Chapter 29: Flight
The big walls of Iliria faded from his view as he flew on Saphira towards a large hill, overlooking the city, where he was to meet Arya and Salador, with their dragons. The darkness was slowly beginning to fade, as morning repaced night. The streets had been empty, for none of the merchants shouting their wares or the travellers entering and leaving the city, none of the people that usually crowded the streets and filling the city and every building, were outside so early. The flap of Saphira’s wings was the only sound he could hear, as he focused towards their destination.
Saphira was enjoying the feel of the wind on her body and Eragon grinned as he felt the familiar sense of the cold air touching his skin, freezing his face as the air brushed his hair. A laugh escaped him, for he had grown to enjoy flying with Saphira. However, the flight was a small one, as Saphira started to descend.
Her feet touched the soft ground, and the smell of wet grass filled his nostrils, as he looked around for signs of the others. They had not arrived yet. Eragon climbed down from Saphira’s saddle and walked towards a tall tree, in the middle of the clearing, stretching his legs and muscles, and moving them. He looked at Saphira, as smile on his lips as he bent to sit down, near the tree. His eyes caught the sight of a broken branch, from a plant a few meters away.
“Recent” the thought came to him. Blodgharm had insisted for him to learn how to track better. Being a hunter, Eragon had been good at it already, for it was the skill needed to hunt animals in the forest, but Blodgharm had repeated many times that there were also other uses in tracking, such as following people, or preventing an ambush.
With that thought, his grip tightened on Brisingr and his muscles tensed, readying for an attack that never came. A growl escaped Saphira, who had read his thoughts, and she seemed ready to pounce on her prey.
“What is it little one.?” she asked, tense. “I smell nothing in the air.” she said sniffing.
"There is a broken branch over there. And more around it. The grass was stepped on, a short time ago.” Eragon replied.
Saphira looked at him, her blue eyes penetrating, surprised.
“Do you think we should follow the tracks?“Eragon asked.
“I think it would be a waste of time, Eragon. Thousands of people could have passed, yesterday from this very spot.” Saphira replied.
“At this hour? So recently?” Eragon replied, already starting after the footprints.
Saphira sighed. She knew that if her rider had decided to do something, it was nearly impossible to convince him otherwise.
"Very well, but be careful little one. The hunter can easily become the hunted one.” Saphira said as she followed him.
Eragon followed the tracks carefully, his sword half drawn, as if he expected trouble. Suddenly, the long trees ended and a small grass field appeared. Two figures were in the field, kneeling. Eragon came closer as slowly and silently as possible, but one of the figures, a boy turned and hissed. Then the second figure with long curly hair, short with a black dress, turned. It was Angela the herbalist and Solembum. Eragon released a breath of relief, as he slowly chuckled as if he found the entire thing funny.
“There you are!” Angela said with a start as she turned to see him, as if she was searching for him.
“It’s good to see you here. What are you doing?“Eragon asked after lifting his head to Solembum, who had taken the opportunity to change to a werecat again.
“Why, isn’t it obvious? Picking herbs of course.” Angela stated with a grin as she put a hand on his cheek.
“Strange, to pick the same spot, out of all the places” Eragon said amused.
“Indeed. What are the odds? We came here to join you on your trip.” Angela said as if casually talking about the weather.
Eragon looked at her suspiciously.
“Why would you want to do that?” he asked. “It will be dangerous” he thought.
“I would think you would be happier.” Angela stated. “So be it, if you must know, it is because something important will happen there. Something I would not like to miss.” Angela said cryptically.
Eragon knew better than to press her for an answer. She would only give him another riddle.
“Besides, we are pleasant company, don’t you think?” Angela stated and Solembum gave him a stare that could kill.
Eragon smiled, and nodded his head without answering.
“I have a feeling too, that there is something important I must do” Eragon said stopping at that, and Angela looked at him sharply. He knew he shouldn’t have said it but he wanted to give her a taste of her own medicine.
Angela only smiled, in response.
“Perhaps you are not so lost as I thought you were.” Angela stated and turned around picking her herbs.
“Well, we must be on the move.” she stated as the sound of flapping wings from the approaching dragons and riders could be heard coming from the city. Angela quickly walked towards the sound, without letting Eragon talk.
Eragon blinked in surprise. He had not expected Angela to want to come with him in search of the shade, but his mood lightened when he remembered what a great help she had been in the previous war. Her knowledge in magic far exceeded the knowledge of the elves and the riders of old, if that was possible, and one way or the other, he would like to get to know more about that, as well as find out who Angela really was.
With a wolfish grin, he followed, as Saphira made a small laughing noise within her throat.
"Trying to get a straight answer from that woman? Might as well, try lifting that mountain.” Saphira said and chuckled again, louder this time, small bursts of fire escaping her.
"Sorry.” she said, as Eragon moved away from her to avoid being burnt.
Eragon looked at the approaching dragons, one yellow, the color of a bright sun and the other green, the color of the leaves of Du Weldenvarden. Salador lifted his hand in greeting as they approached Eragon’s position and landed. He slid off the saddle and immediately made the sign of respect with his hand.
“Ebrithil” he said with his deep booming voice.
Arya jumped on the ground. She wore a green tunic, the color of her dragon, and her usual travelling leather pants. Her black hair covered her face for an instant and her light green eyes, looked at him appraisingly as he made the sign of respect towards her.
“Atra esterní ono thelduin” Eragon said.
" Mor’ranr lífa unin hjarta onr” Arya replied, surprised he had talked first, honoring her.
“Atra du evarínya ono varda, Arya Drotning” he said with a smile.
“Eragon, it is good to see you.” she said.
Eragon smiled in response.
Arya’s eyebrow shot up, when she saw Angela but she immediately made the sign of respect.
“Wise one, we are honored with your presence” she said in the ancient language.
“The honor is mine.” Angela replied. “Shall we be on our way?” Angela said motioning towards the saddle.
“Of course.” Eragon replied and jumped on Saphira’s saddle. He immediately gave his hand to Angela to climb on Saphira, and she accepted it.
As soon as Angela was on the saddle, holding Solembum on her lap, Saphira took off, the two other dragons following her example. Eragon once again felt the cold night air on his face, and the breeze running through his hair. He felt alive when he was flying.
“Will you put up some protection for the heat, or will you let us freeze to death?” Angela said, clearly not used to the cold night air.
Eragon smiled and with a few words, he put a protection around them to keep them warm.
“Much better.” Angela said and Solembum nodded, putting his claws on Eragon’s back, making him jump.
“Easy there! You’re going to scratch me.” Eragon said.
“He likes you, that is all Eragon.” Angela said laughing.
“If that is his way of showing he likes me, I don’t want to see how he shows his dislike.” Eragon said but smiled at Solembum, jokingly.
Solembum only stared with his blue eyes, his black fur shining in the light. He ignored Eragon and did the same on Saphira, who surprisingly seemed to enjoy it.
Eragon looked at Arya, her face had a large smile, as if she was enjoying the whole scene and Eragon smiled back.
However, his smile faded as he saw Salador’s grim expression. He understood his pain, he thought he had abandoned the woman he loved to her fate, and he would not forgive himself for that. He wished there was something more he could say to him, something to comfort him but he did not know what. Some wounds needed time to heal. Leaving him alone seemed best for the time being.
It would be a long journey to Teirm and the shade and he had a feeling he would need every bit of strength in his disposal to beat it. He tried to remember his previous encounter with Tenga, but he remembered little that would show that he had been a man attuned to evil. He had been mad for sure, in his quest for knowldge. He doubted the man could be the one responsible for the slaughter. Yet, the shade had claimed his name was Tenga and he wished he knew more of the man than a single morning in an abandoned tower.
“Who are you?” he wondered.
“Why Angela of course. Who else?” Angela replied laughing. Eragon realized he had talked loudly and his cheeks colored in embarrassment.
“I’m sorry. I was thinking something.” Eragon said.
“That is good to know. For a moment, I thought you were going mad.“Angela replied.
“What do you know of Tenga?” Eragon asked.
Angela looked surprised for a mere second, yet still she managed tocover her slip and turn it into a joke.
“Who, that old crazy hermit? Nothing that would interest you I suppose...Unless of course you find the cycles of the moon interesting, or the Question, or whatever he is doing these days.” Angela replied.
Bits of conversation seemed to pop in his mind, about Tenga’s research. He remembered he had mentioned these things, but at the time they had all sounded as the ramblings of an old man.
Still, when he looked at Angela he knew that she was hiding more than she was letting on, more knowledge about him and his research.
“In a way he is a seeker of Truth, a philosopher if you will. And a powerful magician.” Angela replied when he did not seemed satisfied. Her answers only raised more questions.
Eragon nodded, her words sounded true, but he still had a distinct feeling he was forgetting something. Something important, but he still could not put a finger on it.
With a sigh, he let the topic out of his thoughts. He would have to think about it when his mind was clearer. For now, he would try to relax and enjoy the flight, joking with Angela and Arya and looking at Salador, checking that he did not do anything foolish.
His heart slowed down and his eyes slowly closed, as sleep took him, on Saphira’s back.