A/N Thanks to all those who reviewed, your comments and feedback are always much appreciated, and incredibly helpful. I know I left on a cliffhanger, and for that, here's the next chapter.

Chapter 21 Desperation

We have to leave now!

Kyra's voice echoed through the minds of the other Riders and dragons.

Marcus had a pulse, barely, and Kyra had to save him.

She pulled the spear from his chest, relying on Hjarta's strength to stop the wound from bleeding more. She healed him, continued to force the wound to heal back, but it was taking far too much effort.

Pulling Marcus on to Hjarta's saddle, tears streaming down her face, she commanded they take to the air.

Ru'ali's screams made her turn around.

Ru'ali! I need your strength. I need to get in his head, I need to know how to heal him.

You are trying to save him?

His questioning was almost lost. As if he believed Marcus was lost.

I need your help, Ru'ali!

I come.

And he did, he flew right up to her, reaching his mind to hers and immediately she felt sick at the visions on his head.

Blood, lots of blood, marks and whips crashing down, pools of red, almost a river on the ground, a stab wound. Lots of stab wounds. The haunted open eyes of horror of Marcus' mother on the floor as her body twitched and hitched as the life drained out of her. And Marcus, his hand reaching out to touch his mother, before being viciously grabbed and tormented himself.

She fought down bile.

Her poor Marcus. Her poor warrior. And how could Ru'ali be as sane as he is, with those images constantly replaying in his head?

Control, Kyra. Control. Please help him. The purple dragon whispered back at her.

Kyra nodded, not trusting her voice, and found the intimate connection between Rider and dragon. Following the tendrils of it, she grasped on and followed deep into Marcus' mind. Simultaneously drawing strength from Hjarta and Ru'ali, Kyra worked relentlessly to force the wound to close, and it was working, to an extent.

She shifted through his memories, trying to figure out why the wounds were not healing properly. The blonde haired Rider watched as his thoughts flew through him. Most of them were of her, thinking her a goddess, watching out for her, sometimes even killing an enemy she had yet to see. He was always looking out for her. And she…was always occupied.

Marcus had time to either get rid of one of her attackers, or protect himself. In an acrobatic move, he sidestepped his own, letting himself get nicked, and killed her attacker for her. She was fighting ten men at a time, and clearly a little overwhelmed. It was then the blurriness started, and Kyra felt his muscles get weak, his knees buckled, his mind jumbled. And he heard Kyra call out to him. He barely felt the next nick across his neck, it was not deep, just a surprise. And then she heard her own voice again.

And then she felt the horror rush through her, Kyra did not understand. She was focused, not afraid, she could save Marcus. Where was this fear coming from?

She realized it was from Marcus' memory, such a strong fear, such a gripping fear. And he watched, his eyes still blurred, some clarity emerging out of sheer power of will, and he tried so desperately to lift his arm and stop the spear.

He did not hesitate when he realized he could not, instead, he muttered the words he knew would get him killed, and teleported himself right in front of her, taking the spear in his chest, when his muscles would not work.

Kyra shut her eyes, tears leaking from the ends, she had to find out what was wrong with him.

Hjarta whispered in her head.

Poison, Kyra. He was poisoned when he was cut. It must have been on the blade. He became instantly weak after it.

Wiping the tears from her eyes, she thanked Hjarta for his observation, and left the consciousness of her body, moving her mind into his body. Finding the foreign molecules, and immediately breaking them down faster than his body could metabolize them.

She came in to her own mind, nearly an hour later, and utterly drained. Kyra nearly fell out of the saddle, and she would have, if not for the heavy body of Marcus draped across her. Ru'ali was immediately there, giving her unimaginable strength, giving her all the rest of his reserves for her use.

The poison gone from Marcus' body, Kyra healed the wounds, the hole in his chest closing, his punctured lung sealing shut.

Kyra glanced around, hoping to see her other two companions around her.

And there they were, Thane and Solusar nodded gratefully at her, knowing she had saved his life, and Amatria on the other side, keeping a lookout for them, nodded at her once she had regained her wits about her.

We need to tell Eragon-ebrithil.

A pang of fear crossed their heads, their master would not be happy at their severe lack of judgment.

Thane glanced back, Melian far in the distance, too far.

We can rest here, and scry him. And that was precisely what they did.

Kyra hit the ground, pulling Marcus with her, her throat so parched she thought she was dying of thirst. Getting her waterskin, she took a long gulp, swishing the water around her mouth as she forced water in Marcus' throat.

He was alive, but still very weak.

Thane walked over to them, kneeling on the ground, and gently touching Marcus' shoulder. Kyra watched as he focused his efforts on transferring energy from both him and Solusar, in the hope he would awaken.

His heartbeat was stronger, and his conscious much more so, but he still would not wake.

Thane gave her a sad smile, "He will awake soon. He just needs time."

Amatria dug a hole in the ground with magic, and filled it with water she called from the ground. After seeing it wonderfully full and clear, she beckoned them over.

Reluctant to leave Marcus alone, even for a moment, Kyra nearly dragged him with her, just in case he awakened.

"Draumr kopa."

The gedwey ignaesia of their black haired Rider shone purple instead of reflecting light as silver, and the picture of a large room came into view.

"Bye, ebrithil."

"Kate." Thane called out to her.

Kate was an elf, her full name was Katylryn, but it had been shortened, on no part of hers, to Kate for simplicity. Kate did not mind, in fact, she was endeared to it. Kate, Katie, Kat. She liked those names, short and simple, and rather sweet. She was not horribly tall or horribly short, just average height and a brunette. She had a demure look about her, and rode a rose-colored dragon aptly named Feon, or Flower in the common tongue.

Kate jumped from her position and walked over to them.

"You look like hell."

Thane frowned, and sarcastically replied, "Thank you for that astute observation."

Kate shrugged, "You are most welcome." And replied just as sarcastically.

When she saw Marcus and fully took in their appearance, her demeanor was far more worrisome.

"What happened?"

"We need to speak with ebrithil."

Kyra's voice was gaunt with tiredness, something completely uncharacteristic of her. Kate immediately went back to the door, out of their vision and yelled for their master.

"An emergency, ebrithil! Please hurry."

They could hear the man running back to office, bursting through the door. His eyes narrowed as he saw them together.

They should not have been together.

He was about to reprimand them for not following orders, but the slouched in the chair when he saw Marcus.

"Marcus?" He questioned as if afraid of the answer.

"Alive," Amatria answered him, "barely, but alive thanks to Kyra."

Eragon let out a breath he probably did not know he was holding.

He gave them a hard look, "What the hell happened? This is the second time things did not go as planned!"

His voice lost its usual calmness, and Kyra looked down and away.

"We were following a group of soldiers, a group of two. We were dangerously close to Ishmael's territory, but they headed to Melian."

"As were the men we were following." Thane piped up.

"And then?" he prompted, not at all liking where this was going.

"I and Hjarta flew over head and we saw the encampment. About twenty-thousand men strong, an outpost. They are not moving far from the sea. Anyway, we were invisible, but we saw about thirty spellcasters on a suicide mission. They tried to get into the city, for what purpose I tried to find out. But I did not know they were spellcasters. I tried to enter their minds, but there were barriers, and I was taken by surprise. As were they. They thought I was an enemy, and attacked my mind. My barriers held, but in the meanwhile, I lost concentration on my spell, and I unveiled Hjarta and myself. They instantly attacked. Marcus and Amatria came shortly afterwards, and we held them off as much as possible."

Thane continued his side, "I went to the spellcasters, I told them to take the horses in the stables and come to the capital. We held them off for about twenty minutes, a decent start, and left Melian in ruins."

"And then?"

Kyra hesitated, her voice choking, "Marcus was poisoned."

"How?"

"A blade."

Eragon narrowed his eyes, "Marcus allowed a blade to touch him? Perhaps our enemies are more apt in swordplay than I thought."

Kyra shook her head, "I was the main target, the first one. They came after me the most, and Marcus saved my life, and the time he took to do so, killing one of my assailants left his vulnerable, and he took a cut on his arm. The second came around his neck, and then," she choked on her sorrow, "then he teleported himself and took a spear in the chest. We fled, I tried healing him as best as possible, but I did not know what was preventing it. Hjarta told me it was poison, and I found it, eradicated it, and healed him. But he is not waking up."

Tears were flowing down her face again, her voice cracking and desperate. Hjarta came around her, resting his head on shoulder for comfort.

"Oh, Kyra." Kate's voice shook him out of his stupor. He sighed deeply.

"I hope you realize how angry I am."

Thane looked up at him, "We know, ebrithil."

"This mistake could have cost us four of our best Riders, all leaders of units. Both pairs were in a place that they were not supposed to be. Suppose that was necessary, fine. I can accept that. But such a folly, Kyra, letting yourself be seen…"

Eragon shook his head.

Stop it, Eragon. Can you not see she in distress?

Arya's voice echoed through his mind, and she entered not long after. Kate immediately bowed in her presence.

Eragon turned to look at her, Arya, I know…

Hush, Eragon. I know you are their leader, and this is a war. But beating a dead horse is beneath you. Look at her, she is positively broken.

Arya rested a hand on her mate's shoulder, calming him instantly, and he found himself agreeing. Perhaps he might have been angry his judgment was being questioned, however, he knew exactly how wrong and deviant things go in war. Things never go according to plan, ever. And Arya was correct, Kyra was on the verge of tears, her eyes vacant, and lost of any strength.

"I am clearly not happy, with any of you." He looked away, "I am, however, ecstatic that you are all alive."

Arya squeezed his shoulder.

"Thane, Amatria, have you suffered any injuries a night's rest cannot cure?"

Both shook their heads.

"And Ladrimme and Solusar?"

"Good as well."

"Right. Kyra, you will escort Marcus back to the city. You are exhausted, I can see. Marcus has an extensive amount of energy stored in the hilt of his blade, use it to keep yourself well on the long trip back to the capital. Thane, Amatria, you two will go back to the original route I gave you, Thane. I will ask Victor and Fenrir to cover your first area, Kyra. The south is completely destroyed. Whatever information we would have gotten from there, we already have."

"Ebrithil." Kyra's voice was hollow and lost, but not nearly as patchy as it was before. "I apologize for my mistake."

Eragon shook his head, bowing down. "I do not want you to apologize, Kyra. Once you return, you will be honored and commended for your valor. I apologize as well, my anger stems from my fear. I can gain information that is lost, I can forge trails that have been lost, devise failed missions for success, but you must understand that I cannot bring back a life that is once lost. And that is my greatest fear. That in this war, I will be forced to bury my students. And I hope that you never are forced to feel this way."

Thane had a solemn look on his face, "Kyra? Are you sure you can make it back alright?"

He was worried, and Kyra reveled in the comfort her friend had for her.

"Honestly, Kyra. Thane can escort you to the capital, and he can join me later." Amatria suggested.

At once, Eragon shook his head, "No. Absolutely not. Riders will stay together in two when venturing into what I now consider unchartered territory. And that is now the minimum. I shudder to think if it was just you and Kyra in Melian against twenty thousand."

He shook his head vehemently again. Only to stop when Arya sympathetically rubbed his shoulder. She spoke next.

"Eragon does not doubt your abilities, Amatria. But even the best can be defeated by simply being outnumbered. Thane, stay with Amatria and the two of you stick together." She looked around their area, "If you would like, I can send someone, or Eragon can come himself to find you. I know the rough area of where you are."

"No need." Kate piped up, "I will see you in about a day or even half a day, if we meet halfway."

Kyra nodded her agreement, "Thank you, Kate."

The brunette shrugged her shoulders, "I will leave now, and get Feon ready." She left the room quickly, already taking off strapping her sword to her side.

"Kyra." The blonde haired Rider looked at her Queen. When she had not been a Rider, it was an honor to be addressed directly by Arya Drottning. And even as a Rider, she doubted she would be privy to more than the honor bestowed upon a Rider. However the gravity of the honor bestowed upon her was lost in the wake of recent events. The only reality she was aware of was Marcus' unconscious body weighing heavily on her conscience.

This was her fault. She had gotten him hurt, she had gotten him poisoned and killed – all because she could not handle herself on the battlefield. She was not good enough, and her lack of skills was why Marcus had gotten hurt. Her lack of skills and judgment was the reason she could not react to Kyrian's outburst a few weeks ago, and Marcus had gotten hurt then as well.

It was her fault. Marcus' suffering was all her fault.

"Kyra? Are you well?"

She snapped out of her awe, "Sorry, Drottning. How can I be of assistance?"

Arya shook her head, dismissing her request.

"When Marcus wakes, do not be afraid to tell him." The Queen gave a gentle smile, "Being vulnerable in love is quite strengthening. I hope one day, you will understand." And she gave a long look to Eragon, seemingly oblivious to the world. Kyra had no doubt they were well in their own conversation throughout. And the way Arya Drottning walked in right when Eragon ebrithil was losing his temper…uncanny. She had to have known every thought.

They had to be mates. Kyra sighed, she supposed it was to be expected. After all, they survived the war together, and then Eragon left. She knew, from the stories, whenever Eragon did something great, Arya was not too far away. What they went through together, what they accomplished together…Kyra realized it must have taken all ebrithil's self control to stay on the island for two hundred years, pining after her. She glanced at Marcus.

And to think I cannot even wait three hours for him to wake.

She shut her eyes, tears leaking from the corner.

"My dear Rider, I never meant to bring up past memories."

Kyra shook her head, "I think, Drottning, my head has finally made sense of everything running through it. I finally have a clear sense of what I need to do, but I am afraid I have lost the opportunity to do so."

Arya smiled, "Marcus will wake soon. Do not worry."

With a grateful nod, the Riders bid farewell to their ebirthil, and went on their way. Kyra gathered up Marcus in her arms, his weight nothing to her even depleted Elven strength and hoisted him up on Hjarta's saddle. He was still unconscious. After fixing his place, Kyra took the sword out of Marcus side, pulling the purple blade out and letting her mind wander to the gem. Indeed it had vast reserves of magic. Marcus must have been storing energy in there since he learned how.

Marcus always believed he would return. And he never thought it would be so lucky as to return in a time of peace.

I do not understand, Ru'ali. He thought he would return to Alagaesia for a war?

He fixed her with a sad stare, He never thought himself lucky enough to live the rest of his life in peace.

I am sorry, Ru'ali. I had no idea of the horrors you and Marcus faced. And now I wish…

Our experiences make us who we are. And I do not wish to change.

But to feel nothing but anger and to repress it constantly? Surely you wish something different.

It is all I know, and I fear the unknown.

That admittance must have cost a lot for Ru'ali. Kyra never saw this vulnerable side to him, the insecurity, the longing, and deep sadness.

She ached for him…ached for them both.

Hesitantly, she walked up to the purple dragon's side. His scales were cut, some bleeding. He must have been in pain. He was the only dragon who had gotten injured. The others had wards around them or attacked well out of range. Marcus did not have the time to do so, considering he was protecting her mainly.

I will not hurt you, little green –eyes. You saved my Rider.

Kyra shook her head in understanding, and raised a tentative hand. Pulling a little from the reserves of her own green sword, she healed the dragon from his wounds. He sighed in relief, the pain finally evaporating from his conscience.

Thank you, little green-eyes.

She nodded and moved back to Marcus, transferring a significant amount of energy to his body. But he still would not waken.

Curiosity got the better of her, and she delved into his mind, trying to understand what kept him there. What she found was not pretty. There were replays of his memories, replays of his mother's death and his abuse. She shivered as, like a parrot, his mind repeated itself. Squaring her shoulders, she pushed those memories down, pushed them far away, and stayed in his mind, gently letting her own feelings show through. Trying to will him to wake, trying to show him exactly how much she felt for him, how much she loved him, she pushed through, sending her feelings across what she hoped would be a very strong link between them.

He seemed to settle, his shoulders slouching down, his posture becoming less rigid. Kyra leaned him back against her, holding his body tightly. She bid farewell to Thane and Amatria as Hjarta rose up in a whirlwind of dust, Ru'ali shortly after them.

Thane and Amatria looked up as their friends became little more than specks in the air. The red head looked solemnly at her, it was a permanent expression.

"And now?"

"Now we rest." She replied, "Night is falling. We are far away from Melian. We keep the spell for our invisibility by drawing from nature, all of it, as to not kill anything, and we keep ourselves hidden. We do not have the strength to keep fighting, and we do not know if our enemies tracked us."

He nodded his agreement and weaved the spell for them both. Amatria nodded gratefully, and within seconds fell fast asleep against Ladrimme, hoping, waiting, and wanting this terrible ordeal to be over. She wished, and not for the first time, Ishmael was by her side, holding her safe.

Thane returned to Solusar, but sleep was not as easy for him.

Marcus nearly died today…died. He shook his head. Of all the people around, Marcus was his best friend. They would never say it. Never ever speak of it, but they were. Marcus was a monster, or so he thought himself. And Thane…well he killed his own family, he was a monster too. They both put up prickly fronts to protect themselves, and now his best friend was nearly killed.

He shuddered, keeping close to Solusar for warmth.

Do not, Thane, think anything of this more than it is. Marcus nearly died, he is not dead. We will lose some of our friends. Some of our Order in this war. That was to be expected. But we have survived.

But…

No buts, Thane. We have a job, and by whatever is just in this world, whatever remains truthful, whatever there is left in this world, we will fight for, even if all that is left is our pride.

The wind howled. The days were getting longer, the daylight lasting longer. The darkness no longer hid them. It was tardigrade, but slowly and surely, the daylight crept on them. Kyra had long since gone, and Kate had already left. All he had was his old mission. He sorely wished his fellow companions would not die. He…hated thinking about it.

Sleep, Thane. Solusar gently pushed into sleep, and the red haired man huddled closer to the warmth of his dragon's belly. He hated war. He really, really abhorred it.