The Swordsman

Brisingr-pnet
This scene, featuring Daras Guildward, was cut from Inheritance. It takes place during the Battle of Belatona, just after Eragon rushes to find Roran still alive after a portion of the main keep collapsed. Eragon, Roran, Arya, and Blödhgarm set out to capture Lord Bradburn, searching each successive floor of the building. On the way, they encounter numerous foes, who are dealt with swiftly. Eragon offers to heal the cuts on Roran’s face and knee, but Roran feels he can wait until after they capture Bradburn.

As the adventurers resume their climb, they encounter Daras, second son of Thelmund Guildsward, Lord of Fellworth Manor:

Eragon took the lead as they filed back into the stairwell and resumed their climb. Round and round they went, like mites trapped within a snail shell, until, just past the fifth floor, Eragon saw a man leaning against the inner wall of the stairs above him, plucking at a small white rose, the petals of which he let fall with languid flips of his fingers. The man wore soft calfskin boots with upturned tips, canary-yellow hose, a red and black quilted vest studded with pearls, a billowy lace-trimmed shirt dyed to match his hose, and a felt cap set at a rakish angle and decorated with a pheasant’s tail feather. An orange half-cloak hung over his right shoulder, secured with a silver clasp carved in the shape of a fox head.

Eragon halted, wary of a trap, and redoubled his efforts to protect his mind from any possible assault.

Seeing him, the man tossed away the remnants of his flower and straightened off the wall. “Be you the one they call Eragon?” he asked, sounding so bored, Eragon wondered why he even bothered to inquire.

“Yes.”

“The Eragon who is known as Shadeslayer? He who rides the mighty dragon Saphira? He who has twice fought and defeated Murtagh, and whose father was an elf?” In the same, bored tone, the man said, “I would hate to make a mistake, you see. It would be terribly embarrassing if I killed the wrong person.”

Whose father was an elf? “You are sorely mistaken concerning my father,” Eragon said, frowning, “but yes, I am the one you seek. What of it? Who are you?”

The man raised a lone eyebrow. “Ah, good.” From under his belt, he pulled a pair of tooled gauntlets and began to work his hands into them. “My name is Daras Guildsward, second son of Thelmund Guildsward, Lord of Fellworth Manor, which lies in the marshes east of here. You have heard of it, perhaps . . . ? No? Well that is to be expected of a peasant’s education. No matter. Soon all of Alagaësia will have heard of the family Guildsward and of Daras Guildsward in particular, for—”

“You like saying your own name, don’t you?”

“‘Tis a good and honorable name,” he replied, lifting his chin. “I had hoped that we might converse in a civil manner, but now I see that I was mistaken. Nevertheless, I shall not be deterred.”

“Deterred from what?”

Undoing the clasp of his half-cloak, Daras said, “For the past eight–and–twenty years, ever since the tender age of five, I have devoted myself to mastering the fine art of swordsmanship. I have memorized every known manual of arms and even improved them on occasion, if I may say so. I have spent my weight in gold acquiring the finest blades by the finest smiths. And I have studied with the greatest fencing instructors in the whole of the Empire. The Cartusían Gambit and the Helmont Two-handed Reply are both as child’s play to me. Of the ten most skilled swordsmen in Surda and the Empire, I have dueled and defeated seven, and I would have defeated the full set, except that the final three have shown themselves to be cowards of the basest sort, for they insist upon avoiding me every time I attempt to confront them. In any event, I no longer wish to cross blades with them. There is no challenge in it. There is no thrill. Instead, I want to test my abilities against a truly worthy opponent. Against an elf, for example, or even better, against a Dragon Rider such as yourself.”

“You don’t want to do this,” said Eragon. “Go home, and perhaps you’ll live long enough to have children.”

Daras sniffed and, reaching across his body, drew a long, narrow-bladed sword adorned with etched scrollwork. He tilted the blade back and forth, admiring the play of light on the surface of the metal, and said, “The advantage of the high ground is mine, but then yours is the advantage of speed and strength, so I consider us fairly matched. I realized our space is limited, and for that I beg your indulgence; this was the only place I could be sure of meeting you one-on-one. Now, as to rules. Shall we agree to the guidelines as laid out by the Mortenson school of fencing, with perhaps one minor alteration to allow—Gahh!”

The man dropped his sword and fell, arching his back as Eragon stabbed him through the heart.

Daras clutched at his wound and stared up at Eragon with an incredulous expression. “You cheated!” he exclaimed.

“I won,” Eragon growled, as he stepped over the dying man.

Behind him, Roran uttered a snort of amusement. “I think I prefer you like this.”

 
Following Daras’ demise, Eragon, Roran, Arya, and Blödhgarm continue to the seventh floor of the keep, where they find Lord Bradburn barricaded in his private chambers.


 

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Christopher Paolini

About Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini is the author of the international bestsellers Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, along with Eragon’s Guide to Alagaësia. He resides in Paradise Valley, Montana, USA.