Author's Note: Arya's POV! This has literally been in progress for over two years; half of this is from 2013. Sorry about that, but it feels so good to get back to it. Anyway, we get to see Lied! And Arya and Fírnen! The plot is thickening...
Also, on a very important note, does anyone know how to edit a chapter after you post it? Because all I can find is replacing the chapter, and I don't want to do that. As always, feedback is helpful; it's so great seeing people respond to what I'm doing.
"My lady, Arya." One of my messengers stood in the threshold of my hall, his flaxen hair shining in the moonlight streaming in from the night sky as he bowed courteously.
"Yes?" I answered, hardly glancing up from my parchment. I was having difficulty composing the final verse of a poem I had long since been striving to complete. It was hardly an urgent matter, but it was one of personal importance.
"There is a new Rider here to begin his training."
I rose, stepping around the intricately-carven desk briskly. The poetry could wait in the face of a new Shur'tugal. "Thank you. I shall attend to him."
The messenger inclined his head respectfully and I strode past him into the fresh night air, the breeze caressing my cheek and stirring my ebony hair. Fírnen-
-we must meet the new Rider. Indeed. I shall come. My dragon's bass voice rumbled in my mind, having already made sense of the situation through my emotions that passed through our shared link. I felt his wings rise and wind rush around them as he beat the air. As I walked, I maintained the connection with him, feeling every strain as his muscles worked to haul his immense body through the sky, every stray thought that floated across his mind.
Allowing the corner of my lips to turn up in an affectionate half-smile, I swept through the cobblestone walkways that surrounded my hall, my boots making soft thumps against the hard surface. Plants of all kinds surrounded me, growing in the pattern of the singer's will. They all possessed a distinct personality. Fiery, bold, restless, ferocious, daring and sorrowful. They all told their own lovely tale and were quite a sight to behold, the dusk being no hindrance to my vision.
Eventually I arrived at the courtyard in front of the visitor's quarters, and there was indeed a Rider's presence; I could feel the magic coursing through the air. I halted just out of the occupants' vision to observe them.
There stood three figures, only one of them familiar to me. Laufin, an elf who used to be one of Blödhgarm's spellweavers but chose to remain in Alagaësia when the rest of his company accompanied Eragon to Esterní. He stood tall, his gaze inattentively wandering over a coral-hued rosebush.
One of the others was a short, grizzled old man with an expression of awe that verged on tears of ecstasy. He seemed to be attempting to take everything in at once, rotating around and nearly losing his balance a couple of times as he gazed euphorically at the starlit scenery of my city. He was garbed in clothes of dull, faded brown and grey stubble coated his jaw.
The final individual was younger, perhaps in his twenties, and was lean and lithe, built like a cat with the same look of coiled power. He was fairly tall, with broad shoulders in proportion to his supple body. He was adorned in darker shades than the old man, dark brown and black that looked like ruffled shadows. A simple work tunic, cloak, and well-used boots completed his practical attire.
Wavy, deep brown hair fell a little past his shoulders. His eyes were similarly dark; until the light glanced off them, I could barely distinguish the pupil from the iris. They held an intensity, a confidence that I knew would assist him in his training. High, arching cheekbones defined his face.
There was no doubt that he was the Rider. The way he stood, arms crossed and expression closed-off, unreadable. It was plain in his bearing.
But he was not arrogant- at least not obnoxiously so. As I watched him, more of his thoughts emerged to me. He was assertive, but there was a restless quality about him that I did not understand. A hard glitter in his gaze that mystified me.
He reminded me of Murtagh somewhat, a resemblance that was apparent in both his mannerisms and his physical appearance.
Until that moment, I had not noticed the dragon at his feet. An image from Fírnen flashed in my mind, displaying the little sable dragon from an aerial view. I knew without looking up that he was wheeling in the steady light of the stars above.
Wordlessly, I made my presence known, stepping forward with the scuff of soft leather on stone.
The dark-haired man's head snapped towards the sound as if a war horn had bugled, but his expression remained still. He unfolded his arms and his shoulders tensed.
The older man's blue eyes twinkled at me joyfully, although he did not speak.
Laufin immediately stooped down to one knee, his head bowed. "Atra esterní ono thelduin, Arya Dröttning."
I inclined my head in an indication for him to rise. "Mor'ranr lífa unin hjarta onr, Laufin-vodhr."
"Un du evarínya ono varda." Laufin completed the greetings with the special phrase suited for certain occasions. I agreed that it was appropriate to use it now.
He stood. "Lady Arya, Allow me to introduce to you your new Rider."
I nodded, my gaze flitting back over to the individual in question, who responded by raising his chin in the slightest hint of defiance. "Very well."
Laufin gestured towards the dark-haired man. "This is Lied of Cuenon, and his dragon, who has no name."
"And my father, Aaryon." Lied's voice was a low tenor, faintly husky. His tone was surprisingly warm, but with a definite weariness.
It is a pleasure to meet you all. Fírnen's deep mental voice touched the consciouses of all who were present. Through him I felt the brush of their beings, the humans barely shielded and Laufin with steels walls thrown up which lowered when Fírnen's thoughts grazed them.
The black dragon stretched his wings at Lied's side, the membrane stretching from bone to bone catching the moon's beams with a silvery sheen. Aaryon glanced around, searching for the source of the voice, while a spark of understanding lit Lied's eyes.
"That is my dragon, Fírnen, speaking." I informed them, and privately spoke with Fírnen. It would be easier to introduce ourselves if you would land, please.
Ah, yes, but this tactic presents an aura of the unknown. We must test our new Rider's mettle! Amusement flowed through our link.
They'll be time for that when his dragon grows to a sufficient size.
True enough. His mood sobered momentarily.
I folded my hands patiently, waiting for Fírnen's arrival and watching Lied's dragon circling, muscles taut, his glowing amber eyes gazing up in a search for his elder.
Suddenly, I was buffeted with the gusts of wind from Fírnen's wings as he landed directly behind me, holding his tail carefully in order to not knock anything over. His green scales gleamed as silver as the black dragon's wings, but with a brighter shine.
The little black dragon drew himself up and snarled with a flash of white teeth. Fírnen arched his neck, scales rippling brilliantly and snorted, a plume of smoke flowed from his nostrils.
Lied's face was calculating, but not without awe. "You are majestic." Fear stiffened Aaryon's spine, but he held his ground, his expression slowly softening as he realized Fírnen's good nature.
Thank you, young one. Fírnen dipped his head.
I allowed the two dragons to exchange thoughts for a moment, and for Lied to overcome his reverence before turning my gaze upon father and son. "Both of you must know that it is customary for a Rider to raise his dragon in seclusion. The Crags of Tel'naeír have been the home of several young dragons since Eragon and Saphira sailed to Esterní, including Fírnen's. Before that, The Mourning Sage and Glaedr, son of Nithring, resided there for many years, and there, Eragon began his proper training under them."
My heart twisted in my chest and I paused, narrowing my eyes to ward off the wave of pain. Dark times that have passed. Fírnen said gently, although sorrow colored his comfort.
Passed not without a trace of bitter memories. I responded, feeling him agree with me, and continued, regaining my composure.
"Aaryon, you shall be staying in our guest hall. All of your needs will be satisfied, and though it is best you leave Lied be, it is only temporary." I inclined my head to both of them. "It is late and you are road-weary. You will say your goodbyes in the morning, Laufin will lead you to your quarters now." I glanced at Laufin, who bowed swiftly and beckoned the pair forward.
Lied nodded to me, crouched and scooped up the little dragon, who squirmed, but settled before he left my sight and the group disappeared through the ivy-adorned columns.
"I don't know how to take care of a dragon." Lied's voice cut clearly through the night air and echoed off the stone walls as he complained to Laufin, who answered in an undertone.
"There are books in The Mourning Sage's hut that will answer any questions you might have."
Lied snorted. "You better prepare to answer some questions then, because I can't read."
I smiled, moving over to Fírnen to rest a palm on the smoothness of his green scales and let myself fall into his mind, my own senses becoming muted and replaced by his emerald-tinged vision and strong shape. Ah, the brashness of youth.
Fírnen made a sound deep in his chest akin to a distant rock slide and looked down at me with one eye. Unfortunately it's fleeting. He lowered his head so his hot breath flowed through my hair and took to the sky with a massive heave. I shall be in the tower.
Acceptance flickered through me to him and as our connection began to weaken, I made my way back to my hall to where the candlelight spilled over the words dear to my heart. Eragon, what of thee...