The next morning, I woke to the scent of smoke. I saw a camp fire with a steaming bowl of water. The woman from last night was bent over and put some sort of green leaves into the bowl.
Shifting my back against the tree, I saw her emerald eyes flicker with relief. She removed the bowl and handed it to me.
I cautiously sniffed the contents. The liquid smelled sweet, like honey. I wearily glanced up at the woman, taking note of the pointed ears. So she was an elf.
Taking a sip of the liquid, it immediately turned bitter when it hit my tongue. Spitting it out, I glared at the woman.
"Tis a delicacy among my people that restores our strength," she explained, shrugging her shoulders.
"Oh. Your people, elf right?" I asked.
I was still getting over the shock of everything that had happened since last night. The woman nodded.
"Yes. The elves of Du Weldenvarden," she said wistfully.
I choked. There was only one land that had a name like that. I needed to make sure.
"W-where am I?"
"In The Spine, the most remote forest in all of Alagaesia. Needless to say, you surprised both the Shade and me when you appeared. What are you doing in the forest?" she asked.
My entire body was shaking all over. The egg, The Spine, Shade, Alagaesia. It all added up.
Then you must be Arya.
Her eyes widened in surprise and I cursed. Mind reader. I would need to make a mental reminder to shield my thoughts.
"Yes, that's my name. How did you know?"
"I'm not really sure how I can tell you, but I can kind of predict the future of this world," I said.
"You have the gift of prophecy? Tis rare in someone so young. Do you care if I look inside your mind?" she asked.
Shivering, I looked away, remembering the feeling the Shade had given me when he had done that.
Arya knelt besides me and placed a soft hand on my shoulder.
"I promise this will not hurt like it did when Durza forced his will on you. If you do not want me to, I understand. But I may be able to help you if you can show me your memories," explained Arya.
Biting my lip, I was torn. I felt like I could trust her, yet something held me back. I shook my head.
"I understand. But beware that not everyone will obey your wishes. Now, are you feeling well enough to travel?" she asked.
"You want me to come with you?"
She looked rather amused.
"Unless you want to stay here, in this forest and risk wild cats, bears and who knows what else," she said.
I held up my hand.
"Okay, okay! I'll come with you. Where are we going?"
We were two days' journey out from Carvahall. I knew Arya could travel faster alone. At least she didn't say anything about it.
The terrain was difficult for me to traverse, but Arya effortlessly glided through the forest with ease.
"Damn elves," I grumbled, jealous.
Apparently, Arya was too focused that she didn't hear me. We came to a stop at the entrance of a cave. My elf companion whispered a word and a ball of blue light hovered in the air in front of us.
At the end of the tunnel, the cave widened and I saw the remnants of a camp fire. So this place had been used before.
"We make shelter here for the night. Also, you're lessons now begin," said Arya.
"What lessons?" I asked.
Placing her hands on her hips, Arya cocked her head.
"Yours of course. Did you really think the Shade was the only one that could sense your magic? It's there, and waiting to be unlocked," she explained.
Crossing my arms, I went to sit over in the opposite side of the cave and set my backpack on the ground next to me.
"Now, the best way to gain across to your magic is by picturing a locked door and key. Imagine the key unlocking the door, and allow the energy to escape. Try it," she began.
I closed my eyes and did what she said. Concentrating, I waited a minute before opening them again.
"Nothing," I said.
"You didn't try long enough. I'm going to gather firewood and I want you to continue practicing until I return."
I watched as she left. Sighing, I returned to my mind and continued to feel for the magic Arya and the Shade told me I had inside.
Eventually, the darkness began to fade and a white light surrounded me. It was the same kind of light and feeling I had experienced upon entering Alagaesia.
"So you've finally arrived, daughter," said a familiar voice. I was tempted to open my eyes.
"Dad? How, how can you be here? Where are you?" I asked.
A figure dressed in white emerged. I couldn't see the features as the light still blinded me.
"This is our true home, Ebony. I know you will have a difficult time believing me when I say this. You are of Alagaesian descent. Seek the sword Brightsteel and then speak to Oromis and ask him to train you," he paused.
"My time is short. I love you, my daughter and know that no matter what happens, I will always be with you," he finished and vanished.
"Dad!" I cried out, lunging forward.
The vision ended and I was jolted back to reality as someone was shaking my shoulders.
"Ebony, wake up! You're dreaming!" exclaimed Arya.
Shaking my head, I looked at her through teary eyes and sniffed.
"I saw my dad," I whispered.
She furrowed a brow, confused.
"I haven't seen him since he left a few years ago. He walked in on my mother having an affair with another man," I explained to her.
"Oh child," she said, allowing me to burry my face in her chest.
We had arrived at Carvahall. I had kept the part about dad telling me to seek the sword and Oromis to myself. I wasn't sure how Arya would respond to that if I told her.
Arya abruptly stopped, causing me to bump into her. Her eyes briefly flickered with irritation.
"I shall go into the village first. We can't have you dressed looking like that," she motioned to my shirt and pants.
I rolled my eyes. "I'm not wearing a dress or anything like that," I argued.
An exasperated sigh escaped Arya's lips.
"Fine. I don't expect this to take too long. Can I trust you to stay here?"
I nodded. There wasn't anywhere for me to go. Sitting down, I watched as she left. Grabbing Eragon from my backpack, I started to scan the beginning. My mouth dropped open in alarm. Hopefully, Arya had transported the egg before we had met.
Pine needles crunched behind me. Spinning around, I came face to face with a large cat.
I slowly got to my feet.
"Nice kitty. Nice big kitty," I cooed.
Damn it, Arya! Of all the times you had to leave, why now?
The cat crouched, and lunged.
I heard something whistle in the air. The cat in front of me roared as an arrow struck it's leg. Another arrow hit the cat's chest. Finally having enough, the animal darted away.
Glancing in the direction from where the arrows had come, I saw a boy no older than me walking towards me.
He had sandy brown hair, a muscular build and carried a crudely made hunting bow.
"Thanks," I said, wondering who he was.
"No problem. You aren't from around here, are you?" he asked, looking at my clothes.
I shook my head.
"You shouldn't be in The Spine alone. You might want to come to the village," he suggested.
"Well, I really can't. I'm supposed to wait for my companion. By the way, who are you?"
He slung his bow over his shoulders and offered me his hand.
"Eragon. You? Are you okay, your face turned extremely pale," he said.
"Yeah. I'm fine. My name is Ebony."
I was lying. I felt really sick. I still couldn't believe this was happening. I was shaking hands with Eragon!
Arya found us just then. Eragon's attention turned to her, and one would think he had seen an angel by the way he was staring at her.
"Earth to Eragon!"
Waving my hand in front of his face didn't work either.
"I found you some clothes," Arya said, handing me a leather suit of armor and matching leather boot.
I took the hint and marched to change behind a tree. The leather was snug and a bit heavy when I put it on.
"There. Now what?"
"Now we go find Brom." she declared.
Eragon's eyes lit up.
"I can take you to him. He owns a cottage on the far side of the village," he told us.
Arya and I followed him until we came to a small, wooden cabin with a single window that face away from the village. The elf knocked and we waited for Brom to answer.
When he finally opened the door, he studied the three of us, before his eyes finally landed on me. I looked away.
"Come inside," he invited us.
Eragon, Arya and I followed him into the cottage.
I sat down next to Eragon while Brom and Arya remained standing. Brom continued to stare at me with that intensive gaze, making me feel like I was a bug under a microscope. This was supposed to be all about Eragon, not me.
"Who is this? I thought you were traveling alone," Brom asked Arya.
The elf started pacing.
"Yes I was. Her name is Ebony and interestingly enough, the Shade I encountered appeared far more concerned with killing her than stopping me," she said.
"Strange that Durza would want to kill a child instead of preventing the egg from reaching the Varden," mulled Brom.
I nervously fidgeted. I guess it couldn't hurt to tell them what the Shade had said.
"If I may, when Durza spoke to me, he said that I have power to rival that of the King," I looked at the floor, not wanting to see their faces.
A deep, ensuing silence enveloped the room. Brom got up, and followed by the elf, headed to an adjoining room. I didn't need to look at Eragon to know he was as confused as I was about this.
They came back a few minutes later, Arya holding the egg. She placed it on the ground in front of us.
What's she doing?
"Ebony, Eragon. You both are powerful enough to be Riders. The time has come for this egg to choose which one of you will be a Rider," she announced.
Wonderful. She's risking screwing up what happens in the books. Perhaps I should leave, I thought and got up.
"Where do you think you're going?" demanded Arya.
"I need to be alone. I shouldn't be here," I whispered.
"No. You cannot leave," she said sternly.
Stomping my foot, I rolled my eyes. There was only one way to convince her why I should leave.
"I give you permission to search my memories," I said.
Staying where I was, Arya moved forward and placed both hands on my forehead. The same thing happened again, only this time I was calmer.
It was over in an instant and Arya was left breathless and sent me a pained expression.
Reaching for the door again, she stopped me.
"I still want you to stay here."
I stood in a far corner and watched as Eragon knelt in front of the egg. The egg started to wobble and I heard a crack.
The rest of the egg shattered, and I saw a small, scaly creature that closely resembled a lizard. It was about a foot long and had wings folded against its sides.
Even in my distress, I couldn't help smiling at seeing the baby dragon glancing all around the room. When the dragon's eyes landed me, a lump caught in my throat.
No. Please, no... I begged silently.
Unfortunately as luck would have it, Saphira crawled over to me. Pressing my back against the wall, I closed my eyes. This wasn't supposed to happen!
"I can't do this. It's not right," I said.
"You can you will. She has obviously chosen you. If the Rider refuses the bond to their dragon, both of you will become insane," explained Brom.
My eyes snapped up to meet her own. Shoulders sagging in defeat, I slumped to the floor.
Saphira chirped, and nudged my leg. Sighing, I shakily reached out to touch her head.
A burning, surge of energy shot from my hand and up into my shoulder. The world became dizzy, and for the third time in as many days, I blacked out.
My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. I was resting on a bed, staring up at the ceiling. Warm blankets enveloped my body.
"I really need to stop doing that."
Every muscle felt like it was burning. The door opened, and Arya came down and sat on the edge of the bed.
"The bonding has been completed. You will continue lessons with Brom during our trip to the Varden," she said.
I shook my head. That wasn't my priority.
"When I met my father in the vision, he told me to seek the blade Brightsteel and then go to Oromis for training," I explained.
Arya looked as if she had seen a ghost.
"Ebony, do you know who Brightsteel belonged to?"
"Brightsteel was the sword of the first Rider Eragon. This is strange your father would know of it. I shall talk with Brom about this," she said and left.
Getting up, I took a deep breath. It was then I felt another presence in my mind. Could it be?
"Saphira, is that you?" I waited for a response.
"Yes little one. I am away from the village. Brom and Arya felt it would be safer for the both of us," explained a female voice that echoed in my mind.
Getting dressed back into my normal clothes, I heard voices as I neared the door.
"Do you think she's the one?" asked Arya's voice.
"I'm not sure. If Eragon I is still alive, he would be more than a moral booster for the Varden. Along with the girl, I have no doubt we could end this war in a single night, wait-"
The door opened, causing me to stumble backwards from surprise. Brom was there, and he was difficult to read. I didn't know if he was amused or upset.
"Saphira is waiting for you in The Spine. Go and see her," he said.
I obeyed and stepped outside. A thin fog covered the village. While I walked, I took the time to study the Gedwey Ignasia that was imprinted in the palm of my hand. The tattoo glittered a bright purple color.
Making my way and along with Saphira's guidance, I headed into The Spine on my own. The dragon was going to have to answer some questions I had about all this.
A gust of wind rushed around me, and I heard the flapping of dragon wings come from behind.