Murtagh grinned inwardly as he heard Kadiya gasp as Thorn launched himself in the air. He remembered the first time he had ridden a dragon and the terrifying first few moments before the feeling of euphoria kicked in. Over on Saphira, he heard the young dragon squeal in excitement as the ground disappeared beneath it. Thorn arched up into the air, soaring high into the sky. Murtagh closed his eyes, relishing the feeling of the wind on his face. In front of him Kadiya sobbed, her breath hitching. He tightened his arms around her slightly.
"I'm sorry for your loss," he said in her ear. Kadi sniffed in reply.
"Thank-you, Murtagh. I can't believe she's gone. It just seemed like she was going to keep going forever." Kadi said softly, her voice almost lost in the wind as they flew away from the village that Kadi had called home for almost her entire life, heading back towards the comparative safety of Surda and the Varden.
The sky darkened as one by one the stars appeared. The ground beneath them turned to darkness, save for the occasional pinpricks of light indicating where towns and villages were dotted across the landscape.
The small group were silent as they flew, recognising the sombreness of the occasion. Eventually Brom mentally signalled that they should stop soon for the night, and Murtagh and Eragon agreed, both feeling weary. The two dragons swooped downwards, finding appropriate campsite using their keen sight.
Murtagh was glad that the dragons had been carrying the supplies when the village had been attacked, otherwise they might have lost everything that Brom, Eragon, and Murtagh had not been already carrying. As it was, Kadiya had nothing except for the clothes on her back.
The two elder riders had wordlessly gone about setting up camp Brom took Kadiya aside, keeping a supportive arm around her. Brom kept his mind closed to them, so the two boys focused on their tasks, Eragon on collecting wood and lighting the fire, Murtagh on preparing some food from the rations the Varden had sent with them.
Saphira and Thorn lay to one side, the young dragon sniffing the ground around them curiously. Nissa's body had been lain out by Thorn in a corner of the clearing, and Eragon had covered her with a spare blanket. Eragon glanced at Murtagh, who was watching Brom and Kadi. Brom had his arms around her whispering soft reassurance into her ear. Eragon's keen hearing could her Kadiya's soft sobs.
Eventually, Brom and Kadiya broke apart, and walked back towards the dragons. Kadi held her hand out to her dragon, the gedwey ignasia on her hand glistening in the moonlight as the small green dragon touched her palm with his nose, before rubbing his head against her palm, making soft humming noises similar to what Saphira and Thorn did when they were content.
"We're far enough away from the soldiers now that we can slow our travels down slightly. Tomorrow at dawn we will bury Nissa, there is a clearing that I believe she will like not far from here."Brom told the two boys as Kadi and her dragon approached Nissa's body together. Kadi didn't uncover her foster mother's remains, but knelt beside them, her dragon sitting beside her, their heads bowed as Kadi grieved the loss of the only family she'd ever known, and the dragon shared his rider's grief. Eragon doubted that either of them would move that night. He remembered when Roran's mother had died when he was younger, before he'd found Saphira's egg, and how they'd all sat vigil over her remains for the night, before she was buried the next morning. It had been one of the longest nights of Eragon's life, but he'd kept silent, understanding how important it was for Garrow, Roran, and the rest of his family.
It became apparent that Brom planned to sit with them once they'd eaten their evening meal, so Murtagh and Eragon packed up without complaining and the usual chatter and joking around, and set up a watch to ensure that Kadiya and Brom were not disturbed by anyone who wanted to attack the camp.
Eragon had first watch, and it was uneventful. He woke Murtagh when the moon was high in the sky and then lay down on a blanket beside Saphira, huddling close to her as she covered him with her wing. Eragon yawned and quickly succumbed to his weariness, safe in the knowledge that Murtagh and Thorn would keep the rest of their family safe while he slept.
Nissa's burial was a simple, yet touching gesture. Saphira, Thorn, and the baby dragon dug the whole that her body was to be lowered into, and Brom said words in the ancient language over her body as Eragon and Murtagh carefully lowered the body into the whole. Kadiya filled in the hole with the dirt, and they all placed stones on the grave, covering the mound of earth. The three dragons then stood together, and as one, blew onto the stones, sealing the grave, and ensuring that time and animal scavengers would never ravage the spell caster's remains. Brom stood at the foot of the grave then, placing his hand on the hard, glittering surface that now covered the grave, and whispered words. Writing appeared on the hard surface, as if it had been etched there by a master of stonework
Here lies Nissa,
Mother to many.
Protector of justice
Friend, Fighter, Family
She will live on in our hearts forever
"An appropriate tribute," Saphira said, and the others all nodded, Kadiya included, bundled up in Murtagh's cloak, as the morning air up in the mountains where they were camped was quite cold.
The group stood there quietly, before Brom let out a sigh.
"We should go; we need to return to the Varden as soon as possible."
Murtagh and Eragon immediately moved to their respective dragon's side, while Kadiya lingered beside Nissa's grave, finally brushing her hand across the glittering rock that sealed the tomb.
"Farewell, Nissa. I will never forget you." She softly intoned, before letting her hand drop. The green dragon touched the stone with his nose, before he looked up at his rider.
"Come on," she instructed, backing away from the grave respectfully, before she turned her back and approached Murtagh's side. Brom climbed onto Saphira behind Eragon, and Murtagh helped Kadiya up onto Thorn in front of him, so he could wrap his arms around her to ensure she didn't fall. This time Thorn carefully too the young dragon in his claws, being very careful to ensure the young dragon was not injured by his sharp talons. Murtagh tightened his arms around Kadiya as Thorn spread his wings and soared up into the air. Kadiya didn't gasp this time during take off, instead seeming to be focused on the skies above them, perhaps feeling the exhilaration that came with flying. As Eragon and Murtagh both agreed, the first flight upon a dragon was a generally frightening experience, but every flight afterwards was breathtaking.
"It's so beautiful up here," Kadiya called to him over the sound of the wind as the soured towards Surda, passing far above mountains, rivers and small villages.
"I know," Murtagh replied, "One of the advantages of being a rider, you can see the world from an angle that most people could only dream of."
Thorn flapped his wings; gaining a little height so he was briefly he was flying above Saphira. He then moved to the side and dropped slightly, so they were side by side. Brom, Eragon and Murtagh all knew that it was important for Kadi to get used to the feeling of flying, as the battle that they knew was going to take place was only getting closer and closer. The more prepared Kadi was the better it would be for the Varden as a whole, and for the dragon riders as a smaller group. If she had more time to get used to being a rider, then Murtagh knew that she stood a better chance of surviving the battle.
Despite the fact that he'd only just met her Murtagh didn't want to think about the possibility of Kadiya dying. She was young, and genuinely innocent. It had been a long time since he'd had the chance to interact with someone like that over a long period of time. Sure, Kadiya knew how to fight, and she'd killed a few of the soldiers that had attacked them at the barn, but she wasn't battle and war weary like the rest of the Varden that Murtagh saw on a day to day basis.
Murtagh found it refreshing.
It was dark when they finally crossed over the border into Surda, and they flew straight towards the Varden's encampment. Murtagh groaned with relief, stretching his weary legs in the saddle as the light from the campfires appeared one by one, as they drew closer. The two dragons too were looking forward to resting their aching wins, especially Thorn, who had been carrying the young dragon the whole day.
Eragon stretched out with his mind, alerting Arya, his mother and Nasuada that they were close, although he had a feeling Arya already knew. Saphira arched downwards souaring over the camp, before she dropped itno the field that was assigned to herself and Thorn. Thorn took care to set the young dragon down, before he actually landed. The baby dragons legs buckled under it's weight a little at first, it's feet having gone to sleep through not being used all day, but it quickly recovered, scampering towards Kadiya, who had just climbed down drom Thorn's side, Murtagh right behind her. Eragon was stroking Saphira's neck carefully, while Brom was already in the process of meting with the welcoming party that had assembled at one end of the clearing, including Nasuada, Arya, Selena, Roran, and a few others. Kadiya hung back, her dragon by her side, peering cautious at the strangers. Kadiya ran her fingers through her hair, hopping to make it at least semi presentable, although after a full day's flying, it needed a good brush, and her fingers were not going to do the job.
Eragon and Murtagh, along with Saphira and Thorn, stayed beside her, perhaps sensing her unease. Kadiya was thankful for their support, as the party approached them. Saphira and Thorn hummed greetings to the approaching group, whikle Eragon and Murtagh grinned.
"Your mission was successful, I take it?" Nasuada said to them, smiling, "Greetings, youg rider, I am Nasuada, leader of the Varden."
"I am Kadiya. It is an honour to meet you, Nasuada," Kadiya curtseyed as well as she could, although her legs were suffering the same problem as her dragon, and had gone to sleep. Staying upright was a challenge that was taking up most of Kadiya's attention.
"I understand that your journey to us has been fraught with danger and loss. My deepest condolences to regarding the death of your foster mother."
"Thank you Nasuada, your condolences mean a great deal to me. The empire is no longer safe for myself, or my dragon. I ask that you accept us into the Varden so that others will not meet the same fate as my foster mother." Kadiya said formally. She'd spent most of the day thinking about her meeting with the leader of the Varden. So far it was going to plan, with the exception of he legs being half asleep.
"I accept you both, we have great need of people with your talents. While you and your dragon are young at the moment, I hope to see you both grow into mighty warriors."
"I hope that day will come" Kadiya agreed. Nasuada smiled and then inclined her head to Eragon and Murtagh, before moving off back towards her tent. Kadiya exhaled, feeling some of the tension leave her body as a woman took Nasuada's place, embracing both Murtagh and Eragon. She guessed that the woman was their mother, Selena, who was the same woman whom had been Kadiya's sole source of nourishment following her real mother's death, or that was what Nissa had said anyway. Sleena turned to Kadiya as Eragon greeted a tall Efl woman, and Murtagh chatted to a young amn about his own ade with a hammer slung from his belt.
"Kadiya, I am Selena, Brom's wife, and Murtagh and Eragon's mojher. You probably wouldn't remember, but I fed you when you were a little baby. You've gornw so much. I cannot believe that you are the third rider."
"I'm having a bit of trouble believing it myself," Kadiya admitted. Selena laughed, and hekd out her hand. Not knowing what to expect, Kadiya took it in her own, Selena rubbed Kadiya's had reassuringly.
"I'm so sorry about Nissa. She was a good friend, and she loved you very much. I'm sure she is so proud of you, and what you've become."
"Thank you." Kadiya sniffed, her emotions catching up with her. It had only been just over twenty four hours since Nissa had died, but it had felt like a lifetime. Selena gently pulled Kadiya into an embrace, rubbing her back, while Kadiya cried onto the older woman's shoulder, clinging onto Selena desperately. Selena knew that Kadiya needed a new mother figure and she was prepared to step into that role. She was already the mother of two dragon riders, and had cared for Kadiya deeply when the girl was a little baby, so now that the teenager had been made a rider and had lost the only other mother she'd ever known; it only made sense for Selena to take Kadiya under her wing.
Kadiya needed a mother at this point of her life and Selena was ready to be that mother.