Chapter 24: A Magical Night
The castle of Illeria stood tall and proud inside the city, as the light of the sun slowly faded and was replaced by the darkness of the night. Soldiers guarded its gates and archers were posted to protect its magnificent towers from falling in the hands of the army of King Orrin. Four dragons stood outside the powerful gates of the castle challenging anyone foolish enough to pass close to them. The walls surrounding the castle had a grey color, but the walls of the castle itself were wight. The richly decorated wooden door leading inside the room was thick and covered with iron in order to protect against any attempt to open it by force and enchanted against magic. Guards were posted outside the door. Eragon and the riders along with Arya and Roran were having the meeting inside that room about the particular strategy they would use to defend the city. The meeting had been going on for many long hours.
Suddenly the door opened and Thrain and Gregorbak walked out with tired expressions on their faces. A long yawn escaped Gregorbak, expressing his tiredness and Thrain moved his hands in a circular manner while making a cracking noise from his stiff back.
Roran smiled at the two riders as he thought once again of the tactic they had discussed for the battle. He scratched his long beard and dreamt of bed but he already knew that he would not be able to sleep and he had many things to look over the city. He would still pay a visit to Katrina and the children, he thought wanting to at least have a good memory before the battle started. It had been a pleasant surprise having the dragons and riders in the city as they would provide immense help against the army they were facing and they decreased the chances of the city falling. He looked once again at Eragon, wearing his blue tunic and brown travelling pants and having his magnificent sword Brisingr at his waist. He was surprised at the lack of change on his face, as he did not look older from when he had seen him. He had grown a stubble but otherwise he still looked as he did so many years ago. He admired the longevity of the riders as he realized once again what it meant to be able to live forever. For a moment he entertained the idea but then he rejected it. His stomach growled and he realized he was hungry.
"I am so glad you are back!" Roran said again for the fifth time.
Eragon smiled back as he replied "You already said that".
"How was your trip? It must have been difficult traveling all this way." Roran asked remembering his one time he had traveled on Saphira's back. He had been stiff for three whole days after that and he had sworn he would never again fly on a dragon if he could help it.
"The trip was long, but fine. We didn't have much difficulty, except for a sand storm that hit us in the Haddarrac desert a few days ago.
"Dangerous things those sand storms" Roran said aloud as he remembered reading about them.
"I had to modify a spell to protect us from the whip of the sand otherwise there would be nothing left of us" Eragon replied.
Roran grimaced as he pictured that and he realized the potential that spell could have.
"How is Garrow and Ismira?" Eragon asked.
"Bah! Always fighting and chasing each other those two! Between them and the war I barely have five minutes of peace!" Roran said frustrated and then he started laughing as Eragon smiled.
"I'll have to visit them some day". Eragon said.
"Of course Eragon. Perhaps you'll be able to make them have peace, Mighty Kingkiller". Roran replied teasingly as Eragon kept looking at him not making any move to leave. Arya remained seated too.
At that moment Roran realized that everyone had left the room and that Eragon and Arya were intending to talk to each other. A wide smile appeared on his face, unable to hide the happiness for his cousin.
"Well, I must be going but I hope that me and Katrina and the children will see you soon Eragon" Roran said with a wink as he turned and left the room.
"I'll see you soon Roran!" Eragon's reply came from inside the room.
A growing silence fell in the room as Eragon and Arya stood there, motionless like statues, none wanting to break the peace that had followed Roran's exit. Eragon looked at the room around him, his eyes falling on the statues of kings of old that covered the four corners of the room, as if they were watching them. A large bookcase was covering one wall and a table had been put in the middle, upon which a variety of maps had been laid. Big comfortable chairs were around the table and Arya was sitting in one of them.
She wore her green elven made dress and her raven black hair were covering her shoulders. She had put the crown away and she was looking at him with her beautiful green eyes that he had imagined so many times when he was in the home of the dragons.
Eragon remembered when he had left Alagaesia, the long lonely nights he had spent thinking of her while looking at the stars of the sky, and the moon, thinking that these were the same stars that Arya would see if she looked. He smiled at that thought and then remembered the agony he had felt leaving her behind, a desire to leave it all and come back for her, and be close to her, to be able to see her beautiful smile again and make her laugh just as she had done so many years ago. He remembered the terrible pain in his heart and the endless nights Saphira had spent outside his room, checking on him. Now he had finally returned and he was again with the woman of his dreams, the woman that had conquered his heart so many years before, the woman he wanted to spend the remainder of his days with. He realized that the time away from her and the time he had spent thinking of her had not decreased his emotions for her but on the contrary his emotions had become stronger and would continue to do so. He felt lost in those beautiful green eyes and the smile that she had on her face, unable to break the spell, his heart hammering in his chest. He thought of anything he could tell her to break the silence and the ice that had taken over the room.
"How have things been here?" he said at last, with a croaky voice as his mouth had become dry, wanting to begin the conversation in a relaxed manner.
"Things have been busy rebuilding Nasuada's empire and keeping the peace. Unfortunately, all our efforts have been wasted by King Orrin declaring war on Nasuada, cities will have to be rebuilt again, people will die and it will be very hard to recover from this war too." Arya said hiding her expression.
"King Orrin will have to answer for his crimes." Eragon said feeling a familiar anger rising in his chest.
"But we are not here to talk about the war, we are here to talk as friends. It is so nice to see you again Arya!" he said with a smile.
"It is nice to have you back!". Arya replied.
"I bet you didn't miss me that much..." Eragon said teasingly putting a supposed sad expression on his face.
Arya smiled at that and Eragon was lost again at her beauty.
"I missed you a lot Eragon! More than I would care to admit..." Arya replied.
A triumphant smile appeared on Eragon's face and Arya laughed as she teased him about it. The sound of her laughter was like the most beautiful music he had heard.
A few moments of silence followed and then Eragon said.
"I'm hungry after my travels. Would you like to accompany me for dinner?" Eragon asked as his stomach growled to prove his point, making Arya smile.
"Of course Eragon. It would be my pleasure." Arya answered immediately, surprising Eragon and seeming surprised too at her response. Eragon opened the door for her and waited until she passed as he closed the door behind him. They walked towards the exit of the castle, talking about different news.
A few minutes passed as they exited the gates of the castle, a group of guards following close behind them but also at a distance so as not to disturb them. Eragon smiled as he realized Roran must have ordered them to keep close to protect them from harm.
They entered the Broken Wizard Inn, one of the most famous inns of Illiria. The inn was packed with people eating and drinking, talking and laughing and everyone grew serious as they entered. Surprised and awed expressions covered their faces as they realized who he was. Whispers followed their pass and whistles as they sat in an empty table at the corner of the inn. The innkeeper immediately came and took their order and disappeared inside the kitchen.
"You didn't tell me about the new land of the Dragons. You must have many stories to tell." Arya said with a weird expression on her face.
"Of course I will but it will take years to tell you all the details." Eragon said with a smile. Arya laughed at that and happy hearing her laugh, he started to recount how they had arrived in Du Skulblaka Ramr, how he had built the city with the help of the elves, problems that he had encountered and solved. Their food came, and Eragon ate his bowl of fruits and vegetables as Arya did the same with hers as she kept listening to his stories.
"This was right after Salador finished his training with you and arrived at Du Skulblaka Ramr to start his training with me. His dragon Gadaroth had woken up early to search for him as he and Alaina had woken up early and disappeared somewhere. He flew in the sky, making maneuvers and suddenly saw something flying in the sky, low in the ground but it disappeared after a few seconds. Gadaroth saw it a second time and decided to raise the alarm. All the elven guards came running, Saphira woke me up and we flew towards Gadaroth as fast as possible. A small army assembled, me, Saphira, Gregorbak, Thrain and their dragons all searching for Gadaroth and the reason for the alarm. Meanwhile, I asked Blodgharm to check on the eggs to see if they were all right and Blodgharm contacted me in alarm that one egg was missing. We all searched for the intiuder and finally spotted Gadaroth on the ground. We landed next to him and Gadaroth looked at us without moving. He tried to turn but we saw in surprise a small hatchling slowly biting his leg and pawing his leg harmlessly. Gadaroth looked on with a miserable expression as he was wondering what to do with it.!!" Eragon said laughing at the last sentence and Arya laughed too.
"I wish I was there to see that." Arya said with mirth.
Eragon had a sad smile on his face. "That was the first and last wild dragon hatching from one of the eggs.". He continued to say stories until he grew tired and the time for the inn to close had arrived. Eragon and Arya left the building as darkness covered them from the night sky.
"Will you walk with me?" Eragon said unwilling to let the night finish. Arya nodded and followed him as he led the way with a confident air towards the walls of the city.
He suddenly had a desire to look at the city from above. He saw the highest tower of the city, tall and grey and he had the urge to get up there. Arya followed him and soon they arrived at their destination. The soldiers in the tower left with awed expressions once he told them who he was and left Eragon and Arya alone.
He looked at the buildings of the city. The houses near the gate were small and poor, as it was clearly the poorer section of the city. Rags were clinging from ropes to dry in the night air and he could still see people begging in the street. A few meters ahead, there was a road leading to the market of the city, where the middle classes lived. He could clearly see the difference as the houses were cleaner and more richly decorated and they were made of stone, not wood, which was a lot more expensive. Finally, the area where the large castle of Nasuada stood, was full of richly decorated large houses, some going up several floors before ending in sharp points that aimed to the night sky. Clay rooftops and small statues or marble columns could be seen in many of the houses, clear indications of the rich status of the people living in them. Each looked like a small castle.
"What are you thinking? You've been silent." Arya asked him with curiosity.
"I was looking at the houses, marveling at the changes the city has had in these few years I have been gone." Eragon replied.
Arya shook her head in understanding. Her eyes turned towards the sky and so did Eragon's as he once again looked at the stars in the night sky. Who knew how many things they had seen, over the million years they had been in the sky, how many wars, ages of peace and prosperity, loves and passions.
"What a beautiful sky" Arya commented looking at the light of the red full moon and Eragon agreed.
He sat on the floor and patted the spot next to him, calling Arya to sit beside him. After a moment of hesitation and Eragon thinking she would refuse, she sat next to him their bodies touching at their shoulders. Eragon shivered at the contact.
He remembered the story Salador had said near the campfire when they were travelling and the thousand similar stories he had heard from the other riders and he recounted them to Arya, liking the way she heard his every word and looked in his eyes with her own beautiful green eyes.
Finally when Eragon stopped, Arya kept looking at him. As she was ready to say something about the story, Eragon felt himself get closer to her. He interrupted her as he put his finger on her lips, and he said her true name, the most precious gift she had given him a gift he would always cherish, making her shiver. He had an urge that he could not control. His mind was screaming in his head to stop as he did not want Arya to get angry but his heart was urging him to go on beating faster and faster until he thought it would pop out of his chest. His face came closer to Arya's and he searched in her eyes for a reaction, a sign that she did not want it but none came. Slowly, very slowly their lips touched and they kissed each other for a time. Her lips were soft and moist as he kissed her, and he knew he would remember this night for a long time. Their lips stayed in contact, kissing again and again.
Finally, Arya broke contact and turned, making it impossible for Eragon to see her reaction but he had already seen her face a deep shade of red, as she blushed.
"I must go Eragon!" Arya said simply and quietly, barely audible as she ran away from the tower as fast as she could.
"Arya! Arya!" Eragon shouted behind her but she did not turn back.
He cursed out loud at his stupidity on acting on his emotions. He blamed himself for not having control over his emotions. He looked at a loose rock and kicked it with all his strength angry at himself. He hoped his endeavor had not ruined the friendship he had with Arya. He tried to control his breathing, his anxiety making his heart beat as fast as possible. He counted withing himself and whole minutes passed before his breathing came back to normal.
He sat down, looking at the night sky, the bright stars twinkling and the red moon in the sky. He saw a star fall from the sky, its way marked by a white line on the dark sky. He made a wish smiling at himself. Whatever had happened could not be changed. He had made his decision and now he would have to live with it. His words were final and he felt the familiar beating in heart as he thought of Arya once again as he kissed her at the very same spot a few minutes ago.
One thing is for sure he thought.
The night was magical and he would never be able to forget it. He continued looking at the sky, for the whole night, lost in his thoughts, in his love and his misery as tears covered his eyes at Arya's reaction at the same time as the night sky and the red moon slowly gave its way to the bright day and the sun.