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to you, Eragon, that was never part of our plan. I had no choice,
though. They recognized me. I stabbed the white-haired man un-
derneath his chin... It was like when Father cut the throat of a
pig. And then the other, I smashed open his skull. I can still feel his
bones giving way... I remember every blow I've landed, from the
soldiers in Carvahall to the ones on the Burning Plains... You
know, when I close my eyes, sometimes I can't sleep because the
light from the fire we set in the docks of Teirm is so bright in my
mind. I think I'm going mad then."
 Eragon found his hands gripping the staff with such force, his
knuckles were white and tendons ridged the insides of his wrists.
"Aye," he said. "At first it was just Urgals, then it was men and
Urgals, and now this last battle... I know what we do is right, but
right doesn't mean easy. Because of who we are, the Varden expect
Saphira and me to stand at the front of their army and to slaughter
entire battalions of soldiers. We do. We have." His voice caught,
and he fell silent.
 Turmoil accompanies every great change, said Saphira to both of
them. And we have experienced more than our share, for we are agents
of that very change. I am a dragon, and I do not regret the death of those
who endanger us. Killing the guards in Narda may not be a deed worthy
of celebration, but neither is it one to feel guilty about. You had to do it.
When you must fight, Roran, does not the fierce joy of combat lead wings
to your feet? Do you not know the pleasure of pitting yourself against a
worthy opponent and the satisfaction of seeing the bodies of your enemies
piled before you? Eragon, you have experienced this. Help me explain it
to your cousin.
 Eragon stared at the coals. She had stated a truth that he was re-
luctant to acknowledge, lest by agreeing that on could enjoy vio-
lence, he would become a man he would despise. So he was mute.
Across from him, Roran appeared similarly affected.
 In a softer voice, Saphira said, Do not be angry. I did not intend to
upset you... I forget sometimes that you are still unaccustomed to


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 "It must have fallen," said Eragon, examining the side of the
gulch. He allowed the werelight to fade into oblivion.
 Roran nodded and stood, brushing dirt from his pants.

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the ashen light that precedes dawn. Saphira had landed in the hol-
low where they were now, and they had slept through most of the
past day before beginning their reconnaissance.

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 Afterward, Nasuada had said, "We are trusting your judgment in
this, Eragon, Saphira. For your sake and ours, I hope this expedition
goes well." Her tone left Eragon uncertain whether her words repre-

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 The details of Saphira's remarks were complex, but the underly-
ing structure of the presentation was straight forward. Saphira sup-
ported Eragon because she understood how much the proposed

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  Eragon blinked, disoriented as the noise and fury of battle faded and the pleasant aroma of juniper wood replaced the stench of blood. He ran his tongue over his upper teeth, trying to eradicate the taste of bile that filled his mouth.
  Murtagh.
  The name alone generated a welter of confused emotions in Eragon. On one had, he liked Murtagh. Murtagh had saved Eragon and Saphira from the Ra'zac after their first, ill-fated visit to Dras-Leona; risked his life to help extricate Eragon from Gil'ead; acquitted himself honorably in the Battle of Farthen Dur; and, despite the torments he no doubt endured as a result, had chosen to interpret his orders from Galbatorix in a way that allowed him to release Eragon and Saphira after the Battle of the Burning Plains instead of taking them captive. It was not Murtagh's fault that the Twins had abducted him; that the red dragon, Thorn, had hatched for him; or that Galbatorix had discovered their true names, with which he extracted oaths of fealty in the ancient language from both Murtagh and Thorn.

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AROUND THE CAMPFIRE
  The low mound of coals throbbed like the heart of some giant beast. Occasionally, a patch of gold sparks flared into existence and raced across the surface of the wood before vanishing into a white-hot crevice.
  The dying remnants of the fire Eragon and Roran had built cast a dim red light over the surrounding area, revealing a patch of rocky soil, a few pewter-gray bushes, the indistinct mass of a juniper tree farther off, then nothing.

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