A/N: It's been a while, but I've finally gotten chapter twenty up and going, enjoy. Don't forget to review when you're done.
Wings of a Dream:
We rested lightly for the rest of the night, and left our camp shortly after dawn, striking off towards what would seem to be certain death, unless, of course, you were able to obtain water easily. When we got to the start of the desert the heat was immediately apparent, it would have been uncomfortable if I was still human, but I found the heat refreshing. Saphira and I stopped hiding in the sky high above Eragon and Murtagh, opting to stay right overhead, both as a deterrent to predators in the sands, and to be ready to act in case of something going wrong.
I've never felt this alive, I love the heat here!
I nodded, it was incredible. Too bad we're the only ones, I think our companions are having a lot less fun than we are.
She looked down, noting the degree of wear that was coming over the rest of our group, even the horses were starting to get lathered in sweat, and we had barely started into the desert. I dropped down and started making slow passes over them to give some reprieve from the sun, and Saphira followed suit. We traveled a few miles into the desert, far enough that the troops wouldn't try following us. I called for a stop.
We landed and waited for the others to catch up. It was apparent that Eragon was unhappy about it, but to tired to argue, Murtagh wasn't in any better shape.
"Why are we stopping?" Eragon asked, irritation heavy in his voice.
This is probably the worst time for us to travel, I suggest that we make camp, Saphira and I can provide shade and get some rest, we're far enough into the desert to deter anyone from coming and attacking us. We can travel at night, when the temperature starts to drop and sleep in the day. The heat doesn't bother me or Saphira, but it is dragging on you, and we both can see it.
Murtagh nodded tiredly. "That makes sense, we can push ourselves harder in the cool air than we can when we're fighting the heat and this sand."
Saphira and I curled around where they were setting up, and covered the area with our wings, making a large tent-like structure, providing a lot of relief from the sun and heat. Eragon used the time to refill the water skins, and we all refreshed ourselves with the water that he drew up, and waited for nightfall. I spread my other wing to capture more heat from the sun and lightly snoozed for the rest of the day, everyone was happy to take a break with relatively little worry of being caught unaware. When the sun started to go down and the temperature dropped we broke camp and set off towards the south, cutting through the desert as fast as the sand would allow. Traveling at night ended up letting us move much quicker through the hostile terrain, and Saphira and I provided adequate cover for the daytime heat. We moved without fear off the army catching up to us anytime soon, and a few days into our trek we saw glimpses of the Beor Mountains on the horizon, as we traveled we noticed them getting larger in comparison from dusk and dawn.
It took a few days to get through the desert, and we were all grateful to leave, it was an arduous trek. We stopped at a stream that was a short while out of the desert to wash off, and replenish our supplies, but we were fairly close to where we needed to be to get to the Varden. We trekked towards the forest, and our eventual ascent into the mountains themselves. With the worry of the desert and the Empire behind us Murtagh became surly again.
You're sulking again, I think that it's high time to find out why.
He continued riding on below, quiet to my inquiry. I prodded for most of the day, receiving no answer, and growing more irate as time went on. I voiced my concern to Saphira, and found that she agreed with me. We decided that it was time to find out what Murtagh's secret was. We flew on keeping an eye out for dangers until it was time to set up camp for the night. We landed and moved to either side of Murtagh, cutting off any chance of him getting away from us. I growled at him.
It is time, you need to tell us what the issue with you and the Varden is.
He snorted, "Seems like I have no choice in this. My issue is not what I have done, it is that I was born. I am the son of Morzan, first and last of the Forsworn. My father is responsible for the fall of the Riders, and for his actions I am cursed." He held a hand up, cutting off any further questions. "I have no love for my father, all he ever gave me is this." He pulled up his shirt exposing a nasty scar that traversed a good portion of his back. "And he gave it to me with that sword." He pointed at Zar'roc. "That sword is all I ever expected as inheritance from him, and I was denied even that by Brom. The Varden will not accept me simply because they believe that I may end up being like my father."
You've got two dragons and a Rider vouching for you, that will count for something. And should someone try anything I will stop them. No-one hurts my friends.
"I appreciate that Fayathon, but that doesn't stop me from worrying. I plan on splitting off before we reach the Varden, with any luck, I'll just disappear into the Surdan populace."
I understood his stance, but I was unhappy that he would be persecuted for the sins of his father, it wasn't right, and he had proven himself to be a worthy ally many times. Saphira and I moved to where he was free to go about his business, and settled in for the night.
I rose early that morning, feeling energized and refreshed. I yawned loudly, and stretched out, the sun was barely coming up, and I was feeling really good about the day. Saphira woke up shortly thereafter, I could hear her shuffling around, waking her body from sleep. I cast my gaze to the Beors.
I can't get over how big they are, I thought that the mountains back home were big, but these dwarf anything I can remember.
Saphira nodded in agreement, They make me feel like a hatchling again.
We watched the sun rise and slowly wake our companions relishing the fact that for the moment we were safe from the Empire. I sighed, knowing that it couldn't last. Eragon stirred in his sleep, slowly coming to life. I chuckled, He sleeps like a rock when he's not twisted in worry. Murtagh started moving and sat up.
"I forgot what it was like to sleep without worry, that was great."
My feeling of contentment was brought to an end when my eyes settled on Arya's still form, our situation was still urgent, but at least we wouldn't have to worry about getting arrested on top of her dying. I lowered my snout to her gently sniffed her, the scent of death was lightly upon her, and it worried me.
Murtagh walked over, standing next to my head, resting his hand on my horn. "We've got to get her to a healer, I don't know how she's lasted this long, but I doubt that she's got much more time before whatever's keeping her alive fails. We should get moving again, we're wasting time."
I sighed, we did need to move, just because we were safe didn't mean that we could slow down. Eragon and Murtagh loaded up the camp, they lashed all of the non-essential items to me or Saphira, and Arya between my front legs. We left shortly thereafter, Saphira and I high above, scouting the area, and them below, setting the pace to get to the Varden. We traveled for a little while before I noticed an odd grouping that was at an angle to us, off towards the desert.
Saphira, what do you think that is?
She looked where I was indicating and tried to see what was out there, neither of us able to tell. We flew on, relaying the information down to the others, and kept a watch on them. We grew closer, and when we were finally able to see what it was, we both dropped our altitude towards the ground, praying that we had not been spotted. I had to force every instinct I had into submission to avoid roaring out a warning.
Urgals! A damned army of the things!
I was not happy about this turn of events. The Urgals appeared to be heading along the base of thee mountains, as if they were going to intercept us. How they had found us was beyond me.
"Where are they?" I heard Murtagh ask.
Saphira answered for me, They look to be few leagues away from the base of the mountains, and heading in roughly the same direction as us, if we hurry we can get past them before the get to the foothills.
"Let's move then, looks like we're going to be hunted again."
I heard a horn in the distance. And there's a hunting horn, they know about us alright. Let's move!
Murtagh and Eragon urged their horses into a gallop, putting as much distance into what little lead we had as fast as they could. Saphira and I took off winging over them, keeping watch over how much time we had left before they would be overtaken. I was angry that we had lost one pursuer only to get another when we thought that we would be fine.
We were able to slip past the Urgals before they could cut us off, and they fell a few leagues behind us. We were happy about that, but that didn't stop us from rushing as swiftly as we could towards the Varden. We traveled with minimal rest, urging the horses on, trying to outrun our pursuers, to little avail. We continued on through the night, hoping that we would not be overtaken, and to put some extra distance between us and the Urgals during the night. Our hopes along that line were dashed as morning came, we had gained a little lead, but apparently the Urgals were intent on catching up and had traveled the night as well. The only thing that was keeping us ahead was the fact that both Eragon and Murtagh were at home in the woods, and able to guide the horses through with ease. We moved with minimal rest and relatively no sleep for a few days, desperately staying ahead of our pursuers. We were elated to see the entrance to the Varden's valley.
We're almost out of this mess, let's move it!
I flew on ahead, attempting to find a way out for Murtagh. I found nothing of the sort, but I did see a number of cliffs and the like that had possible hiding spots in them. I noted that and flew back to the others.
Murtagh, I've got some bad news.
Don't tell me.
I'm sorry, but there is no route up ahead that I can see, there are places that you may be able to hide, but that's all I can offer. Sorry.
I could feel the anger he was feeling, and sympathized with him, he was caught between a rock and a hard place.
Looks like I'm going to chance it with the Varden, not like I've got much choice.
We hurried up to the lake at the top of the valley, it had a narrow bank on either side, only wide enough for either me or Saphira to land on. It was enclosed by cliffs on the outsides of the shores, making for an effective bottleneck, which would prove advantageous in a fight, if we were stranded outside the fortress. We landed one after the other, and started moving towards the waterfall at the end of the lake.
Hang on, get Arya off of me, I don't want her injured if and when this gets ugly.
They quickly unbound her and we started around the lake. We had gotten a little over halfway around the lake when the first Urgals appeared from the forest, they caught sight of us and bellowed a challenge, charging, bent on capturing or killing all of us. I spun around and roared my own challenge, and loosed a stream of fire at them, forcing them to be far more cautious in their approach. I heard Eragon yelling the password behind me, trying to get the Varden to let us in, but nothing was happening. The Urgals had started to nock arrows and ready spears, taking aim carefully, intent on stopping us from getting to safety. I shot another jet of flame towards them, and dove into the lake.
What are you doing?
While I'm under here they can't hit me, keep them from getting to the others, I'll teach them not to let their guard down. We've got to hold them back.
Sounds like a plan, they won't get by me.
I saw the Urgals advancing, keeping their eyes on the water, I lunged out, batting a number of them off of the bank, maiming several and killing a few. I slipped back under the water before they could do anything to retaliate. Saphira took the opportunity to attack while they were distracted, taking another chunk from their numbers. Murtagh fired arrows at the attackers helping us keep the horde at bay. I kept myself under the water, keeping safe for the most part, but they wised up to my attack patterns and kept a few archers and spearmen watching the water, ready to punish me when I poked my head out. The fight wore on and we were all wearing out.
Are we having any luck getting in?
No, they aren't respon- I heard Saphira's thought trail off. We went around the wrong side of the lake! We have to get to the other side of the waterfall!
I groaned, going over the route in my mind, realizing that she was right.
Get on it then, I'll hold them off. I sprung from the water, and bared my teeth. The Urgals stepped back, and hoisted their spears. This is gonna hurt. I growled, and shot another jet of flame, following it closely, claws bared. I managed to avoid some spears, but a few found their mark, I could feel them tear through my scales, and I roared in pain, launching myself into another attack. I held back the onslaught of Urgals, they seemed innumerable, for every one that died or was incapacitated another took it's place quickly. I started loosing ground as I got hit more and more. As I lost ground, they grew bolder and I was becoming more reluctant to fight. Only my promise to protect kept me fighting.
My concentration on the fight broke, and I whipped my head around to see what was wrong. My inattentiveness was rewarded with another spear hitting me in the shoulder.
Damnit, what's wrong?
He's under the waterfall, and can't get back out.
Can you help him? I'm a little occupied.
She didn't respond for a minute.
He's safe, the cliff has opened up, get inside, before they kill you.
I jumped off of the bank, back into the water, and made my way into the Varden stronghold, hoping for the best, I was beaten enough that I probably wouldn't survive another fight.