Chapter no 19 – A TASTE OF TEIRM

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)

After two days of traveling north toward the ocean, Saphira sighted Teirm. A heavy fog clung to the ground, obscuring Brom’s and Eragon’s sight until a breeze from the west blew the mist away. Eragon gaped as Teirm was suddenly revealed before them, nestled by the edge of the shimmering sea, where proud ships were docked with furled sails. The surf’s dull thunder could be heard in the distance.

The city was contained behind a white wall—a hundred feet tall and thirty feet thick—with rows of rectangular arrow slits lining it and a walkway on top for soldiers and watchmen. The wall’s smooth surface was broken by two iron portcullises, one facing the western sea, the other opening south to the road. Above the wall—and set against its northeast section—rose a huge citadel built of giant stones and turrets. In the highest tower, a lighthouse lantern gleamed brilliantly. The castle was the only thing visible over the fortifications.

Soldiers guarded the southern gate but held their pikes carelessly. “This is our first test,” said Brom. “Let’s hope they haven’t received reports of us from the Empire and won’t detain us. Whatever happens, don’t panic or act suspiciously.”

Eragon told Saphira,You should land somewhere now and hide. We’re going in.

Sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. Again,she said sourly.

I know. But Brom and I do have some advantages most people don’t.We’ll be all right.

If anything happens, I’m going to pin you to my back and never let you


I love you too.

Then I will bind you all the tighter.

Eragon and Brom rode toward the gate, trying to appear casual. A yellow

pennant bearing the outline of a roaring lion and an arm holding a lily blossom waved over the entrance. As they neared the wall, Eragon asked in amazement, “How big is this place?”

“Larger than any city you have ever seen,” said Brom.

At the entrance to Teirm, the guards stood straighter and blocked the gate with their pikes. “Wha’s yer name?” asked one of them in a bored tone.

“I’m called Neal,” said Brom in a wheezy voice, slouching to one side, an expression of happy idiocy on his face.

“And who’s th’ other one?” asked the guard.

“Well, I wus gettin’ to that. This’ed be m’nephew Evan. He’s m’sister’s boy, not a . . .”

The guard nodded impatiently. “Yeah, yeah. And yer business here?” “He’s visitin’ an old friend,” supplied Eragon, dropping his voice into a

thick accent. “I’m along t’ make sure he don’t get lost, if y’ get m’meaning. He ain’t as young as he used to be—had a bit too much sun when he was young’r. Touch o’ the brain fever, y’ know.” Brom bobbed his head pleasantly. “Right. Go on through,” said the guard, waving his hand and dropping

the pike. “Just make sure he doesn’t cause any trouble.”

“Oh, he won’t,” promised Eragon. He urged Cadoc forward, and they rode into Teirm. The cobblestone street clacked under the horses’ hooves.

Once they were away from the guards, Brom sat up and growled, “Touch of brain fever, eh?”

“I couldn’t let you have all the fun,” teased Eragon. Brom harrumphed and looked away.

The houses were grim and foreboding. Small, deep windows let in only sparse rays of light. Narrow doors were recessed into the buildings. The tops of the roofs were flat—except for metal railings—and all were covered with slate shingles. Eragon noticed that the houses closest to Teirm’s outer wall were no more than one story, but the buildings got progressively higher as they went in. Those next to the citadel were tallest of all, though insignificant compared to the fortress.

“This place looks ready for war,” said Eragon.

Brom nodded. “Teirm has a history of being attacked by pirates, Urgals, and other enemies. It has long been a center of commerce. There will always be conflict where riches gather in such abundance. The people here have been forced to take extraordinary measures to keep themselves from being overrun. It also helps that Galbatorix gives them soldiers to defend their city.”

“Why are some houses higher than others?”

“Look at the citadel,” said Brom, pointing. “It has an unobstructed view of Teirm. If the outer wall were breached, archers would be posted on all the roofs. Because the houses in the front, by the outer wall, are lower, the men farther back could shoot over them without fear of hitting their comrades. Also, if the enemy were to capture those houses and put their own archers on them, it would be an easy matter to shoot them down.”

“I’ve never seen a city planned like this,” said Eragon in wonder.

“Yes, but it was only done after Teirm was nearly burned down by a pirate raid,” commented Brom. As they continued up the street, people gave them searching looks, but there was not an undue amount of interest.

Compared to our reception at Daret, we’ve been welcomed with open arms. Perhaps Teirm has escaped notice by the Urgals,thought Eragon. He changed his opinion when a large man shouldered past them, a sword hanging from his waist. There were other, subtler signs of adverse times: no children played in the streets, people bore hard expressions, and many houses were deserted, with weeds growing from cracks in their stone-covered yards. “It looks like they’ve had trouble,” said Eragon.

“The same as everywhere else,” said Brom grimly. “We have to find Jeod.” They led their horses across the street to a tavern and tied them to the hitching post. “The Green Chestnut . . . wonderful,” muttered Brom, looking at the battered sign above them as he and Eragon entered the building.

The dingy room felt unsafe. A fire smoldered in the fireplace, yet no one bothered to throw more wood on it. A few lonely people in the corners nursed their drinks with sullen expressions. A man missing two fingers sat at a far table, eyeing his twitching stumps. The bartender had a cynical twist to his lips and held a glass in his hand that he kept polishing, even though it was broken.

Brom leaned against the bar and asked, “Do you know where we can find a man called Jeod?” Eragon stood at his side, fiddling with the tip of his bow by his waist. It was slung across his back, but right then he wished that it were in his hands.

The bartender said in an overly loud voice, “Now, why would I know something like that? Do you think I keep track of the mangy louts in this forsaken place?” Eragon winced as all eyes turned toward them.

Brom kept talking smoothly. “Could you be enticed to remember?” He slid some coins onto the bar.

The man brightened and put his glass down. “Could be,” he replied, lowering his voice, “but my memory takes a great deal of prodding.” Brom’s face soured, but he slid more coins onto the bar. The bartender sucked on one side of his cheek undecidedly. “All right,” he finally said, and reached for the coins.

Before he touched them, the man missing two fingers called out from his table, “Gareth, what in th’ blazes do you think you’re doing? Anyone on the street could tell them where Jeod lives. What are you charging them for?”

Brom swept the coins back into his purse. Gareth shot a venomous look at the man at the table, then turned his back on them and picked up the glass again. Brom went to the stranger and said, “Thanks. The name’s Neal. This is Evan.”

The man raised his mug to them. “Martin, and of course you met Gareth.” His voice was deep and rough. Martin gestured at some empty

chairs. “Go ahead and sit down. I don’t mind.” Eragon took a chair and arranged it so his back was to the wall and he faced the door. Martin raised an eyebrow, but made no comment.

“You just saved me a few crowns,” said Brom.

“My pleasure. Can’t blame Gareth, though—business hasn’t been doing so well lately.” Martin scratched his chin. “Jeod lives on the west side of town, right next to Angela, the herbalist. Do you have business with him?”

“Of a sort,” said Brom.

“Well, he won’t be interested in buying anything; he just lost another ship a few days ago.”

Brom latched onto the news with interest. “What happened? It wasn’t Urgals, was it?”

“No,” said Martin. “They’ve left the area. No one’s seen ’em in almost a year. It seems they’ve all gone south and east. But they aren’t the problem. See, most of our business is through sea trade, as I’m sure you know. Well,” he stopped to drink from his mug, “starting several months ago, someone’s been attacking our ships. It’s not the usual piracy, because only ships that carry the goods of certain merchants are attacked. Jeod’s one of ’em. It’s gotten so bad that no captain will accept those merchants’ goods, which makes life difficult around here. Especially because some of ’em run the largest shipping businesses in the Empire. They’re being forced to send goods by land. It’s driven costs painfully high, and their caravans don’t always make it.”

“Do you have any idea who’s responsible? There must be witnesses,”

said Brom.

Martin shook his head. “No one survives the attacks. Ships go out, then disappear; they’re never seen again.” He leaned toward them and said in a confidential tone, “The sailors are saying that it’s magic.” He nodded and winked, then leaned back.

Brom seemed worried by his words. “What do you think?”

Martin shrugged carelessly. “I don’t know. And I don’t think I will unless I’m unfortunate enough to be on one of those captured ships.”

“Are you a sailor?” asked Eragon.

“No,” snorted Martin. “Do I look like one? The captains hire me to defend their ships against pirates. And those thieving scum haven’t been very active lately. Still, it’s a good job.”

“But a dangerous one,” said Brom. Martin shrugged again and downed the last of his beer. Brom and Eragon took their leave and headed to the west side of the city, a nicer section of Teirm. The houses were clean, ornate, and large. The people in the streets wore expensive finery and walked with

authority. Eragon felt conspicuous and out of place.

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