Rhunön is the elves’ greatest smith. She learned her craft directly from dwarf master smith Fûthark. When the dragons and elves pledged truce following Du Fyrn Skulblaka and founded the Dragon Riders, it was Rhunön who was responsible for arming the new champions of peace. But ordinary weapons would not suffice. The solution was found in a new meteoric ore, called brightsteel, she discovered while wandering in Du Weldenvarden. The unique metal, when forged in just the right manner and infused with magic, produced priceless instruments of war:
She was often impatient with others. Arya explained, “For her, nothing matters except her
craft, and she’s famously impatient with anything—or anyone—that interferes with it. Her eccentricities are well tolerated, though, because of her incredible skill and accomplishments.” (deluxe edition Eldest, page 304)
When Galbatorix came to power, Rhunön took his betrayal personally. She saw the destruction wrought with the weapons she had created and swore never again to create another Dragon Rider sword. Nothing could sway her from her vow, not even Brom’s desperate entreaty for another sword, which he needed not only to replace the one he had lost in the Battle of Doru Araeba but to defeat the Forsworn; he became so irate that Oromis had to knock him unconscious before he would leave.
So she bided her days making superb armor and weapons, preferring to ply her skills with little to no assistance from magic. For her, gifted with immortality and endless days ahead as she was, the process of creation was much more important than the end result.
Thousands of years old by the time of the events of the Inheritance Cycle, she preferred to spend her time alone rather than wasting hours engaged in the niceties and veiled subterfuge of elven society. This proclivity was so strong that she hadn’t left her home for three years when Eragon met her for the first time. Rhunön felt that the centuries of partnership with the dragons had changed her race for the good but also had a less preferable side effect:
“I cannot abide how my race has become. They are too polite, too refined, too precious. Ha! I remember when elves used to laugh and fight like normal creatures. Now they have become so withdrawn, some seem to have no more emotion than a marble statue!” (deluxe edition Brisingr, pages 649-650)
Arya made sure to bring Rhunön to the Agaetí Blödhren. There Rhunön spoke with Orik in dwarvish and suggested that he visit her forge to view her projects and discuss metal working, an invitation he was delighted to accept. He and the other attendees got to see her contributions to the celebration: a shield that wouldn’t break, steel thread gloves that would protect a wearer from molten metals, and a metal sculpture of a wren (carved from a block of metal), painted so adeptly as to appear alive and in mid-flight.
Eventually the time came when Eragon needed a proper Rider sword in order to have some chance of defeating Galbatorix. He asked Rhunön to consider breaking her oath to help him. She offered a way to circumvent her promise. But she emphasized that even so, the endeavor was pointless because she had no more brightsteel to work with; the ore had become very rare over the centuries—the last piece she had found (from which she had forged seven swords, two of which were Undbitr and Zar’roc) had taken twenty-four years to locate. Since the fall of the Riders, Rhunön had not bothered to look for more until Oromis spoke with her about Eragon. Her search had revealed nothing.
Eragon did eventually find some ore, using clues given by Solembum and by bartering with the Menoa tree to bring up the piece from her roots. When he brought it to Rhunön, she promised a sword the likes of which had never been seen before. Because of the pressing need for Eragon and Saphira to return to the Varden, Rhunön used magic to accelerate the process of crafting it to one night, something that would normally take weeks. (Readers can revisit the forging process in full by reviewing pages 662 through 676 of the deluxe edition of Brisingr.)
To get around her oaths, Rhunön guided Eragon through the forging process by manipulating his body with her mind. (How this was different from doing it herself is unclear, only that she believed it to be different, which enabled her to work on the weapon.) It is unlikely that anyone in the history of the land had worked in this manner—Saphira, Maude, Alanna, and Dusan witnessed the process, Saphira occasionally lending fire to heat the metal. Rhunön eventually sent Eragon to rest once the blade was complete; she could finish the sword without interfering with her oath.
The next morning she summoned him:
“I have done the impossible,” she said, the words hoarse and broken. “I made a sword when I swore I would not. What is more, I made it in less than a day and with hands that were not my own. Yet the sword is not crude or shoddy. No! It is the finest sword I have ever forged. I would have preferred to use less magic during the process, but that is my only qualm, and it is a small one compared with the perfection of the results.” (deluxe edition Brisingr, page 678)
And it was true. The sword was a marvel. All that remained was to name it. Eragon chose “brisingr,” apt because the blade erupted in flames each time it was called by name. As far as Rhunön could tell, the reason for this ability was either because Eragon had imbued the weapon with a portion of his personality during the forging process or because the young Rider had discovered the sword’s true name. Or both theories could be correct.
When Arya became a Rider at the end of Inheritance, Rhunön grudgingly reworked Támerlein to fit Arya’s fighting strengths. It’s unclear whether or not the death of Galbatorix released the smith from her vows. Neither is it known if more brightsteel will ever be found in the land of Alagaësia. New Riders would have to content themselves with the Dragon Rider swords confiscated from Galbatorix’s treasury. In any case, Rhunön, thousands of years and counting, lived long enough to see the end of a golden age and the rise of a new order of Riders. Few could say as much.
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