Chapter 26: Celebration
The General of the Empire, Roran Stronghammer, was in the streets of the city, after the end of the battle for Illiria. For hours, the soldiers had worked after the battle to clean the streets of bodies, burying the dead or burning their bodies. He had ordered hundreds of soldiers to patrol the city for an impending attack as the others were healed from cuts and injuries, many lives saved in the process. He looked once again at the tired soldiers around him, others sitting on the ground exhausted, while others were barely able to hold their weapons. They had won a great victory against the army of King Orrin. He was very proud of their achievement and he realized that if he was in their position, he would want a speech to boost the morale even more. As their leader, the task fell upon him. His throat dried at the thought, but after all the dangers he had faced that day, the speech seemed harmless. With a loud voice he praised his soldiers.
"It has been a great honor fighting alongside such noble races, the magnificent Elves, the strong Dwarves and the courageous Humans. What a story to tell to the kids! Drink, Drink for this has been a great victory for Nasuada's empire and our cause!. Today we have won a powerful enemy, an undefeated enemy in this war. We have bloodied their noses and have left them in the dust! May we always have victories like this and may King Orrin drown in his own blood! To victory!" Roran shouted lifting his hammer, red with the blood of their enemies and immediately the soldiers cheered their approval with loud voices, clapping each other on the back, and hitting their weapons on their shields. The dwarves hit their legs on the ground, making a great noise, while the elves smiled and did the gesture of respect.
Roran smiled like a little child, laughing as his fellow soldiers grabbed him, lifted him and threw him in the air, catching him as he fell.
"Roran, Roran!" the soldiers shouted his name. A soldier came with a large bucket of mead and emptied it over their general as the others cheered and laughed, from the appalled expression on Roran's face.
"What a waste of good mead!" Roran shouted and with that he demanded a glass to be filled from an open barrel, to the enjoyment of his soldiers. Women came out of the houses and began to sing and dance and the men joined them as they celebrated their great victory over their enemies.
Dwarves joined the celebrations as they sang their ancient dwarven songs. They began drinking mead with the humans, dancing and singing and dancing again.
Roran smiled at the people around him as he entered the "Broken Wizard Inn". The tables were full of people, sitting, waiting for food, and drinking as he had suggested. He could hear singing and a cacophony of voices as everyone talked at the same time. A hand shook his arm and Roran left his reverie as he saw Alarik .
"Drunk already General?" Alarik asked him with a big smile on his face.
"You wish." Roran said laughing.
"Good, then you won't have a problem for a little game of Bras de Fer ?" Alarik asked .
"Anytime, anywhere" Roran answered and sat on an empty table as Alarik sat opposite him.
"The best of three rounds. Every round someone wins, he drinks a tankard of mead, and when he loses, he drinks two tankards." Alarik explained as Roran looked at him surprised. "You didn't think I'd give you an easy challenge?" Alarik asked.
"Of course not. Whoever loses the game pays for all the drinks." Roran added with a smile.
"Deal." Alarik answered after some thought.
Alarik cleared the table in front of them as they prepared for the game. He put his hand on the table just as Roran put his, as they struggled against each other for a whole minute. The two opponents were evenly matched. Alarik won the round as Roran felt his shoulder give way.
"A good try, General." Alarik said as he ordered the drinks.
Roran drank thew two tankards of mead, his share after losing, feeling a bit lightheaded as he finished the tankards.
They struggled again as more and more soldiers gathered around them, to cheer them on. Roran's hand almost touched the table but then with an effort of will, he pushed Alarik's hand and slowly lifted it towards the other side. This time Roran won the round.
"I can't let you win every time!." Roran said lifting his shoulders apologetically, smiling at Alarik as soldiers cheered.
More rounds passed until finally the score was even and one final round remained to determine the winner.
"I hope you're ready to pay the bill!" Roran stated.
"Perhaps you don't know me that well after all, Roran!" Alarik replied with a determined expression.
"I bet a hundred crowns I will beat you!" Roran stated.
"Two hundred!" Alarik stated, as every soldier made a bet, large sums of money being gathered.
They put their hands on the table and struggled against each other, huffing and puffing, soldiers cheering them on. Every time someone had the advantage the soldiers cheered. For several minutes they struggled, neither one willing to let the other win. Finally with a loud shout, Roran won the round, his shoulder aching, his muscles felt torn.
He lifted himself from the table and slapped Alarik on the back, laughing as soldiers clapped and cheered.
"Better luck next time brother." he said as he lifted his mug shouting in celebration.
Alarik laughed and looked amused at his general, happy that he was as lucky to be led by a leader like Roran, and more importantly, counting him as a friend. He lifted himself from the table too, following Roran.
Eragon was sitting at a table in the Broken Wizard Inn. He watched with a smile as Roran won the game with Alarik, both of them drunk, as they struggled to walk straight, singing. He remembered the celebrations they had in Carvahall, so many years ago, when they were both simple farmers, when the villagers gathered to celebrate. He was sitting with Gregorbak and Thrain, in a table as men passed and congratulated them for the battle. Drinks came to their table, gifts from the innkeeper, as men sang and danced in the tavern.
King Orik found his way to the table of Eragon as he had got rid of his shiny gold armor, and his silver helmet, with the ingeitum star. His brown beard had grown a bit, and he had a joyous expression on his face as he saw Eragon.
"Eragon, mine Brother!" he shouted and Eragon lifted himself from the table as they hugged and slapped each other on the back.
"Orik, its so good to see you!" Eragon replied.
"I thought I would never see you again" Orik said, mentioning the fact that Eragon had been adopted to the clan ingeitum.
Eragon smiled and a wide grin covered his face.
"I have such a long time to celebrate with you and talk to you! You care to join me for some drinks Eragon?" King Orik said as he drank a cup of mead.
"Of course Orik! We can catch up." Eragon answered as Orik grabbed a cup of mead and drank it.
"Aaah good stuff." Orik said sighing after he finished his cup and burped.
Eragon smiled in response, not expecting that to happen.
A band of humans and dwarves started singing a song Eragon had never heard before and Eragon was surprised at the lyrics for he found out it was about himself.
Our hopes have been lifted from the brave Eragon,
For his great dragon Saphira has finally been born!
Let's raise our flagon to the great blue dragon!
Saphira the mighty, who shines so brightly
All Hail Eragon! The killer of the dark king!
Who'se bravery and courage, victory shall bring!
Let's drink to their health, to a long and great life
May they get old as the mountains,
and may Eragon find a wise and beautiful wife.
Let us drink like fountains for this fate to befall
Eragon Shadeslayer, the best of us all!
Drink mead and beer for today we have won!
Another dark king is finally gone!
King Orrin has lost, his men lie in blood!
The Black horse of Surda, lies down in the mood!
Eragon laughed with the lyrics and raised his cup as he drank his cup of mead, true to the lyrics of the song. Tears filled his eyes, as the song reminded him of his war against Galbatorix, and what he had lost. As the song finished, he raised his cup to be filled once again to the merriment of the soldiers around him, and a loud sound was heard as Saphira took a barrel of mead, the innkeeper had given her, and emptied it in her stomach. Black smoke could be seen as she breathed.
"This is a really good drink." Saphira commented, making Eragon smile.
"Indeed, the taste is not too bad." Eragon commented
Saphira's only response was lifting another barrel and drinking it.
Eragon saw Orik, laughing and singing the song with the others. When things calmed down a little, they talked about the home of the dragons, and Eragon mentioned the dwarves who had come to help build and live in the dragon city.
"I am glad everything has worked in favor for you, Eragon" Orik said with his bass voice.
Eragon heard him but was distracted by a sight in the inn. Arya was walking towards him. She was still wearing her elven made, shiny, white scaly armor, and on her hip was her green sword Tamerlein. Her long black hair were loose, covering part of her face, but her green eyes were shining as she looked at Eragon and Orik drinking her red lips forming a smile. She walked towards them, slowly and Eragon's face was lit by a big smile.
Arya walked towards Eragon and Orik who were sitting at a table in the Broken Wizard Inn. Eragon was still wearing his shining silver armor, a wide smile on his face as he saw her coming. His brown eyes were shining as he looked at her. His sword Brisingr was on his hip and he ws slowly drinking from a mug of ale. Arya had been surprised by the stubble on his face but at the end she decided she liked the change.
"Arya" Eragon said, greeting her with the sign of respect, as Arya did the same.
"So nice to see you here." Eragon said, a deep shade of red covered his face as the song he had heard before, started again.
"It is nice to see you too Eragon." Arya said smiling. "And you too King Orik." Arya greeted him in turn.
"What great company!" Orik shouted and slammed his hand on the table for more mead to come.
Eragon laughed and Arya smiled as Orik drank more of the mead.
"Between you, Roran and Alarik, I don't know who would win a drinking match." Eragon commented.
A smile appeared on Orik's face.
"We shall have to try sometime, to find out the answer." Orik stated.
"I'll go find out why that maid is taking so long." Orik stated and left the table, winking at Eragon as he left him alone with Arya.
"I brought a gift." Arya said as she revealed a small bottle filled with a clear liquid. She smiled at Eragon and opened the bottle.
"What is it?" Eragon asked.
"It's Faelnirv, our elven drink." Arya answered as she filled Eragon's cup with it and then her own.
"Cheers!" she said as they clung their cups together. Eragon drank the content and Arya did the same. The Faelnirv left a nice honey like taste in her mouth, and her throat burned as the alcohol went down.
"It's quite strong." Eragon stated.
"I made it by myself." Arya said.
"Thank you." Eragon replied as he looked at her green eyes.
Arya remembered the night before the battle, when she had met Eragon on that tower. She had a lot of fun listening to his stories from the home of the Dragons, and she had realized that Eragon had become more mature because of his responsibilities as a teacher and as a Lead Rider. They had passed a long time together, just as they did so many years ago, when he comforted her and they were able to talk freely. An image came to her mind of Eragon saying her true name, as she shivered and she had the same reaction. She had given Eragon her true name, a sign of trust, a sign that she considered him to be very close.
She remembered Eragon when he was leaving Alagaesia, a conversation they had under the largest tree in the forrest. She had stated that it was not possible for them to be together, because his duty was to lead the dragons, and her duty was to be queen of her people, the reason she had made the yawe sign on her back, the reason she had carried the egg for so many years. She was defined by duty, and her duty was to be the Queen of the elves.
An image came to her mind of Faolin, the elf she had grown to love before the war. He had been killed in the attack for Durza, and she had felt her heart stop, as if it had died alongside him. She remembered the nights she had spent playing the same scene again and again in her mind, trying to think of any possible way she could have saved him, but his fate had been sealed. She had lost the person she loved and she did not want that to happen again.
Eragon had met her and he had grown fond of her, and he loved her. It was clear that he still had feelings for her, and the truth was that Arya had begun to feel the same way as she had felt for Faolin for Eragon. She thought of the way he had comforted her, and talked to her, the images he had made for her, the times they had spent together. She did not want to let herself fall in love with someone else, only for him to be taken away from her again. She would not be able to live and smile again if that happened for the second time and that was why she had refused Eragon so many years before. She reminded herself of the kiss she had shared with Eragon on top of the tower, under the stars and she blushed as she covered her face with her hair to cover it. She doubted Eragon noticed as he was busy drinking his faelnirv.
She remembered the attraction she had felt that night.
"Perhaps in time, if your feelings are the same" Arya had said so many years ago and now it was clear Eragon was feeling the same way as he had. She had run away from the tower and she felt trapped. Trapped between losing Eragon because he felt that she was ignoring him, and his emotions, or losing him by a game of fate, like she had lost Faolin. Scared she had run away from the tower, away from what could have been, away from the man who loved her
"Don't drink too much or we might see the Queen of the Elves dancing" Eragon teased.
"Look who is talking." Arya countered and Eragon laughed.
"What do you mean?" he said with a fake innocent face as Arya smiled in response.
"I have a gift for you too." Eragon stated as Arya lifted her eyebrows.
"What is it?" Arya asked.
"Follow me" Eragon said and lifted himself from the table as they finished the last of the Faelnirv. Arya saw Eragon stumble and she caught him from his arm.
"Watch out." Arya warned him.
"Thanks Arya." Eragon said. He slowly exited the tavern, passing by Roran and Alarik, singing an old tavern song. Thrain joined them, singing and Gregorbak looked on in amusement at the proceedings, laughing.
Arya followed Eragon outside the Inn, as he walked towards Saphira and Firnen. They had both drunk a lot of barrels of mead, and were asleep outside the building. Eragon walked carefully, as he searched his saddlebags for something.
Arya smiled as she thought about Firnen and Saphira. The ten years that Saphira was gone, Firnen had not stopped asking questions about her, details about battles Saphira had fought, questions Arya did not know the answer to. Firnen was fascinated by Saphira.
"Ready?" Eragon asked and Arya sighed.
"Here it is" he said opening his hands. On one hand, he had a blue gold flower, which was taller than she remembered from their trip in Alagaesia. The blue petals were a deeper shade of blue, and the gold mark inside was brighter, as if molten gold had fallen on the leaves. A pleasant smell came from the flower and Arya sniffed at it with satisfaction.
"Thank you so much Eragon." Arya said, her affection returning and feeling her cheeks blush. "It really is beautiful."
"I'm glad you like it. It took me quite some time to perfect it." Eragon said mischievously.
"Theres something else..." Eragon said. "I was trying out the techniques I learned from Rhunon, by creating a sword of my own for one of the riders. The experiment didn't go as planned." Eragon said with a smile, an image of a big fire rising and almost burning him was played in Arya's mind. "But I did manage to create this." Eragon said showing her his hand.
On it, was a long silver necklace, shining in the light of the dying sun. A shape of a silver blue heart could be seen, as the light shone on it. The blue part of the heart was made by the same material as the pommel of Brisingr, a way to store energy for the elves. The silver part was shining, and had a small inscription in gold, of her name.
Speechless, Arya took it in her arms and examined it as a smile appeared on her face.
"I know it's nothing fancy." Eragon stated, dancing from one leg to the other.
"It's beautiful." Arya replied her eyes filling with tears. Her hands unclasped the necklace and slowly she put it on her.
"It marks your beauty even more." Eragon said and turned away embarrassed.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that." Eragon stated.
"It's....fine" Arya replied as she sat on the floor with a thoughtful expression. Perhaps she was being too harsh to Eragon, perhaps her duty as a Queen did not stop her from being with him? Perhaps they could be together.
"Are you well?" Eragon asked her concerned.
"Yes, Eragon. Thank you so much for the gifts. I am only...tired from the battle." Arya searched an excuse. She needed more time to think, to find out her feelings for Eragon.
Eragon lied down next to her, his eyes searching hers. Finally he sighed and he sat next to her, seeming to understand what she was thinking. He talked about the home of the dragons, building the great library in the city and studying the great tomes he had brought with him, containing the secrets of the Riders. He talked about being the Lead Rider, about how glad he was he could see his friends in Alagaesia again, his cousin Roran, King Orik, herself and Katrina. He talked about Saphira, about the dragons of the other riders and their training. He was proud of them all for surviving their first battle. He talked about his concern for his students, what Saphira had replied when he told her of his worries, about stories he had heard and legends he had learned. Arya listened to him, happy that she was with Eragon, happy to listen to his voice, to learn his thoughts and listen to his stories until finally her waking dreams took her, with Eragon still talking besides her, opening his heart to her, as she thought about how she felt for him.