Thanks to all the people who've reviewed so far!

Soetrí, miraculously on Chinr's back, shot forward into the blackness. The dark energy enveloped him, its tendrils seeming to reach out and pull him in. All at once, a dozen or more Riders shot forward, slashing and hacking at their fellow Shur'tugal as they too disappeared into the castle.

Everyone just stood there in a shocked silence. What were they doing? Taking the offensive? Or joining the other side? The various wounds—and what happened next—answered that question with no room for doubt. Soetrí, Tierre, and several others emerged from the dark mist, swords held viciously out in front of them, dragons nowhere in sight.

Their appearance had changed, even in the few seconds they had been gone. Soetrí's eyes had a slight red tinge, his elf face contorted in a look of pure rage. His red blade had been re-colored to be a corrosive black. He raised his sword above his head and screamed a blood-curling battle cry. The traitors surged forward, dealing many of their blows before the Riders even had a chance to unsheathe their swords. As a whirlwind of scales, the dragons spiraled out of the top of the energy bubble, diving at the Bjartskular. The Shur'tugal had no choice but to let their dragons fly high above them, fighting a battle of their own.

Staria and Veyna burst forward, bodies moving together in a rhythmic dance—Veyna blocking an unseen slash at Staria's back, Staria battering away a particularly swift cut at Veyna's neck. Neither knew how long they fought—Arya's mind shattered the vivid reality they stood in.

Staria, Veyna, Adura, Istalri: Take your group and try to get inside. We'll distract them here.

Evelyn? Veyna queried.

Leave her. Unfortunately, here in the midst of battle might be safer than where you're going.

Thanks, Veyna answered sarcastically.

Exchanging a flurry of thoughts, ideas, and thoughts, Staria and Veyna didn't need to speak in words to agree on what to do. Adura and Istalri, who had been apparently battling as a team, swooped out of the sky, talons barely brushing the grass before lifting off again—giving the two elves just enough time to leapt on their backs. The blue and the green stayed inconspicuous over the battle, sometimes pretending to be tousling with each other so none of either side rose to confront them. They veered downward, heading toward the blackness at such a risky speed Veyna feared they would smack into it, not bounce off if it rejected them.

A deep-rooted fiery tingling flooded her body, all of her nerves smarting and jumping. Then it was over—Istalri glided down onto the stone tile, landing safely with a slight thump.

"Castle's higher than we thought..." Veyna commented. "The energy bubble barely covers the top of that tower." She pointed upwards.

"You're right," Staria muttered, "Wonder why we didn't bounce off…?"

"Maybe its strength was being taxed by claws and swords and things from the battle," Veyna offered.

"It couldn't stop two large beings coming in at once," Staria agreed. She shook her head, clearing it. "Where to now?"

"Follow the murmur of voices," Veyna shrugged, wishing she and Istalri could communicate with their minds. But it was too dangerous; anyone with magical abilities would sense them immediately.

Staria took the lead, creeping forward along the torch-lit hallway. They had been extremely lucky; another foot over and the two dragons would have broken their wings on the hard stone. The gap—"dragon entrance"—was small; Soetrí and the others must have known exactly where it was beforehand. Soon the passageway split into two, the four choosing the left hallway. They flattened against the wall as a man in stately robes hurried past, utterly preoccupied in fingering the beaded necklace around his large jugular.

Veyna peered into the bright, well-lit room in front of them. It was completely deserted on one side, but on the other side, an entire congregation sat silently. Their heads were bowed, almost as if in prayer, but the hum of magic permeated the room. The thing that struck Veyna as most odd was that they were all completely bald, large men. In front of them all, arms thrown out as if to embrace something, but there was only air. The man was young, human...twenty-five maybe? She'd always had trouble guessing the age of people. Elves, of course, didn't show their age at all generally, so Veyna had had very little practice.

The man's hair was jet black, spiked slightly. His skin was sallow, like he rarely saw sunlight. He was dressed in fancy battle armor, a long cape billowing out behind him though there was no breeze. His head was tilted up and his eyes were closed.

After another few seconds, he slowly lowered his arms and head, opening his eyes, staring directly at them, as if he'd known they were there all along. His eyes flashed—not in alarm, but almost in a smirk. At once all the bald heads whipped around toward them, eyes glowing ominously red. The two Riders and the two dragons were all lifted off the floor and thrown against the wall. Veyna's last conscious gesture was to reach for Istalri and grasp her leg tightly, wanting never to let go.

Thanks for reading!

In response to ThatRandomGuest's review, since I can't answer via PM:

For your first suspicion on Staria: ;) Can't reveal that one until the next fic that's on her instead of these two (though they will make several appearances).

Sorry the chapters are short. I try to make them long but then I feel like I'm squishing things in. If you've looked at some of my other stories, you'll know I don't normally do short chapters, they're usually 10-20 pages long! Soetrí wasn't really questioned at all because he denied it in the ancient language, which, of course, you can't lie in. I should probably make that clearer. Maybe I'll have Eragon say to him afterward to stay behind so they can talk or something. Thanks for bringing that up!

Yes, originally I felt that training should be longer too. It is longer than Eragon's was, I believe, which was 5-7 months. This is three years, but you also have to consider that elves (such as Kyra and Veyna) didn't have to learn the Ancient Language like Eragon and the humans, dwarves, and Urgals did/do. That would shorten it immensely, don't you think? And, Kyra, at least, could swordfight and do magic already. Thanks for reviewing (twice)!