All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I do not own the rights or characters to the Eldest Trilogy or to the Lord of the Ring's Trilogy. The eldest Trilogy is the work of Christopher Paolini and the Lord of the Ring's Trilogy is the work of J.R. Tolkein

Chapter 6

Eragon's POV

Eragon woke suddenly, felt Saphira's voice in his mind, rousing him from the exhausted sleep into which he had fallen the previous evening.

He sat up, winching slightly as the bruises of the present day made their presence known. The clearing was filled with the hazy light of early morning, the grass glistening slightly with dew. He could hear the soft calls of birds, the soft roar of water from somewhere; smell the freshness of a new day, and more distinctly, the pungent odour of pipesmoke. From his bed of blankets between Saphira's fore legs, he could see the entire clearing. Propping himself up, he leant gently against one of the vast limbs beside him, blinking as his brain slowly came to life. He felt a shove on his right shoulder, and turning his head, found Saphira's head next to his. He smiled sleepily, and with his right hand scratched the rough skin of her cheek. She hummed quietly, and rubbed against his fingers.

He nodded to the figure seated on a tree stump across the clearing from him. Aragorn was on watch, had according to Saphira woken several hours previously to take over from Legolas the elf. The ranger waved a hand at him, the other holding a small pipe, the source of the pipe smoke. Eragon stirred himself, pushing aside his rumpled blankets and pulling on his boots. He tightened his belt, slipping his knife into its holster and pulling on his gloves. His helmet and armour lay nearby, the dwarven rings wrapped in cloth to prevent rust. He pulled back the cloth, grimacing at the stains and rust on the metal. The charms in the metal had protected it from damage, but it still needed care and occasional cleaning.

He left the armour for now, wrapping it back up, and crossed around the back of Saphira. There would be time later, for he had promised Aragorn to wait. He ducked under her wing, and knelt down next to Arya. She was warmly wrapped in blankets, which he softly pulled back. With enormous relief he saw that some colour had returned to her cheeks, and that she breathed more easily. He touched her shoulder, but she didn't stir. He shook her slightly, but still there was no reaction. Carefully, remembering vividly what had happened the first time he had tried this, he extended his senses, trying to touch her mind. His probe ran into iron strong shields. He probed gently, searching for some chink, or detail that might shed light on her condition. He could find nothing. It felt as if she was asleep, a deep exhausted sleep, but he knew no one who maintained their shields while sleeping. There was no point, as one could not touch another's mind if that person was asleep anyway. So how, not to mention why was Arya doing this? He sat back on his heels, perplexed, and still deeply concerned.

His studies had admittedly taught him that the brain never really shut down. He knew of no one however who could maintain their mental shielding when not conscious, and few who could do it at such strength even when awake. Try as he might, he could not prevent his mind returning to the fateful journey to Farthen Dur the first time he had met her. His worry for her then had been severe, and at least then he had known what was wrong with her, after she nearly crushed him with her mind the first time at least. Here, he had no idea. He had heard of magical exhaustion, but that was a cause of sleep, not a symptom. He shared his thoughts with Saphira, but she was just as perplexed as him.

"The last thing either of us remember, before the flash, was Arya casting."Saphira mused. Eragon nodded. Yes, he remembered that, although his memories of the moment was chaotic, using magic, trying to escape Shruiken, he also remembered Arya's hands glowing, blue nimbuses of magical energy growing in each palm. "What of it" he asked

"Well, considering what we learnt last night, about where we are, or rather, where we aren't, could Arya have been trying to, transport, us from danger?" Eragon pondered that silently. Prior to turning in the previous night, despite his exhaustion, he and Aragorn had spoken long. Eragon and Saphira had been shocked to find they were no longer in Alagaësia, but in a land Aragorn refered to as Middle Earth. Eragon had refused to believe it at first. He was still uncertain whether everything he had heard was true. Aragorn did not seem the type to lie. Eragon, Saphira and Arya had somehow travelled far, far from lands they were familiar with. Eragon had hoped at first they were simply elsewhere in Alagaësia, perhaps in the lands the humans he was descended from had left centuries ago.

As he had listened, and absorbed the stories Aragorn shared with him, answering Eragon's many questions as best he could, he had felt his heart begin to sink. Many things were the same here, dwarves, elfs, men, dragons, but they were also different. Too different! Aragorn had never heard of the riders, had questioned Eragon curiously about them, his eyes widening slightly when he learnt of a rider's power, the magic and strength they could access. He himself had spoken of Numenor, an isle of near immortals, a human kingdom of majesty and grace, that had sunk beneath the waves, after its inhabitants broke their word to their gods, and sought the endless life of the elves. He had spoken of the lore of this land, how Numenor's descendants had established two great kingdoms of men, which had endured for thousands of years, but were now facing an enemy that sought to destroy them, and all free peoples of this land. Aragorn had not said much, but the intensity in his tone had said just as much. He had also revealed that the foul creatures Eragon had killed were servants of that self same enemy. Neither Saphira or Eragon had been happy to learn they had landed in the middle of a war,

He shook himself out of his musing with an effort, returning to his consideration of Saphira's question. He knew magic could transport objects, Saphira was living proof of that, but his studies had never touched on it being able to move living people. Was it even possible, or safe? It was something he had never considered. Had Arya been trying to transport them? It might explain the flash, which had been blue, like that which had heralded the arrival of Saphira's egg in the spine. It looked like she had succeeded, but at what cost to herself?

"She can't have used up all her strength, or she'd be dead," contributed Saphira. Eragon nodded. "I doubt she intended to send us so far either" he said wryly, "perhaps she made a mistake?" He listened to Saphira's reply, and cut her off.

"Hang on, I'm not being unfair. I doubt Arya would usually make a mistake, goodness knows she's been doing this far longer than either of us. Just listen ok." Saphira made a noise that to him sounded very much like a snort, but fell silent. Eragon considered his argument, then laid it out to her.

"We were fighting. Galbatorix was there." Eragon paused and shivered slightly, remembering the horrifying madness in the old kings laugh, his shriek of anger. "Arya was doing magic, trying to save us, or transport us or something. He was fighting us with his mind, trying to control us, i could barely concentrate. Perhaps, perhaps he did something caused the spell to go wrong?"

She was silent for a few moments. "It's possible. Without knowing what spell, what wording Arya was using, we can't be sure. If she did manage to throw us into another world, the magic drain would be enormous. It would explain why we blacked out, why we were so drained yesterday, even though we only fought for minutes. The spell drew energy from us. As for Arya..."

Eragon felt the concern in her words, and leant against her side. Arya and Saphira had become very close. Part of it was due to their mutual respect, and the time the three had spent travelling together. Another part of it was very much his fault, his feelings and affection for the beautiful elf princess. Their bond meant Eragon and Saphira were always aware of each other's feelings and emotions. If necessary they could block the bond, but to do so cut at the very heart of what they were. So his feelings for Arya crossed the bond to Saphira, and although she was still her own creature, the nature of their link meant that the pair of them were very much one body at times. "She's alive Eragon. She's not getting worse. Whatever is wrong with her, we can't help her here." He nodded, and rising to his feet, ducked under the roof that was formed by Saphira's leathery left wing.

Gimli's POV

Gimli woke to a new day. His eyes swept the clearing, his hand resting in readiness on the haft of his axe. When no danger presented itself, he relaxed his grip, and sat more leisurely upright. Aragorn nodded a friendly greeting to him from a tree stump, his pipe smoke drifting gently accross the clearing in the soft breeze. Gimli finished fastening on his boots and placing his helmet on his head, rose smoothly to his feet, crossing to where their provisions and water were piled. Tugging free a waterskin from the assorted goods, he took several draughts of clear water, and felt instantly refreshed. He crossed to Aragorn, still carrying the waterskin, and proffered it. The ranger took it with a soft 'thank you.' As he drank Gimli surveyed the clearing. Nearby Legolas lay under a single blanket, walking in dreams, his eyes still open, his mind far away. About 20 feet away, lay the vast shape of the Dragon, its long neck resting on the ground, eyes alert and unblinking. Of Eragon there was no sign, save an empty huddle of blankets beneath the Dragon's feet. Between the Dragon and Legolas lay the swaddled form of Boromir, exactly where they had placed him the previous day.

Gimli opened his mouth, was about to ask Aragorn how the man from Gondor was doing, and then he checked himself. He eyed the dragon intently for a few moments, which returned his gaze calmly, and then crossed to his the side of his wounded companion. Boromir was still breathing softly, fast asleep, but his face showed healthy colour. By his side lay his gear, his shield with the emblem of the city, the great horn, his bow and quiver, and slightly separate, the shattered fragments of his sword. Gimli, reassured that his fellow was ok, and happy that he had proved his courage if only to himself, gathered up the broken pieces of the sword carefully. He returned to the side of Aragorn, and laying his cloak on the ground, spread the pieces of broken sword out on it. He sat & examined it, turning the pieces over and over in his practiced hands. The blade, had split into three pieces a quarter along it's length. It was not a bad break, he thought, the blade was strong, well forged. It was not a famous blade, but it was sturdy, and he thought it might be remade, if there was time. Dragonfire it was called in the common tongue, and had served Boromir well. Hopefully it would again.

He passed the hilt to Aragorn, who examined it. He eyed the break, and ran his eyes over the runes on the blade near the handle. He returned it to Gimli.

"A good blade" he commented.

"Indeed. Slightly worn, but well cared for. Not a dwarf blade of course, but we make fewer swords these days. Our skill in the Mountain* is with stone, though we make keen armour and axes." He said, tapping his own which rested on his knees.

Aragorn nodded, returning to his pipe.

"Where is Eragon?" asked Gimli, slightly suspiciously.

"Tending to his friend no doubt. We are not the only ones with wounded comrades on our mind friend Gimli. Ours at least is healed, his is still sick"

The dwarf said nothing, only tapped his fingers on his axe haft.

"What of the Hobbits," he asked after a moment. "Can Boromir be moved?"

"He will be slightly weak no doubt, but his wounds are healed. I intend to follow the Orcs trail, we will leave shortly."

Gimli looked dubious. "Should we not leave as soon as possible? They have already a whole night ahead of us. If we are to have any hope of following their trail, we must leave soon."

Aragorn shook his head. "They are far away by now I fear, but I will follow as long as there is any hope. What we saw of the trail yesterdays suggests they will head North and west, to Isenguard by their tokens. Our best hope is that the patrols of the men of Rohan will intercept them. They watch their lands closely in these days, like any who fight the enemy. With luck, we will meet some of their patrols. On horse, we could well make up the ground. It is maybe 80 leagues westerly to Isengard from here, but on horse the distance is far less. Alas, the east Emnett is thinly settled, and the Wold to the north is a barren land. The dwellings of the Rohirrim are far to the south-west.. If we are to travel, we must travel fast and light, Boromir will need as much rest as we can give him."

Just then Eragon walked into view around the side of Saphira, carrying a leather bag. Like Gimli, he checked on Boromir, bending over the man of Gondor for a few moments. Apparently satisfied, he returned to where his blankets still lay, and dropping the leather bag onto the grass, and picked up a cloth package. Intrigued, Gimli watched, wondering what the strange elf was doing. The answer soon came. Eragon pulled out a silver corslet of rings, and bending over it, began to rub at it with an oil and cloth from the leather bag. Curious, despite himself, Gimli gazed at the rest of Eragon's gear. It was strange. Most of it was normal enough, gauntlets, helmet, corslet and leather padding, but the style was unusual to him. He had seen many different sets of armour, dwarven, that of men, from North South and Dale, and even some elven gear made for the warriors of Mirkwood. That gear was most unlike this; Elven gear was usually graceful, strong and light. The armour of this strange Elf was more like that of men, well made but practical. Only his white bow was clearly Elf work. Interestingly, Gimli had seen no sign of a sword, or scabbard, despite the sword belt the stranger clearly wore. It was he thought merely one of many questions about this stranger he would like to ask.

He had the feeling he was being watched, and looking up, to find Aragorn's dark eyes surveying him. The ranger's face was calm, not discomforted at being caught staring. He returned Gimli's curious stare calmly for a few moments, looking thoughtful, then nodded towards Eragon.

"Did you know his gear is made by dwarfs?" he said calmly.

Gimli was surprised, both because he doubted any Dwarf would associate with a friend of Dragons, and that Aragorn knew. "No" said Gimli, instinctively denying it.

"Yes" countered Aragorn, "as is the armour on Saphira." Gimli gripped his axe angrily. The ranger's words were angering him. That any dwarf should associate with Dragons, long his races enemy even before the loss of the Lonely mountain to Smaug, he considered almost treasonous. He wondered who could have made such armour and where. Now that he looked at it, i did indeed look like it could be the work of his race's craftsmen, and from the inlay, expensive too. The scale of it would require a major workshop, and while his race had many outposts, scattered across Middle Earth, he knew none who would undertake it. His race had long memories, and the wars with the Dragons in the Ered Mithrin** or the cruelties of Smaug would never be forgiven or forgotten.

"Gimli, please hold your anger for the moment. I know of your races hatred for Dragons, but from what Eragon has said, it was no dwarf from this world that hammered that armour."

Gimli started slightly, as did Aragorn, for it was Legolas who had spoken, whom they had though asleep. The elf was still lying on the ground, but his eyes, which previously had been staring into some unimaginable distance, were now clear. The wood elf was gazing at Saphira, his features calm, and obviously fully awake.

"What do you mean?" said Gimli gruffly. It was a measure of how the company had bonded in adversity that he no longer referred to Legolas as 'elf,' but his tone was curt nonetheless.

"Eragon and I spoke last night while you were on watch," explained Aragorn. "He spoke the truth, unless i am very much mistaken, when he told me he had never before heard of Middle Earth. It seems he and his companions are not from this world Gimli. They came here against their will; from a land he called Alagaësia."

As one Aragorn and his two companions turned to gaze at Saphira. She eyed them curiously, her great blue eyes shining slightly in the early grey light of morning.

"Did he say where this land is? Is he from far to the North or South, or across the sea?" Asked Gimli, his tone disbelieving.

"I do not think he is from this earth, but where his world is i know not," came the rangers quiet reply.

There was silence among the three companions.

"Another world," breathed Legolas softly, "did the Valar make more than one?"

"I don't know. Perhaps Gandalf would have known, but nothing I have ever heard or read spoke of others," admitted Aragorn.

"Is it a trick? How do we know if we can trust him?" said Gimli, but he said it softly, wary of Saphira overhearing.

"He has not told us everything, but his actions have been honourable enough. I am not arrogant enough to assume my judgement is perfect, but i feel this Eragon means neither us nor any on the side of light any harm. He spoke of being a 'dragon rider,' and from what he told me last night, the duty of his order is to protect the people and to keep the law in his land. He protected Boromir, even when wounded, at great risk to himself. Those are not the actions of any follower of the enemy."

"But can we trust him", said Legolas quietly, repeating Gimli's question.

"He has sworn on his honour that neither of them will harm us. I don't believe he will break it. His concern anyway is not for us, but for his friend."

Gimli and Legolas looked thoughtful. Aragorn had spoken to them of the beautiful elf women, and her obvious hurt, but neither had actually seen her. They understood only too well Eragon's concern for his wounded friend. They had felt the same for Boromir, and for healing him, whatever his other motives, they all owed Eragon a debt. Now they must worry about the hobbits, their little friends, who would suffer horrors they feared to imagine lest they were rescued. Yes, they understood Eragon's concern well enough.

"Come," said Aragorn firmly, "There is no more time for talk. We must travel light when we pursues. We cannot carry much, so we must abandon much of our gear. Let us gather our gear together, and collect what we will need. We must leave soon."

And so, as they sun rose slowly in the pale sky, the three companions moved quietly around the clearing, collecting together what they would need, and making a hidden pile under a bush of that they must abandon. In the dim sunlight they appeared almost as shades, such was the power of their elven rainment. They were forced to abandon much of their store of provisions, rationing themselves only to about a week's lean rations. The provisions from Lothlorien they had carried in quantity, for the generosity of the elves meantthey had many packets of the fulsome lembas, which took up less space and was lighter than other provision.

Water too they carried, but less than normal, for they hoped to save weight, and replenish their store from streams or brooks. They had carried little personal gear anyway, but they left behind all their winter gear, for their grey elf cloaks were wonderfully warm and lighter than anything else. That aside from their weapons, and some little personal items, was all they carried. None save Gimli wore any armour, for they had not dressed for travel, not battle before setting out. Only the Dwarf wore a coat of Dwarf rings, marvellously light and strong compared to any work of man.

After everything was ready, they roused Boromir. He roused as if from a deep sleep, coming awake slowly, to gaze upwards at the figures standing over him.

Boromir's POV

Boromir blinked, and then sat upright. His memory prior to his falling sleep seemed shrouded in fog. He gazed upwards at his three companions, taking in their concerned expressions, and wondering what was wrong.

"How do you feel Boromir?" asked Aragorn, and to Boromir's suprise, there was a look of something like wonder on the ranger's weathered features.

"Hungry." He replied truthfully. A thin smile creased Aragorn's face, and wordlessly the ranger handed him a plate of provisions. On it was bread, cheese, and the last of their ham. "Eat it quickly, and enjoy it" advised the ranger, "it's the last we'll see for some time."

"Why?" said Boromir, still confused. He couldn't seem to remember what had happened. Why were the others gazing at him so intently, and where were the hobbits. He gazed around the clearing, on the opposite side from his three companions, but saw no sign of the half-lings. He did not recognise the clearing either, this was not where they had camped afer landing from the Anduin. His gaze fel suddenly on his war gear, laid on the grass by his side next to his pack, and next to it on a cloak, he saw his sword, shattered into three pieces.

Suddenly he remembered, the sight of the sword drawing the memory from his fuddled mind, and he clapped his hand suddenly to his shoulder. He scrabbled at the clean cloth of what he recognised as his spare jerkin, and when the fabric pulled away, he saw with amazement that the shoulder was perfectly unharmed. Gone too was the scar he had had there since childhood, when he fell from a horse that was too big for him. He hurriedly unlaced the jerkin and examined his chest, expecting to see bandages, but all he saw was unmarked skin.

He stared at it in wonder, had he imagined it. He gazed up at his three companions in mute astonishment.

"I was shot," he managed after a few seconds. The Uruk, i..." he broke off, suddenly remembering everything. "Merry and Pippin," he said in shock, "the Uruks carried them off, i tried to hold them off, but there were too many, and they had bows." He gazed frantically around the clearing, but still could see no sign of the hobbits. "They have taken them," he realised mournfully.

"Yes, which is why we must hurry Boromir. We have let you rest as long as we dared, but we must be away as soon as possible. The Uruks headed north, and we must pursue."

Boromir nodded slowly, still trying to take everything in. "and Frodo and Sam?" he said suddenly, gazing up at Aragorn. Was he imagining it, or did a shadow cross Aragorn's face at the mention of the ring bearer."

"They are gone, they crossed the river, and have gone on alone. They are beyond our reach now!" replied the ranger softly. The two men stared at each other for a moment, and then Aragorn held out a hand to Boromir. The man of Gondor hesitated, then took it, and was hauled to his feet. The movement made his chest hurt, but the discomfort was slight, no more than a dull bruising sensation.

"Aragorn, Legolas Gimli," he said carefully, "what happened?" He gestured to his chest. "I was shot, I know it." As he spoke he leant down to pick up his leather sur-coat, his gaze fell on the holes and staining in the tough leather. He held it up, and fingered the hole in the chest. An arrow hole, high on the left breast. He shivered, he remembered that dart. It should have killed him.

He held it up plain to see before his comrades. "How was I healed?"

"I healed you", came a new voice from behind Aragorn.

His companions exchanged a glance, and then parted before Boromir, moving to his side. Behind them ,previously shielded from his view by their bodies, was a sight that made his breath catch.

A shining silver warrior, wearing a helm of bright metal and a silver corslet of rings, with a white bow clasped in silver over his shoulder, stood behind lay a mighty dragon, whose eyes glimmered like sapphires in the early morning light.

Boromir was struck dumb, remembering the shining figure he had seen in the clearing before everything turned to blackness.

"This is Eragon, and his dragon Saphira," spoked Aragorn quietly in his ear. "A traveller, lost in these lands, to whom we owe a great debt."

The strange warrior gazed at Boromir measuring for a few moments. Then he nodded, and turning away, picked up what appeared a richly decorated saddle, but larger than that of any horse. As Boromir watched spellbound, he mounted the dragon's side, and seated the saddle on its back, in a gap between two ivory spikes along its spine. He slid easily down, and as the Dragon rose slightly onto its limbs, passed the lashings and girths under the vast belly. Jumping upwards, he climbed back onto the Dragon's back, only to drop out of sight over the other side.

At his disappearance, Boromir shook himself out of his daze. He turned questioningly to Aragorn. The ranger smiled thinly. "A long tale," he said by way of explanation, "and one we don't have time for now. They mean us no harm, but travel north to Lothlorien at haste. We ourselves must hurry. Here. We have collected your pack, and you must choose what to leave. We must travel light and far, the Orcs that took Merry and Pippin have travelled North, across open country, and we must travel fast to catch them, for they have a night's advance on us!"

Boromir nodded, and fearing deeply for the cheerful hobbits at the hands of the Orcs, began hurriedly to open his pack.

Aragorn's POV

As the man of Gondor gathered his possessions, Aragorn crossed to where Eragon and Saphira made ready. As he watched, the strange elf, high up on Saphira's back, began to tie saddlebags and blankets onto the saddle. Before his eyes, the rider stretched out a hand towards a heavy leather bag, and muttered a few words. The bag rose unsupported, and as if carried by an unseen hand, flew to Eragon's outstretched hand. The elf took it, and strapped it into place with lashings on the saddle.

Aragorn kept his face impassive, but inwardly he was once again struck with wonder, and not a little fear. Such magic he had never seen, none so casual, nor so convenient. Gandalf's magic was not the magic of this stranger. The old wizard had rarely used magic so openly, and his was more subtle, and he did not doubt, powerful. What different power had this stranger from another land, and what should happen if he turned to the enemy.

Eragon finished strapping on the last bundle, and in one bag, Aragorn saw the bow and sword of the raven haired elf woman. Eragon turned to him. "Will you help me carry her up," he asked.

"It is the least i can do," responded Aragorn truthfully, and circled around Saphira's fore-body to where she still lay.

"How will you carry her." he asked curiously.

"I will lash her to the saddle before me. There are fastenings and charms upon it, she will not fall."

At a glance from Eragon, Saphira, who was watching them, sank slowly onto her belly, her legs stretched before her. Even so, her back was still a good 15 feet above them. Eragon climbed on her side, climbing up a foreleg. Clinging onto a spike, he watched as Aragorn carefully gathered up the elf women. She was not heavy, and as he passed her into Eragon's hands, the early sunlight fell onto her face. It was a face of great beauty, he noted, the features strong and graceful. Eragon balanced carefully, sure footed despite the burden and steep climb, and rose carefully onto Saphira's back. Placing her on a flat surface of leather before the his saddle he horn, he strapped her awkwardly but carefully into the saddle, dressed in a hooded cloak of emerald green and swaddled in blankets against the cold and wind.

As Aragorn watched, Saphira's long neck flexed, as her head turned to gaze at Eragon. She looked her rider's face, as some silent communication passed between them. She nosed gently at the elf woman's secure form, as if checking herself that she was safe. Yet again, Aragorn wondered at these strangers. From where did they come, and in what land could three so different be so close. He wondered also, not for the first time, what bond there was between Eragon and the beautiful elf woman. He cared for her deeply, that was obvious, but his actions were of both a friend, and one in love. He had tried to hide the latter, but Aragorn had lived too long around men and elves not to notice. The latter were harder to read, but this Eragon was by his own account no typical elf.

Clearly happy that his companion was secure, Eragon jumped down, landing easily despite the distance off the ground.

He picked up his bow from where he had laid it on the ground, and checking it's cord, slid it into a quiver he know wore on his shoulder. The quiver was full of white fletched arrows, but the silver chased bow slid in easily, by some art or skill of design. Aragorn studied him. Eragon also wore a long knife in a sheaf on his belt over his mail, but although he also wore sword belt, and baldrick, he bore no sword.

"Do you have no sword." Asked Aragorn, unable to withhold his curiousity. The rider's face darkened slightly. "Not anymore" he said curtly, and with a touch of sadness.

Aragorn didn't pry.

He drew Eragon aside and spoke to him quietly. "I pray your friend will be well. Be comforted, for the Lady and healers of the Golden Wood are wise and their knowledge in the lore of healing is deep."

Eragon nodded, seemingly trying to look hopeful. He attempted a thin smile but his features were worried. He was clearly eager to be off.

Aragorn nodded. "I hope to see you again, Eragon, Dragon Rider, and you too Saphira, Vervada's daughter. As i have said, there is war coming upon this land, and those who fight on the side of light will no doubt come together. I know not how you came here, or whether you can return, but i owe you a debt, and if can help you return home in anyway, will. I hope however, that you will return my ring in person, and that you will join us against the dark."

Eragon frowned at him. "Perhaps," he said carefully, "but for now I can only thank you for your advice and your kindness."

"Neither man nor dragon knows where fate will blow him, Aragorn, son of the North" came the deep voice of Saphira in Aragorn's mind, "but I also thank your help, and will not forget your kindness. May your sword stay sharp man known as Strider!"

He bowed slightly to her, and she gazed at him intently with those deep ageless eyes.

Eragon paused as if remembering something, and mounting Saphira's side, rummaged in a saddle bag. He withdrew a small flask, and dropped to the ground with the grace of a cat.

He handed it to Aragorn, who looked at him, wondering what the flask contained. "It is faelnirv***, a refreshing cordial made by the elves. This is all I can spare, and there are only a few mouthfuls, but it is wonderfully refreshing when tired or weak, for there is magic in it. I got this from the elves not three days ago, and I feel it will be more use to your friend than me." He gave a thin smile. "If what you've told me is true, you have a long run ahead of you, and I have another flask here in case I need some," he said, tapping his chest.

"Thank you." said Aragorn, deeply grateful, for he feared for Boromir. He was healed true, but he was weak, and the way ahead was long."

Eragon nodded, and with a bound, was climbing swiftly up Saphira's armored flanks. He reached the ornate saddle, and began to strap himself into place.

As he checked his and Arya's lashings, Aragorn, hesitated, and then climbed up a little way after him. Saphira snorted, and turned to look at him in surprise. His companions, standing ready to leave, also gazed open mouthed with surprise. Aragorn held firmly onto a spike, his feet slipping on the smooth plates of metal. He secured his footing, and looked up to see Eragon looking at him, surprise clear on his face. Aragorn gestured, and the elf lent down so that his face was nearer the rangers.

Aragorn spoke. "There is a chance that on your way north, you will encounter the Orcs that took our friends. I've perhaps asked too much of you already, but if you can, you might aid us further. "

Eragon gestured at the figure of his friend. "I must get Arya to help. I don't know what's wrong with her. Every second might count," he added nervously, and the fear was clear upon his features.

Aragorn grimaced, but persisted in his request. "I know, she's your friend, and I can tell seeing her hurt cuts at your heart. But my friends are alone, held captive and possibly hurt. Imagine how you'd feel if Arya was held prisoner, alone, at the hands of creatures fouler than you could imagine. Aragorn paused.

"You might not be able to stop them, and i fear if you are not careful, you might hurt them by mistake. But should you encounter them, can I at least ask you to try slow them down somehow. Even a small delay might help. Orcs fear dragons like anyone else, and fright easily, you might force them into stopping and taking shelter.

Saphira let out a snort of smoke, "vermin" she said unheard to Aragorn in Eragon's mind, "worse than Urgals."

Eragon swore quietly under his breath, and raised his gloved hand to his rub his forehead. Aragorn saw the conflict on his face. Content at least that he had made his request; Aragorn loosened his footing, and slid to the ground. He landed awkwardly, but recovered his balance, and gazed up at the figure in shining mail on the dragon's back.

"I can't promise anything," the elf resolved loudly, as Saphira rose onto her feet, so that her rider sat far far above. "But we will try!"

Before Aragorn could reply Saphira launched herself into the sky, the air tangibly vibrating as her great wings struggled for purchase. Tree branches shook, leaves falling to the ground at the force of her passage, as she struggled out of the small space that was the clearing. Her tail swept against a number of saplings, and the four companions ducked, as the trees shattered and cracked at the force of the dragon's passing.

A minute later, she was already far above, climbing steadily into the morning sky. The sun glinted brightly off her harness and armour, and off the helmet of the figure on her back She headed steadily northwards, dwindling slowly to a dot on the horizon. Before she had gone even a half a league, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli were on the move, moving swiftly through the woods. They headed north and east, descending out of the woods and along the first stretches of grassland that marked the beginnings of the open land of the men of Rohon. With Aragorn leading, taking the trail, they followed the beaten track of their quarry, beaten like a road by the iron shod feet of their quarry.

End of Chapter 6


* The Mountain:

The lonely mountain, or Erebor, located to the east of Mirkwood, and the subject of much of the Hobbit.

** Ered Mithrin:

The Grey Mountains. The mountain range to the North of the Lonely Mountain, once the location of thriving dwarf colonies. The Dwarves were driven by the attacks of the Dragons who lived north of the mountains, one of whom, Smaug, later flew south to attack the Lonely mountain itself.

*** Faelnirv:

One of the drinks of the elves of Alagaësia. According to Eragon, it is a clear liquer that tastes like mulled cider mixed with mead. It is distilled from crushed elderberries and spun moonbeams. According to the elves, a strong man can travel for three days on it consuming nothing else.

Apologies everyone for the delay. I have been and am still very busy with work, but managed to write this in a moment of abstraction. Hope you enjoy, and thank you for your support.

Please review :), it doesn't take any effort !!!!