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    Neither of them moved.

    After uncounted minutes, Roran said, “Tell me how my father died.”

    “Our father.” Eragon remained calm as Roran’s expression hardened. In a gentle voice, he said, “I have as much right to call him that as you. Look within yourself; you know it to be true.”

    “Fine. Our father, how did he die?”

    Eragon had recounted the story upon several occasions. But this time he hid nothing. Instead of just listing the events, he described what he had thought and felt ever since he had found Saphira’s egg, trying to make Roran understandwhy he did what he did. He had never been so anxious before.

    “I was wrong to hide Saphira from the rest of the family,” Eragon concluded, “but I was afraid you might insist on killing her, and I didn’t realize how much danger she put us in. If I had . . . After Garrow died, I decided to leave in order to track down the Ra’zac, as well as to avoid putting Carvahall in any more danger.” A humorless laugh escaped him. “It didn’t work, but if I had remained, the soldiers would have come far sooner. And then who knows? Galbatorix might have even visited Palancar Valley himself. I may be the reason Garrow—Father—died, but that was never my intention, nor that you and everyone else in Carvahall should suffer because of my choices. . . .” He gestured helplessly. “I did the best I could, Roran.”

    “And the rest of it—Brom being a Rider, rescuing Arya at Gil’ead, and killing a Shade at the dwarves’ capital—all that happened?”

    “Aye.” As quickly as he could, Eragon summarized what had taken place since he and Saphira set forth with Brom, including their sojourn to Ellesméra and his own transformation during the Agaetí Blödhren.

    Leaning forward, Roran rested his elbows on his knees, clasped his hands, and gazed at the dirt between them. It was impossible for Eragon to read his emotions without reaching into his consciousness, which he refused to do, knowing it would be a terrible mistake to invade Roran’s privacy.

    Roran was silent for so long, Eragon began to wonder if he would ever respond. Then: “You have made mistakes, but they are no greater than my own. Garrow died because you kept Saphira secret. Many more have died because I refused to give myself up to the Empire. . . . We are equally guilty.” He looked up, then slowly extended his right hand. “Brother?”

    “Brother,” said Eragon.

    He gripped Roran’s forearm, and they pulled each other into a rough embrace, wrestling to and fro as they used to do at home. When they separated, Eragon had to wipe his eyes with the heel of his hand. “Galbatorix should surrender now that we’re together again,” he joked. “Who can stand against the two of us?” He lowered himself back onto the bedding. “Now you tell me, how did the Ra’zac capture Katrina?”

    All happiness vanished from Roran’s face. He began to speak in a low monotone, and Eragon listened with growing amazement as he wove an epic of attacks, sieges, and betrayal, of leaving Carvahall, crossing the Spine, and razing the docks of Teirm, of sailing through a monstrous whirlpool.

    When at last he finished, Eragon said, “You are a greater man than I. I couldn’t have done half those things. Fight, yes, but not convince everyone to follow me.”

    “I had no choice. When they took Katrina—” Roran’s voice broke. “I could either give up and die, or I could try to escape Galbatorix’s trap, no matter the cost.” He fixed his burning eyes on Eragon. “I have lied and burned and slaughtered to get here. I no longer have to worry about protecting everyone from Carvahall; the Varden will see to that. Now I have only one goal in life, to find and rescue Katrina, if she’s not already dead. Will you help me, Eragon?”

    Reaching over, Eragon grabbed his saddlebags from the corner of the tent—where the Varden had deposited them—and removed a wooden bowl and the silver flask of enchanted faelnirv Oromis had given him. He took a small sip of the liqueur to revitalize himself and gasped as it raced down his throat, making his nerves tingle with cold fire. Then he poured faelnirv into the bowl until it formed a shallow pool the width of his hand.

    “Watch.” Gathering up his burst of new energy, Eragon said, “Draumr kópa.”

    The liqueur shimmered and turned black. After a few seconds, a thin key of light appeared in the center of the bowl, revealing Katrina. She lay slumped against an invisible wall, her hands suspended above her with invisible manacles and her copper hair splayed like a fan across her back.

    “She’s alive!” Roran hunched over the bowl, grasping at it as if he thought he could dive through the faelnirv and join Katrina. His hope and determination melded with a look of such tender affection, Eragon knew that only death could stop Roran from trying to free her.

    Unable to sustain the spell any longer, Eragon let the image fade away. He leaned against the wall of the tent for support. “Aye,” he said wearily, “she’s alive. And chances are, she’s imprisoned in Helgrind, in the Ra’zac’s lair.” Eragon grasped Roran by the shoulders. “The answer to your question, brother, is yes. I will travel to Dras-Leona with you. I will help you rescue Katrina. And then, together, you and I shall kill the Ra’zac and avenge our father.”

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