble." Decimus replied with a curt bow.

"You claim to be our ancestors…do you have any proof of this?" Orrin asked.

Decimus silently reached into a pocket and handed the King an ornate ring that bore the symbol of a falcon with its talons extended.

King Orrin took the ring and examining the symbol before looking up at Decimus with shock and confusion in his eyes. "By the Gods…how did you get this?"


[Capitol City – Ilirea] – [Alagaesia]

[Eragon]

The group awoke early the next day and Eragon was more than eager to see what it is he had found during their extensive search during the previous night. He would have preferred to go down to the dungeons that night, however everyone was exhausted from the amount of energy it took before they were able to find something worth investigating – something they had not detected before.

Eragon stood on the wall facing east as he gazed across the dimly lit land; the sun and yet to be visible, but as minutes passed by the sky grew brighter and brighter, until finally the top of the sun appeared over the horizon.

"A beautiful sight, it is not?" A soft voice echoed in his mind.

"Aye, it has been a long time since I stood within these walls and gazed at the sunrise…" Eragon added. He sighed and folded his arms across his chest. "And now Zack has arrived with ill tidings."

"Worry not, little one." Saphira said. "We have seen darner times before and with less chances of survival – now we have many dragons and rider ready to fight to protect all that they love."

"That's just it, Saphira." Eragon began. "None of my students are prepared for battle – many of them don't even know proper combat spells or warding shields necessary to win such a one-sided fight."

"Eragon…do we even know if an army is coming?" Saphira asked. "We never really saw any army in Zack's memory, it could just be that one entity."

"That's what truly worries me." Eragon admitted. "You're right when you said we didn't actually see an army, but Saphira, have you ever seen such dark magic before? Shape-shifting is not exactly a common thing – even among elves." He pointed out.

"But, I think we can both assume one thing." Saphira said.

"What's that?" Eragon asked.

"Whatever that thing may be, it must want the amulet." Saphira answered. "I believe the very fact that thing went for Selena was no mere coincidence."

"You think that, because Selena had already come into close contact with the amulet that it somehow knew?" Eragon asked.

"It is as you said, little one, we are dealing with a level of magic that we have not yet encountered." Saphira paused momentarily before continuing. "I believe we will all be better off with leaving that here where few people know about it." She suggested.

"Indeed, there are still many questions that need to be answered however." Eragon replied as he watched the sun continued to ascend. "For now we should get ready to explore the deeper dungeons of Ilirea. With any luck we may learn more about the amulet and whoever want it back."

"We may not have time to do an extensive search." Saphira pointed out. "The more time we spend here the less time we will have to prepare the younger ones for battle."

"It will not be easy, Saphira." Eragon replied as he exhaled sharply. "I don't know why, but ever since we learned of Redbeard's disappearance I have felt uncomfortably anxious…the whole story smells foul."

"Murtagh is more than capable of defending himself." Saphira pointed out.

"Of that you know I have no doubt." Eragon replied. "No, what bothers me is if the amulet and the black birds came from the Northern Mountain then how was the amulet able to affect me in Osilon? Now that I think about it, the dark figure I saw in my mind bore a striking resemblance to the one we saw in Zack's memory." Eragon stated as the memory came to him in his mind.

"How can that be possible?" Saphira asked.

"I'm not sure…but you're right, we must prepare to leave." He said before jumping down from the wall. "We'll have time to think about this on our way back to Doru Araeba." Now, where is Evander? He thought to himself as he stood up and began to walk towards the Citadel. As he neared the main square, Eragon extended his mind out around him over a wide area; finding his son to be standing in the same spot they had been in last night when they first did their search.

As Eragon approached Evander, Nasuada, Murtagh, Roran, Rikon and Zack soon appeared near him. When Eragon neared the group Evander took notice first and seemed to more than ready to leave as he paced around anxiously. But what was strange was the fact that Angela was nowhere to be seen. "I see you're all ready to go…where is Angela?" Eragon asked as he neared the group.

"No one has seen her since last night." Nasuada answered. "She must be in her room still…doing what I know not."

"That it is rather disappointing, I was hoping for her to be here with us upon discovery of whatever it was we found." Eragon said.

"What about Zack's memory?" Murtagh asked.

"Evander and I will leave the moment after we have searched the deeper dungeons." Eragon replied. "Someone will need to inform Angela on what we found, if it is indeed relevant to the amulet in question then she will need all the time she can get to uncover the truth."

Everyone nodded in agreement before heading towards the now unsealed deeper dungeons.

oOo

[Evander]

They stood before a large, blank wall at the head of a T crossing in the dark tunnels before Ilirea. Droplets of water fell from the stone ceiling and a very unsettling air filled the vicinity.

"This is it." Eragon said as he placed his palm flat against the cold stone wall. "I can sense something on the other side, but just barely…"

"I removed most of the wards I placed down here, so if there's anything interfering with our magic it must be due to whatever is behind this wall." Murtagh concluded.

"Agreed." Eragon replied. "Stand back, I'll try and break it down." He said.

The group backed up and allowed Eragon his space to work. Evander watched as his father closed his eyes and controlled his breathing before placing his palm parallel, just a few inches from the stone wall. Several long seconds passed without Eragon moving a single muscle, and Evander concluded that his father must be searching for a weak point or any crack that he could exploit.

Then, without warning, Eragon's eyes flew open and he cried, "Jierda!" Magic flowed from Eragon as his Gedwëy ignasia began to glow a vibrant blue. A few small cracks began to form were Eragon's spell had struck the stone, but the splinters that formed afterwards were not enough to bring down the wall. Eragon exhaled sharply and then inhaled once more and closed his eyes to begin again, however this time he drew power from the few eldunari he had on him. Eragon released the spell once more, and this time the stone cracked and fell in large chunks as a single line splintered down the center.

"It worked!" Zack exclaimed as he eyed Evander, who also had a look of excitement on his face.

"Now, let's see what's been hiding behind here…" Eragon said as he followed an eager Evander through the large gap that had now formed. But what was waiting for them in the small room offered more questions than answers as the group now stood before nothing more than a dusty standing mirror partially covered by a tattered, old cloth.

"Well, this is certainly disappointing…" Nasuada commented as she entered the small room.

"Maybe not." Eragon replied. "The energy I felt – the magic – is coming from here." He said, motioning to the mirror.

Evander, who had not stopped staring at the covered object, approached it and placed his fingers over the cloth before pulling it off to reveal an elegant mirror that appeared to be handcrafted with extreme precision. The elongated oval mirror had a thick golden boarder that bore strange markings along the outer edge. But, what was even stranger was the mirror itself, which was jagged like natural rock and not smooth and flat like a typical mirror.

"Why would Galbatorix infuse magic in a mirror and keep it hidden in such an elaborate way?" Nasuada asked.

"I don't like this…" Murtagh suddenly commented. "There is something about the energy in here that seems…familiar." He said, now looking mildly uncomfortable.

"Well, there's no point in all of us standing around here." Nasuada began. "Zack, Evander, Murtagh and Eragon should remain behind for a little longer to see if you can uncover anything more before you two must depart."

"Aye." Eragon replied.

"I too must be departing for Carvahall." Roran said as he took a step closer to Eragon. "But I shall remain here until you all return to the surface, so that we may leave together."

Eragon smiled and clasped his cousin's arm, with Roran doing the same. "We won't be long." He said. Nasuada embraced Murtagh briefly before Roran and herself left the deeper dungeons for daylight.

Evander, who was still standing before the mirror, continued to stare at the jagged uneven surface as he slowly extended a finger to touch it.

"Before we do anything we should – Evander, wait!" Eragon cried as he turned around just before Evander could touch the mirror, however Eragon's cry startled Evander and his finger brushed against the mirror.

At first, nothing happened and Evander turned around to walk towards Eragon, but he could not take more than a few steps before being pulled back towards the mirror; his finger was stuck to the surface.

"Evander, what's going on?" Eragon asked as he approached him.

"I-I don't know." Evander began as he tried to pry his finger off, but no matter what he did his finger would not budge. He fought harder to pull away, when suddenly a mysterious force began to suck Evander's hand into the mirror.

"Evander!" Eragon cried as he ran towards Evander, followed closely by Murtagh and Zack. Evander was only a few feet away, however by the time Eragon reached him Evander's arm was nearly halfway through the mirror.

Evander stretched his free arm out to his father, who tried with all of his might to pull Evander back into the room. But the mysterious force connected to Evander was too strong for Eragon to fight. "ARRRRGGGGHH!" He cried as he palm glowed blue. But no matter what they did, Evander was still being pulled into the mirror as his legs were now slowly being sucked in.

"Evander, you have to fight it!" Eragon cried.

"I am!" Evander replied as a look of fear covered his face. With each passing second Evander's body slowly disappeared from view, and only his chest, head, neck and the arm Eragon was holding onto could be seen.

"Eragon, you must let go!" Murtagh shouted when realized that nothing was working.

"What?!" Eragon replied. "There is no way I'm leaving my son!" He cried.

"Father…" Evander called as their eyes for one last time before Evander's head, along with the rest of his body that was visible disappeared.

"EVANDER!"

But he was gone. The mirror had swallowed him whole…


[A/N] So sorry for the long wait, and thank you for all the fav's, follows, and reviews for this story! Thanks to Elemental Dragon Slayer, HotFudge99, Kotoamatsukami33, hardyb1, Three Guests and Sir Davos for reviewing the last chapter!

Also, as always, a BIG thanks to RaphaelofTheDarkness for beta reading for me! What a great help he is :)

- Demonzmagic