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    We are the last, Saphira said.

    Eragon frowned, not understanding.

    The last free dragon and Rider, she explained. We are the only ones left. We are . . .

    Alone.

    Yes.

    Eragon stumbled as his foot struck a loose stone he had overlooked. Miserable, he closed his eyes for a moment. We can’t do this by ourselves, he thought. We can’t! We’re not ready. Saphira agreed, and her grief and anxiety, combined with his, nearly incapacitated him.

    When they arrived at the city gates, Eragon paused, reluctant to push his way through the large crowd gathered in front of the opening, trying to flee Feinster. He glanced around for another route. As his eyes passed over the outer walls, a sudden desire gripped him to see the city in the light of day.

    Veering away from Saphira, he ran up a staircase that led to the top of the walls. Saphira uttered a short growl of annoyance and followed, half opening her wings as she jumped from the street to the parapet in a single bound.

    They stood together on the battlements for the better part of an hour and watched as the sun rose. One by one, rays of pale gold light streaked across the verdant fields from the east, illuminating the countless motes of dust that drifted through the air. Where the rays struck a column of smoke, the smoke glowed orange and red and billowed with renewed urgency. The fires among the hovels outside the city walls had mostly died out, although since Eragon and Saphira had arrived, the fighting had set a score of houses within Feinster ablaze, and the pillars of flame that leaped up from the disintegrating houses lent the cityscape an eerie beauty. Behind Feinster, the shimmering sea stretched out to the far, flat horizon, where the sails of a ship plowing its way northward were just visible.

    As the sun warmed Eragon through his armor, his melancholy gradually dissipated like the wreaths of mist that adorned the rivers below. He took a deep breath and exhaled, relaxing his muscles.

    No, he said, we are not alone. I have you, and you have me. And there is Arya and Nasuada and Orik, and many others besides who will help us along our way.

    And Glaedr too, said Saphira.

    Aye.

    Eragon gazed down at the Eldunarí that lay covered within his arms and felt a rush of sympathy and protectiveness toward the dragon who was trapped inside the heart of hearts. He hugged the stone closer to his chest and laid a hand upon Saphira, grateful for their companionship.

    We can do this, he thought. Galbatorix isn’t invulnerable. He has a weakness, and we can use that weakness against him. . . . We can do this.

    We can, and we must, said Saphira.

    For the sake of our friends and our family—

    —and for the rest of Alagaësia—

    —we must do this.

    Eragon lifted Glaedr’s Eldunarí over his head, presenting it to the sun and the new day, and he smiled, eager for the battles yet to come, so that he and Saphira might finally confront Galbatorix and kill the dark king.

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