Hirador, you better fly. The trees are getting too thick for you.

The bronze dragon looked at her, and the emotion of his thick refusal was replaced by amusement. His lip curled up and he huffed his peculiar laugh.

Hatchling, you best dry yourself off. You're covered in saliva.

Neena looked down. It was odd how she hadn't noticed it before. Even more peculiar that she wasn't in the least disgusted by it.

Well, I must have tasted good, by the amount of drool you left on me, you over-sized pig! Neena exclaimed, but her emotion flowing through their link and the laughing twinkle in her eyes betrayed her words. Hirador jabbed his head at her, snapping his jaws in fake anger. Anyone else would have run away screaming. But Neena knew Hirador would never hurt her on purpose, no matter how angry he was. Her attitude was the same towards him. She felt his mind snap to attention when she turned to the ancient language in her memory.

Hatchling, do not attempt magic without my strength. Hirador said, and Neena felt him reach into her very soul and pour into her his energy. She grinned a thanks.

You're right. Magic isn't my best area yet.

Yet? Hirador questioned, feeling the determination beneath her words.

Yet. Neena confirmed. She looked in both her own mind and Hirador's for the words, and then searched her mind for the barrier that always seemed to break when she used magic. With Hirador's help, she broke the barrier, and he kept it at bay while she spoke the words.

"Reisa du sal'ungr." Raise the saliva.

Immediately all of the slimy concoction snatched itself out of her hair, clothes, and skin and hung above her in a ball, leaving her completely dry, just as she had pictured it in her mind. She felt the drain of energy, but thanks to Hirador it was very faint. In satisfaction, she ventured further, and directed the ball of saliva several yards in front of her with her mind, and then both she and Hirador let go of the magic, and it fell onto the forest floor. What Neena saw next startled her. Hirador's saliva had sunk into the ground far too quickly, leaving a patch of dirt that was far more fertile than the rest, and a small green plant was growing out of it.

Why is that, Hirador?

She felt him search his instincts for an answer, his efforts proving fruitless.

It's okay, Hirador, we'll figure it out on our own sometime.

Neena felt her hair brush against her elbows, and she fingered it, still not quite used to how rich and beautifully soft it had become. It seemed Arya's washing spell worked a bit longer than taking a regular bath. Suddenly Hirador cocked his head, and through their link she heard voices. They couldn't quite make out what they were saying, but it was warm and inviting, and made them both feel very much alive. Their bodies moved forward towards the sound almost against their will. Neena reached up and rested a hand on the smooth warm scales of Hirador's shoulder, and together they moved towards the sound. Soon Neena could hear it with her own ears, and she found her eyes closing and a dreamy smile slipping onto her face. She and Hirador hummed along to the tune, and then they could make out the words, happy and blissful. Neena faintly noticed that Hirador was having an extremely difficult time maneuvering through the trees that had suddenly become as thick around as him. Neena could hear it clearly now, a woman's voice sang out from the trees, strong and clear. It rang around her like a bell, a loud, beautiful bell.

"Grow, little one, reach towards the sun and welcome its warming rays.

Let energy flourish through you as you return to the dance of life!

Let your roots taste the richness of the moisture beneath you!

Grow thicker and taller, my friend, and welcome the elders of the forest!"

It occurred to Neena that whoever was singing was speaking the tongue of the ancient language, but no warning bells went off in her head. It had the opposite effect and drew her and Hirador closer. They came to a clearing, where crouched a woman whose red hair fell around her in brilliant fiery waves. The wind played and tousled with it, and Neena caught a glimpse of a pointed ear beneath.

Hirador, she's an elf! Just like Arya! Neena exclaimed. She felt him begin to return to his senses reluctantly and a faint recognition coursed through him. Neena latched onto that recognition and saw that she had been one of the elves who had apparently come to help heal her when she was sick. Neena let it go and walked towards the elf, who didn't give any sign of noticing her, not even when she crouched in front of the elf and followed the elf's gaze curiously to a young brown pine tree just reaching her chin. It was obviously close to death. Her eyes widened when she saw a surge of green rush up the tree's needles, and the tiny trunk became a deeper, richer brown with the continuation of the elf's song. Hirador hastened to bend his neck to eye the tree curiously. The elf raised her eyes, and a beautiful, joyful smile ran across her face as she watched Neena and Hirador, still not breaking song. Neena listened closely to the words, wanting to learn. In the back of her mind she felt Hirador restrain the urge to grab her and soar into the sky to share with her his happiness.

"The time has come for you to sing with the forest, little tree.

Reach towards the sky and become as big and strong as your brethren!

Feel the wind rush through your branches in joyful celebration!"

Momentarily Neena felt a soft whisper of wind pass around her towards the tree, which was growing larger with every verse. Neena hung onto every word that seemed to flitter around her like a bird on its very first flight.

"Let the earth sing beneath you,

Grow towards the sky and thicken your branches,

So the beings of the sky and earth may choose to join you in song!

Shelter and protect the forest as many before you have done,

Give comfort to those lost and broken,

So their souls may rise again in song!"

Neena watched, transfixed, as the tree grew to such a size that she was forced to back away a few steps to avoid the tip hitting her in the nose.

"Encourage those who are confused and befuddled,

Let them sort out their thoughts beneath the protection of your branches.

Allow the small ones to climb on your branches and look on a world far below,

With wondrous eyes so full of youth,

Come, little tree, and guard the forest you have made your home in,

Become regal and proud, but understanding as well,

Welcome the rays of the sun and the water underneath your roots,

And rise to the sun!"

Neena watched, amazed, as the elf finished her song and stepped back while the tree immediately grew as tall and wide as those several years older than it. Suddenly she was embraced by two flowery scented arms as though she was an old friend. The elf backed away, the smile still decorating her fine skinned face. Neena felt Hirador's startlement, as well as his uncertainty of whether or not to accept this elf as trustworthy.

All is well, Hirador. You don't throw away an entire plant just because it has a few bad pieces of fruit.

"And, now, my new friends, I rejoice in your good health! I am Faeyna, daughter of Turin and Solara!" the elven woman exclaimed, returning to the common language.

Neena returned the fair elf's smile, and replied, "My name is Neena."

And I am Hirador.

"That song you sang, it was beautiful! I've never heard anything like it! It was as if nothing could go wrong and there was no sadness in the world!" Neena blurted out, surprising even herself.

Faeyna's smile widened even more, and her green eyes twinkled merrily at them. Neena felt Hirador search them carefully, and he found them to hold no trickery.

"That, young Neena, is the effect of the ancient language used to help continue the song of life. It does indeed flush one's worries and troubles away temporarily," Faeyna said. Her smile faded just a little, and she sat down against the newly grown tree's trunk in one graceful, swift movement.

"However, we must remember, my friends, that the land is not carefree and joyful, so long as Galbatorix holds it in a death grip," Faeyna said, a bit sadly though the smile never completely left her face. The branches nearest the elven maiden seemed to bend down to comfort her. Neena blinked, and nearly brushed it off as her imagination, until she realized that magic must flow everywhere, for the land to react to Faeyna's song as it did. A deep longing reached her, along with another realization.

"Faeyna, will you teach me how to sing as you do?" the words were out of Neena's mouth before she could stop them, and she braced herself for being yelled at, or at least a cold look. Unlike her suspicions, though, the elf merely smiled and laughed quietly to herself. Then she turned her gaze onto Neena.

"First you must tell me the reason you wish to learn, and then I will decide," Faeyna said, her voice, though gentle, showed clearly that she expected an answer. Neena struggled to put her reason into words, consulting Hirador for help.

"You made us feel so…happy. I remember the way I felt when I was a slave," Neena said, idly picking up a twig and tracing random patterns in the dirt, aware of Faeyna's questioning gaze on her, and Hirador's silent encouragement for her to continue.

"Broken. Lost. Unloved. Like the world I lived in was entirely cruel and full of despair, and I had to accept it. When I first tried to speak to the man I was to call master, I was whipped severely for showing disrespect that I didn't know existed. Then eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was expected to accept my life, no matter how unfair it seemed. And after that, my reasoning of the world left me. When the man ordered that I be whipped, it was because I had done something wrong, that I had displeased him."

The words came out faster now, tumbling out of her mouth almost before she had time to think of them. Neena had no idea what had brought this on, as she hadn't planned to spill her emotions out. It made her feel slightly ashamed, that she sounded like a person drowning in their own self pity. But the understanding in the older elf's eyes dropped any fear of being judged.


She glanced at Hirador, who had wrapped his thick muscular tail around her legs comfortingly, assuring her that all was well.

"Then I found Hirador's egg, and everything felt alright. It had about the same effect as your singing does. I look back on those times, and I realize that there are others out there that are probably in the exact state of mind I was, if not similar, or worse. And thinking about the world that way brings more pain than any physical torture anyone could give you," Neena brought her eyes back up into Faeyna's kind gaze, stroking the scales around the spines on Hirador's tail. An image of an abused puppy she had passed while in slavery was brought up fresh in her mind. She felt tears sting the back of her eyes, threatening to fall as she recounted every whip mark on the pup's body, every bone showing clearly, and the sad, forlorn look in its eyes. She had wanted to help it, but her mast- the man who commanded her would have surely beaten her and killed the puppy while he was at it. Neena wondered if that would have been a better fate to the puppy, to leave the harsh, cruel world he was living in and to sleep soundly, or whatever lies after death.

That, hatchling is a conversation for another day.

Neena smiled up at Hirador, whose eyes held all she knew they would. Protection, bravery, understanding, alertness, unlimited intelligence. But there was something else that showed in his eyes whenever he looked at her that made her heart warm. Undying affection just for her.

"If I could sing like you do, I could make them smile and laugh, and not just humans, dwarves, or elves. But any creature that needs it," Neena said, the thought making her feel contented. Faeyna waited patiently, and when Neena did not continue, she rose to her feet, a smile once again lighting her features, though her eyes showed confusion.

"Neena, your words leave me confused and force me to rethink my assumptions about your race. What you have just shared with me tells of compassion, strength, and wisdom beyond your years. I will brood on what you have just said, and I will tell you my response to your request tomorrow morning," Faeyna said, rising to her feet and disappearing into the forest's thick foliage with a farewell to both her and Hirador. Neena and Hirador reached a silent agreement to their previous argument and Neena began to fasten the saddle onto his back.

I like Faeyna. What do you think of her, Hirador? Neena asked, feeling his puzzlement from being proven wrong in his assumption that the red haired elf would be just as mysterious and emotionally quiet as Arya. Faeyna was a completely different shade of elf than Arya, so to speak.

It just goes to show that you can't judge a species because of the first being you meet. Neena said, feeling Hirador trying to decide what exactly he thought of this new elf. She opened the link between them more, and read his thoughts and uncertainties. Was the elf trying to give them false security?

No. You saw yourself that her eyes showed everything except traitorous thoughts. Neena replied to his thoughts, tightening the leather straps around his forelegs. Hirador pondered this for a moment, and then came to a conclusion.

Hatchling, I believe that as long as she greets you as kindly and welcomes you as she has, I will allow her to earn my trust in time. While she showed us kindness today, who is to say she will not change tomorrow?

He crouched down and Neena heaved herself into the saddle, swinging a leg over and slipping her legs through the straps and securing them.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Neena declared as Hirador rose to his full height. Looking around, Neena noticed that the clearing wasn't nearly big enough for him to spread his wings out comfortably.

Hirador, how are you going to-

Right then the great bronze dragon bunched up his muscles and leapt into the air. Neena let out a startled cry when she realized he had cleared the tops of the trees easily without opening his wings. She felt him tuck his limbs against his belly, and spread his wings, letting a stream of smoke trail from his nostrils to give them rise. Neena looked at the ground as the wind caressed her face, noting the border where the desert had ended and the forest began. They had made it to Surda. Another thought struck her, and she shielded her thoughts from Hirador while she brainstormed ideas for a birthday present for him.

A/N: Well, there's your new chapter! I'm thinking of putting off Hirador and Neena's journey until the sequel, just because I have a lot of ideas that I want to put down. But then again, I might not wait, who knows? Oh, and just to give you all a head's up, next chapter is a prize chapter. blows balloons up and starts celebrating You all have until August 23rd to submit your review, which is when I'll be updating next. 4-5 reviews gets you 4 pages, 6-10 reviews gives you 8 pages, and anything over that and I'll give you guys a ten page chapter, plus a glimpse of the next chapter for those who reviewed. And the pronounciation of names are:

Faeyna (Fawn-yuh)

Turin (Too-rin)

Solara (Soul-air-uh)

That's all for now, cya!