Chapter Forty Four

Eragon and I have some armor on under our clothes. Our tunics are supposed to hide the armor and it feels uncomfortable. The night time clouds above us our so dark and thick that they hide the moon and the stars. Every so often a few drops of rain fall and land on my face. I reach for Eragon and help him fasten his cloak. We are all wearing cloaks to hide our weapons and protect us from the cold. I want to give Eragon a kiss but everyone is around us so I don't, I just give him a quick awkward hug.

Elva refused to go with us. Eragon argued with her for a long time and she stood her ground. I don't know many people who would say no to a dragon and a rider but she did. In the end, Eragon had to respect her decision.

"Don't forget," Nasuada tells us. "If you can't reach the gated by dawn, find somewhere to wait until tomorrow morning and we'll try again then."

I nod but I can only hope that if we can't get there by dawn, that we have the option to find somewhere safe to wait. We may not be that lucky. I have to admit I'm a little nervous. This has to go exactly as planned for it to work. If something goes wrong our lives will be put in danger.

"Whatever happens," she tells us. "We'll be ready to attack as soon as you contact us, no matter what time of day it is. Your safety is more important than Dras-Leona. Remember that."

I pat Crystalina gently and tell her goodbye for now. 'Be safe,' she tells me.

'You too,' I reply.

Eragon rests his forehead against Saphira and bids her his own short goodbye. He tells her to have some good hunting and she tells him the same. We walk in the dark, squinting to avoid branches and rocks in the way of our path. We stop where Angela says she believes the entrance must be. Eragon looks around nervously for enemies. The knowledge that we may have to fight Thorn and Murtagh is making him anxious too.

I stand so close to him that we are almost touching then take his hand in mine. He relaxes instantly. 'I am by your side Eragon,' I tell him. 'Do not worry. You are not alone.'

Even Glaedr had been apprehensive about our mission. He did not argue much about us going but warned us 'Beware of the shadows. Strange things lurk in dark places.' It wasn't a very encouraging statement. It probably only helped to add to our nervousness.

I let go of his hand but walk close to him as we travel over some hills than into a valley. We start digging through brush and debris until Arya hits metal and announces "Here!"

We all rush over to see a gaping entrance to a tunnel five feet tall and three feet wide. There is a rusted iron gate covering the entrance. There is a worn down path in front of it too that means one or more people had been using this tunnel. "We should proceed with caution," the elf Wyrden says.

"How else were you planning to proceed?" Angel replies. "With blaring trumpets and bells? Really!"

They pull the gate back then we all go inside. Eragon and I, along with two of the elves, have to bend over to avoid hitting the ceiling. Angela and a couple others produce small red balls of light so that we can see somewhat where we are going. Eragon trips and accidentally kicks a rock, sending it bouncing off the sides of the tunnel noisily. He whispers Sorry to everyone when they turn to stare at him. I try not to laugh. This must be what has been causing the strange sounds underground everyone was hearing.

I am walking by Eragon when we see two glowing eyes in the dark staring at us suddenly. We are already beginning to pull our swords when Solembum walks over to us. We relax then and I wave to Solembum. Of course he's here. Wherever Angela goes he inevitably seems to follow.

Before we left Nasuada had given us information on where Murtagh sleeps, when he eats, and even what his last mood was. The werecats had been acting as spies for her. No one suspected that the slightly large cat lounging nearby was actually an enemy spy.

We walk on and on forever until we finally arrive at another passageway. The tunnel we are in splits into three different pathways. "Which one do we take?" I ask quietly.

"This one," Angela says. She seems sure without reason but we follow her anyway. None of us have any better strategies for getting through the tunnels.

The elf Wyrden tells us these tunnels would not be in the original plans, someone else must have added them. Who would have added them and why? The three tunnels each branch off into their own tunnels and rooms. The tunnels and rooms all have varying heights and widths. Some of them we can all stand up in. Eragon marks the wall, scraping the stone with the edge of his sword, so we don't get lost.

Angela is the one to notice the carvings on the ceiling. We all look up at the ceiling illuminated by red light. The carvings are runes but even I can't identify exactly what they say. The elf Wyrden says it's a very old language and it's all about the zealot Tosk. He was the first to codify his beliefs and practices for Helgrind and many other people have been imitating him since. Those who worship Helgrind regard him as a prophet of the divine. The runes are spelling out a history of him from birth to death.

While Wyrden and Angela read the runes there is a sudden yowling sound. "Solembum!" Angela exclaims, worried. "We have to help him."

Just then within the walls of three different corridors a half dozen doors swing open. Thirty men in black clothes run out toward us, swords in hand. The men have kerchiefs hiding their faces, only their eyes showing. We all draw our swords together. "Letta!" Wyrden shouts, stop! One group of men collide with each other as if they had run right into a wall. The rest of the attackers reach us now and there is no more time for magic, now is the time to fight.

We fight the attackers shouts to us "They can't feel pain!" I stab a soldier through the stomach and he climbs back onto his feet. I swing my sword this time and chop his head off. Eragon stays in front of me, trusting me to protect his back.

More men are running into the room. "This way!" Arya yells, leading us down an empty tunnel. We run down it, the attackers giving chase. Suddenly a door opens and Angela shouts. Someone pulls her in through the door then it slams shut before any of us can do anything.

"No!" Eragon shouts.

"Ladrin," I say holding my hand to the place the door is, open. It does not budge.

The tunnel is only wide enough for two men to approach at a time. They are so close to us now that we have no choice except to face them. We kill them as they charge at us in pairs.

"Through here!' Wyrden yells to us.

Arya says a quick spell and stones all around us explode in the tunnel, causing our attackers to stop and cower in fear as they try to dodge them.

Wyrden is running at an opening. He's just a few feet from it when large amethyst crystal spikes rise from the ground. They spear the elf with a sickening crunch sound. For a moment all I can do is stare. Eragon is staring too. We've never seen an elf die, especially one so accomplished as Wyrden who it seemed could only ever die in battle with Murtagh.

Arya is caught by surprise for a moment but then says "Eragon, cut us a path with Brisingr."

His sword, unlike hers, will be able to cut through unharmed by whatever evil magic the spikes contain. He swings his sword and cuts the crystals, careful to avoid the ones holding the body of Wyrden. He clears us a path as the attackers approach. Arya and I follow him cautiously. The spikes could stab us through our boots or fall from the ceiling to impale us.

Eragon, Arya, and I run into the room at full speed. There is an altar with candles in the back of the room. In the middle is a disk of tiles with seven glowing amethyst crystals. Eragon crashes into them accidentally, running so fast that he is unable to stop himself.