Excerpt from Eragon
Book One in the Inheritance cycle
by Christopher Paolini
knelt in a bed of trampled reed grass and scanned the tracks with a
practiced eye. The prints told him that the deer had been in the meadow
only a half-hour before. Soon they would bed down. His target, a small
doe with a pronounced limp in her left forefoot, was still with the
herd. He was amazed she had made it so far without a wolf or bear
sky was clear and dark, and a slight breeze stirred the air. A silvery
cloud drifted over the mountains that surrounded him, its edges glowing
with ruddy light cast from the harvest moon cradled between two peaks.
Streams flowed down the mountains from stolid glaciers and glistening
snowpacks. A brooding mist crept along the valley’s floor, almost thick
enough to obscure his feet.
was fifteen, less than a year from manhood. Dark eyebrows rested above
his intense brown eyes. His clothes were worn from work. A hunting
knife with a bone handle was sheathed at his belt, and a buckskin tube
protected his yew bow from the mist. He carried a wood-frame pack.
deer had led him deep into the Spine, a range of untamed mountains that
extended up and down the land of Alagaësia. Strange tales and men often
came from those mountains, usually boding ill. Despite that, Eragon did
not fear the Spine—he was the only hunter near Carvahall who dared
track game deep into its craggy recesses.
was the third night of the hunt, and his food was half gone. If he did
not fell the doe, he would be forced to return home emptyhanded. His
family needed the meat for the rapidly approaching winter and could not
afford to buy it in Carvahall.
stood with quiet assurance in the dusky moonlight, then strode into the
forest toward a glen where he was sure the deer would rest. The trees
blocked the sky from view and cast feathery shadows on the ground. He
looked at the tracks only occasionally; he knew the way.
the glen, he strung his bow with a sure touch, then drew three arrows
and nocked one, holding the others in his left hand. The moonlight
revealed twenty or so motionless lumps where the deer lay in the grass.
The doe he wanted was at the edge of the herd, her left foreleg
stretched out awkwardly.
slowly crept closer, keeping the bow ready. All his work of the past
three days had led to this moment. He took a last steadying breath
and—an explosion shattered the night.
herd bolted. Eragon lunged forward, racing through the grass as a fiery
wind surged past his cheek. He slid to a stop and loosed an arrow at
the bounding doe. It missed by a finger’s breadth and hissed into
darkness. He cursed and spun around, instinctively nocking another
where the deer had been, smoldered a large circle of grass and trees.
Many of the pines stood bare of their needles. The grass outside the
charring was flattened. A wisp of smoke curled in the air, carrying a
burnt smell. In the center of the blast radius lay a polished blue
stone. Mist snaked across the scorched area and swirled insubstantial
tendrils over the stone.
watched for danger for several long minutes, but the only thing that
moved was the mist. Cautiously, he released the tension from his bow
and moved forward. Moonlight cast him in pale shadow as he stopped
before the stone. He nudged it with an arrow, then jumped back. Nothing
happened, so he warily picked it up.
Nature had never polished a
stone as smooth as this one. Its flawless surface was dark blue, except
for thin veins of white that spiderwebbed across it. The stone was cool
and frictionless under his fingers, like hardened silk. Oval and about
a foot long, it weighed several pounds, though it felt lighter than it
Eragon found the stone both beautiful and frightening. Where did it come from? Does it have a purpose? Then a more disturbing thought came to him: Was it sent here by accident, or am I meant to have it? If he had learned anything from the old stories, it was to treat magic, and those who used it, with great caution.
But what should I do with the stone? It
would be tiresome to carry, and there was a chance it was dangerous. It
might be better to leave it behind. A flicker of indecision ran through
him, and he almost dropped it, but something stayed his hand. At the very least, it might pay for some food, he decided with a shrug, tucking the stone into his pack.
glen was too exposed to make a safe camp, so he slipped back into the
forest and spread his bedroll beneath the upturned roots of a fallen
tree. After a cold dinner of bread and cheese, he wrapped himself in
blankets and fell asleep, pondering what had occurred.
forward to chapter 2: Palancar Valley >>