Chapter 23: Illiria
The flap of wings was the only sound in the early hours of the morning as the dragons crossed the red, orange sky. Eragon was sitting on Saphira trying to find a comfortable position as he saw the other riders still sleeping on the backs of their dragons, their bodies limp. Thrain and Gregorbak had stayed up late talking about the war and telling stories of their nations to each other, myths and legends which seemed to fascinate them to no end as they both imagined the heroic feats and epic battles in the stories trying to imagine what they would have done if they were in the place of the heroes of old. Eragon had listened with curiosity until at one point he had slipped in his waking dreams. He sighed loudly and hoped that they would arrive in Illiria that day for they had already been a few days late because of a thunderstorm on their way to the city. Saphira and the dragons had been forced to travel through the storm and they had all been exhausted trying to cross it. The fact that they were crossing the Hadarrac desert did nothing to make their trip easier. Eragon had insisted on taking some rest on the ground at a small secluded forest once they crossed the dessert and Saphira had reluctantly agreed. When the storm had passed, the riders had resumed their journey.
A lone stream of water was underneath them as the Ramr River which started from Isenstar Lake near Gilead made a loop around the small peak of Sraten and ended up between the city of Illeria and Dras Leona. The small peak was barren, but animals were there drinking water from the waters of the river. The animals ran away from the shadows of Saphira and the other dragons as they came closer to the small peak. About an hour passed before the southern corner of the peak was visible and Eragon and the other riders, who were now awake and laughing landed with their dragons to assess the situation. There, in the distance Eragon could see the walls of Illeria and a large army, which had banners of King Orrin, who covered the whole plain around the city, surrounding it. There would be no escape if they lost the battle. The city was still quiet, something for which Eragon was glad for as it meant that the battle had yet to start. However, it meant that Eragon and the dragons would have to cross the sky above King Orrin's army undetected which posed a problem. He also needed permission to enter the city as he knew that three dragons appearing suddenly in the sky above the city would cause an alarm at the least.
He looked at the thousands of spears below him as well as the tents of the temporary camp the soldiers of King Orrin had made. It would be good to attack the soldiers when they were not expecting an attack but they would be overpowered by the soldiers if a coordinated attack from the city did not occur. He dismissed the idea as too rash and then with a grunt he climbed off his seat on Saphira as his students did the same. Both Thrain and Gregorbak had bewildered expressions as they saw the soldiers below them.
"Are we supposed to defeat that many?" Thrain said awed with a shocked expression.
Gregorbak lifted his neck and with a weird noise from his neck which Eragon interpreted as a laugh, he accepted the challenge.
Eragon unpacked his bags, searching for the mirror that would let him communicate with Roran inside the city. He knew that he could search for his mind but again a powerful mind such as his would cause an alarm in the city, which he did not want. He found the mirror and with a word the mirror showed an image of Roran as he was studying some maps. Near him his children Ismira and Garrow were playing a game and Katrina was watching over them.
"Hello! Hope I'm not interrupting" Eragon said with a smile.
"Eragon!" Roran said with surprise. "So nice to see you!" he finished.
"Same Roran" Eragon replied.
"Where are you? We are waiting for you." Roran said.
"Actually, that is why I contacted you. I'm right outside the city on the small cliff of Sraten. I can see King Orrin's army from here, and the walls of the city. I did not want to cause an alarm by suddenly appearing in the sky above the city." Eragon replied.
"Rightly so. How are you going to come here?" Roran asked. "We are surrounded."
"Leave that to me Roran. Just warn the guards." Eragon smiled.
"Of course!" Roran said and immediately called for a messenger. When he turned again towards the mirror, the image was gone.
Eragon told his students to become invisible. Thankfully the day was cloudy so there would be no shadow to warn the army below of their presence, otherwise they would have to wait until the night time. When everyone was ready, and back on their saddles, Saphira and the dragons took off.
"Here it goes" Saphira stated as Eragon began to worry. Below them, thousands of soldiers continued to do whatever they were doing before, oblivious of the dragons flying above them.
Eragon heard Thrain release his breath, happy that they would not have to fight their way through. It took about fifteen minutes or somewhat more to pass the army below them with full speed and then the dragons slowed down as they approached the walls of the city. The soldiers on the walls were armed, some carrying bows and some spears to throw at the army below them. There was also a unit of swordsmen to help the others in case the soldiers of King Orrin managed to climb the walls. Eragon maintained the spell a while longer until they were already in the city and then released the hold of the spell revealing himself. The same happened with his students and below them, a few shouts could be heard but otherwise Roran had done well to warn the guards. He looked at a few faces of soldiers, still startled by his sudden appearance and the sight of three dragons appearing out of nowhere. Saphira released a puff of smoke as she flew towards the large castle fortress that was where Queen Nasuada had lived.
Strongly built towers and warriors, both elven and human could be seen on the great walls of the castle and a line of elven magicians was waiting in front of the gates. A tall man with richly decorated armor and a brown beard could be seen with a joyous expression. His hard gray eyes were shining with tears and his hand was on the hammer on his waist. Eragon recognized Roran in an instant and lifted his hand in greeting just as Saphira landed in front of them, with a proud pose, trying to control her heavy breathing.
The other dragons landed too near Saphira and soon the riders were on foot, walking towards Roran.
"Roran!" Eragon said as both men hugged each other and slapped their backs with a loud laugh.
"Glad you're back with us" Roran said studying Eragon with his eyes.
"I'm glad too" Eragon replied studying the changes in Roran. When he left Alagaesia, Roran was a young man but now, he was a man in his early thirties, fierce and proud. A small scar could be seen on his cheek and who knew how many more of those there were on his body. Roran realized the direction of the thoughts Eragon had and said.
"We've had heavy fighting against King Orrin's men. Only yesterday, we made a surprise attack on his supply lines, crippling his food capacity." Roran said with a smile.
Eragon laughed with him but then said anyway.
"You should take better care of yourself Roran. Always fight with wards in battles." Eragon warned him.
"I think the teacher in you is taking over." Roran said teasingly but he accepted Eragon's words.
"So these are your students? I have heard so much about them." Roran said looking with an interest at the two riders near Eragon.
The dwarf bowed, his beard almost touching the ground as his small bulky muscular form made an attempt to greet him.
"My Lord it is a pleasure to meet you" Thrain said politely.
Gregorbak on the other hand lifted his head in the sign of respect of the Urgals and saluted, repeating Thrain's words.
A smile appeared on Roran's face at the formality as he replied. He then looked at their dragins and greeted them too in turn, respectfully. When the greetings were finished, he turned with a concerned look at Eragon.
"Aren't there more students? Where have they gone?" he asked with curiosity.
"I have sent them to the North to investigate the attack on Teirm." Eragon answered. He had contacted Salador and Alaina the previous day and all seemed well as they were travelling towards Teirm. A worrying thought took over his mind as he remembered and he made a mental note to contact them again as soon as possible.
Roran looked at him with a surprised expression.
"We need every last man to fight off that army." Roran stated.
"We cannot ignore the threat from the North." Eragon insisted. They looked at each other and then Roran said.
"You are probably right."
A loud sound could be heard as trumpets announced the arrival of an important person. Eragon and Roran turned around and Roran smiled.
"I forgot to tell you, Arya is here". Roran said with an amused expression.
Eragon looked at Arya, walking towards them. Her raven black hair were waving in the air and her green eyes met with Eragon's a sign of recognition in them. She walked proudly towards them, wearing a green elven made dress, a silver crown in her hair. Eragon's heart started beating faster and faster until he could hardly separate the beats. His throat dried and a wide smile appeared on his face as he exclaimed.
"Arya" he said breaking protocol and hugging her tightly lifting her in the air.
"Eragon!" Arya said surprised but a smile appeared on her face.
Eragon maintained the contact for a few more seconds, smelling the scent of pineneedles, Arya's perfume and then he separated himself.
He said the traditional greeting phrases of the elves as he twisted his hand in the manner of respect.
"Arya Drotning, My queen! It is a pleasure to see you again" he said formally clearing his throat after he finished. His students looked on with amused expressions and smiles in their faces.
"It is a plesure to see you too Lead Rider" she said using his title as well. Their eyes met, not breaking contact, in silent communication.
At that moment Firnen appeared, his massive green form filling the space behind them.
"Eragon! You are finally here!" he said in a not so diplomatic happy tone.
"Firnen, I am glad to see you again!" Eragon replied. He looked at the dragon curiously.
"You have grown much since I last saw you." Eragon said noticing his large size, his massive wings.
Firnen bowed his head and looked deep in Eragon's eyes with his own.
"So have you." he replied respectfully.
Eragon looked at Arya again, her green eyes watching him. He understood she wanted to meet later in the day. He wanted to tell her so many things, so many stories but they would have to wait.
Eragon stretched his back and put his hand on Brisingr.
"We have much to do and little time to do so." he said with a loud determined voice as he remembered King Orrin's army, Nasuada getting kidnapped and the losses Nasuada's empire had sustained.
He turned around, his students, Arya and Roran following close behind him as they all went through the gates inside the castle to have a strategic meeting.