Chapter 2

Mostly boring buidup, but don't worry. We'll get to the juicy bits soon enough^^

Also, I'm looking for a beta!

Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it's probably not mine.

His waking dreams were disturbed by the sound of a low, distant Boom. He felt it more than he heard it, but he was immediately on his feet, knocking his head against the membrane of Saphira's wing. Boom.

Saphira? Did you hear that?

I heard, little one.

They stood side by side, wondering. The sound had a rhythm to it, booming about every four seconds. It sounded like... Footsteps.

There was only one being Eragon knew was capable of making such thunderous footsteps. He remembered well- that first time in Ellesmera, when the enormous golden dragon stepped into view.

Could it be...? he wondered, sharing his excitement with Saphira. His partner-of-souls was tense, swishing her tail and heaving her long neck from side to side, sniffing the air. The deep THUDs were becoming louder. The rider licked his lips nervously and looked in the direction of the sound, trying to spot the source. Then Saphira scared him half to death by letting out a teeth-clatteringly loud bugle. The sound was filled with deep longing alongside a playful challenge. Eragon, sensing her intentions, vaulted onto her back and clinged onto her with his legs while the dragon took to the sky.

There came no answer to Saphira's call, and there were no signs of another dragon. They flew over the forest and spotted something. Something big and moving.

...That is no dragon. Eragon said.

No, it is not. Saphira answered. Even though their tone was light, the disappointment was obvious. An Eldunarí or an egg was not the same as a living dragon. Meeting another one living in the wild had excited them, even if for just a while.

This creature looked like a man, but it was over fourty feet tall*. It had a thick mop of brown hair and seemed to be smiling, its mouth filled with too many teeth. Saphira flew above it in tight circles, so they may study the giant from every angle. Its arms hung almost to its knees and the head looked very small compared to the broad shoulders and big belly. Eragon couldn't be certain, since there were no real outward signs, but the creature appeared to be male.

Flying at a safe distance above it, the giant did not pay them any heed.

Do you think he understands speech?

I would not know. Never have I seen a creature such as this. We should consult with the elders of my kind.

Saphira then showed the image of the walking giant to the Eldunarí, who discussed it in the language of impression and sense the dragons use when they converse with one another.

Us, as well, have never seen anything like it. spoke Umaroth, spokesperson of the disembodied dragons. We suggest to study the creature with your minds before approaching.

Eragon knew the dragons were observing all that he did when he cautiously reached out with his mind. To his relief, the giant did not seem to notice when he entered its mind.

It was a simple mind, slow and thoughtless like that of an animal, though there was some fundamental difference. This mind seemed not to belong to a living creature, for it took no interest in life. Its memories were vague and undefined, as if it lived in a state of perpetual dreaming. It appeared to be looking for something. Eragon could not discern what this was, for there were no desires, only a hollow, longing feeling, and the urge to search that one thing it would recognize on sight.

Puzzled, Eragon urged Saphira to fly a bit lower.

"Hello!" he shouted at it, convinced it would not acknowledge him. It seemed so out of touch with its environment, he did not expect any reaction.

Therefore, he did not expect the giant to suddenly lunge at him. The change inside its mind was so sudden, he froze in shock. It had found what it was looking for and the hollow feeling in its chest, its belly, its head intensified. It knew that, if it would only stick the bright little thing in its mouth, it would feel better. It would feel full. It wanted to feel full!

Squawking, Saphira darted aside, away from the grabby hands the giant stuck in the air in attempt to grab them. Eragon clung onto the neck spike in front of him, thoroughly regretting riding bareback. Saphira sped forward, losing altitude but gaining speed to quickly get out of the giant's reach, but the creature was fast. It bounded after them in an awkward limb-flaying sprint, making a grab for Saphira's tail every time it came close enough for a try. This close to the ground, the dragon could not perform any of the acrobatic maneuvres she had learned from Gleadr. Also did she not have the time to beat her wings against the air to gain altitude, because fighting gravity would mean losing speed, giving the giant the chance to catch her.

Frantically, Eragon reached for his magic and uttered the first spell that came to mind.

"Jierda!" he shouted, pointing his hand towards his opponent's legs. Immediately, they buckled as the bones supporting them broke with a loud snap. Saphira immediately took the opportunity to fly above the creature's reach.

Panting, Eragon shook as he clung himself to his dragon's neck. The spell had taken its toll on him, though not as much as he might have feared. He watched in horror as the creature continued to reach for them, no, for him, even though its legs were a crumpled heap beneath it. Steam was rising from the lower part of its body.

As they fled back to their camping site, Eragon looked back at the giant and saw that it was already trying to get back on its feet, staring at them with unchanged expression.

We should hurry. That thing frightens me. the young Rider said to his dragon.

Pah, he is only big. If I did not have you to worry about, he would have been at my mercy already.

It was so strange- one moment he was just walking, not a care in the world, and the next he was trying to eat me. It happened so sudden I could not even work a spell. He almost had you that first second.

He did not!

He did too! Let us get away from here fast before we run out of luck.

Saphira grumbled but refrained from answering as they landed at the knoll they were camping at. Swiftly Eragon saddled her and stuffed his things in the bags. He looked up at the sound of loud footsteps. The giant was bounding his way towards them in the same awkward sprint he had displayed before.

How did he recover from his broken legs so fast?! Look, they aren't even crooked!

We'll worry about that later. First, we're getting out of here.

They flew up high, quickly rising above the dangerzone. The giant continued to follow them until they flew over forest, where it vanished from sight and did not reappear. They conversed long with the elder dragons, but none had anything new to add, only pointing out details they had thought unimportant in their observation and then falling back on speculation. In the end, they retreated from contact.

At least now we know what happened to the villagers. Saphira said.

Yes, and also why no one ever returned.

They encountered no other giants that day. In the end there was nothing much to do except enjoying the scenery. The rolling hills and large forests were beautiful, but it could only entertain them for so long. Eragon practiced magic and mind-breaking with Saphira and Glaedr, but after some hours that also had to stop, for they did not want to tire themselves too much and leave them defenceless in these strange lands.

The creature still had them puzzled. They could have overpowered it with ease, Eragon using his magic and Saphira her teeth and claws, but they had refrained from fighting it for several reasons. First was that they knew next to nothing about it. Having only the information their senses and brief visit in its mind could tell them, its nature was foreign to them. Secondly, Eragon disliked simply killing any strange thing they came across. Yes, it had attacked them, but it had been an instinctual thing. Besides, it wasn't like they had still been in danger. But third and foremost was that neither of them wished any harm to befall the other. Eragon was still shocked by how the creature had almost gotten hold of Saphira's tail, thus being able to yank them out of the sky, while the dragon was always worried about her little Rider. In the end, just flying away didn't really sit right with them, but they much preferred it to a sudden fight with some unknown creature with unnamed powers.

There were no real mountains they could roost in, so they made camp on a high hill crested with trees, looking out over a great swath of landscape. Eragon set it with as many wards as he could think of, but still they had trouble resting, instead keeping a close eye on the horizon, looking out for any sort of movement.

They continued inland for over a fortnight, during which the amount of the giants steadily increased, until they couldn't fly even for an hour without seeing one. There were no signs of living people, only ruined towns full of skeletons and ashes. It was depressing to see the homes of his kind so desolate. He began to regret not killing that monster when it had attacked them. He wasn't one for mindless slaughter, but that one really had been asking for it. On the evening of the fourteenth day they flew over an enormous wall. Even from high up in the sky, it was an impressive sight. It was broad enough for at least two carts to drive alongside each other on top, and higher than any castle he had seen before.

It must be to keep those creatures out. He said in awe. I wonder who built it. It looks like it must have taken decades to construct. Even those giants couldn't possibly scale a wall this high.

Saphira let out a low growl. They failed. Look.

With a gasp, Eragon noticed the saggy form of a lumbering giant, peering longingly into a broken house. And he grew angry. They had been flying over empty lands for so long, he had thought that, maybe here beyond this high wall, there were still people. It seemed this land kept on giving him these short-lived hopes, only to take them away all too soon. It was a good thing Saphira kept her cool, otherwise he would have attacked the creature. They flew higher, away from the disappointing sight.

There might still be humans further in. Saphira soothed.

For mine own sanity, I will not count on it.

They flew in silence for the rest of the evening, after which they roosted in the tops of gigantic trees that reminded them of Du Weldenvarden.

We should stay here for some days. These trees are too high for the giants to climb, and I have seen some deer I will enjoy hunting. Saphira spoke. And you need rest. I can fly all year and never tire, but that is why I am a dragon, and you are not.

Eragon complied, unsaddling Saphira and making camp on a thick branch in the trees. Then he set himself down, not knowing what to do with himself.

Call them. Saphira said. Roran and Orik and Nasuada and Blödgharm and Arya, just scry them and babble a bit. You'll feel better.

But I left them forever! I'm not supposed to-

Fly to their rescue, or interfere with the goings on of the people of Alagaesia. But it doesn't have to mean you can never talk your friends again.

Saphira, I... He was silent. Why was it that he felt so afraid to talk to them? He missed talking to them. He longed for them. Then why would he not want to scry them? Saphira nudged him lovingly, then flapped off into the sky, leaving him with his thoughts and feelings.

I do not want to see them, because I am afraid of saying goodbye to them again, he thought. I am afraid I will turn back to be with them, that I will put my duty second behind my desires. He thought about that for a while. Would he? Had he so little constraint? He thought not. Then why be afraid?

As he let the fear seep away from his mind and body he suddenly became very excited. He made a puddle in a little bowl-shaped crevice in the bark and reached for his magic, saying the words for the two-way seeing spell and directed it first at Roran. He was shocked by the amount of energy needed to maintain the spell. It was at least five times more than he was used to. I will have to keep the conversation short, he thought.

A rustic wall, lit by an unknown source came into view. It looked very bright compared to where he was.

"Roran!" he called. "Cousin, hey! Are you there?" On the other side there was a rustling, the sound of falling cutlery and a few muffled shouts.

"...Eragon? Is that you?" said a slightly haggard-looking Katrina with a very surprised face. Eragon couldn't help but grin. A moment later Roran appeared, wiping dirt from his fingers. He laughed when he looked into the mirror.

"Ha! So the mighty kingslayer graces us with his presence! I told you he would call soon! Is Saphira there too?" They looked exactly the way he remembered, happy and tired.

They talked about Ismira and how beautiful she had become. Katrina's and Roran's faces shone clearly with pride at the subject. They spoke of rebuilding their home in Palencar valley. Initially Roran had planned to only make himself a sturdy farm, but Katrina had said it wouldn't be fitting for an earl to live in so little a home, so now they had a wooden keep, built in the style of the kings of old.

"Isn't it wonderful how everything smells new? Oh, and the embellishments are so beautiful. I can still hardly believe this house is ours to keep." Katrina said, swollen with pride. Her role as countess fitted her, Eragon thought.

"We broke down all those siege engines Galbatorix had built and made them into planks for our home." Roran told him. "A finer wood you will never find. Imagine our surprise when the elves offered to help us."

Eragon remembered that Galbatorix had those engines made from the thickest and oldest of trees of Du Weldenvarden. He remembered the fury of queen Islanzadí when she had spoken of it. No wonder they had wanted to help. They would not want the wood of their fallen companions squandered on an inferior structure.

In turn, Eragon spoke of his journey; he spoke of going east until there was no more land, and then going even further until there was no more sea. He talked about the atolls and beautiful, rich islands he had seen. He talked until it became dark, though it was still light on the other side of the mirror.

"How many lamps are you burning?" he finally asked, confused. "The light doesn't seem to dim at all."

Roran blinked and stared at him. "Eragon, it's only an hour past lunchtime. It won't be dark for another six or seven."

Eragon looked at the canopy of needles, through which the moonlit sky was visible. He shook his head. "No, it is long past sundown."

Roran and Katrina shared a look. "These are strange lands you visit." Katrina said with a little smile.

Eragon sighed, a sad look passing over his face. "That they are. There's no people here either. There were once, but all the towns are empty, and have been for years and years." He told them about his encounter with the giant, and the wall that had not protected the humans even though it was incredibly high and strong. He did not speak of the skeletons, however. Or of the fact that the giant had wanted to eat him. They did not need to hear that.

"...so we are still looking for people, though it seems less and less likely that we will ever find any."

Roran's expression had become increasingly serious during his little speech. "I hope you find them, Eragon. To be attacked in your own home... It is a terrible fate."

Then they moved on to lighter subjects. It turned out that Carvahall was now a town, connecting Palencar valley with the sea by a road called "Roran's pass", which went straight through the Spine by the same route the villagers had taken while fleeing the Empire. It would take decades for people there to feel at home again, and it would never be the same as before, but Roran told him he was proud of his new home and the almost twelve hundred people now under his care. Eragon felt a sharp sting of jealousy at his cousin's obvious comfort, but he hoped it did not show. He could never have lived in Palencar Valley again anyway, being a Rider.

Saphira returned with the thunderous beat of her wings. She greeted Roran and Katrina through Eragon and asked about their welfare, to which they politely responded. Eragon had begun feeling drowsy with exhaustion and he knew he would have to end the spell soon. They said their goodbyes warmly, after which Eragon extinguished the mirror and slumped back against the tree. He was more tired than he had thought.

It was good to talk to him again. he said with a smile. The air was alive with all kinds of sounds, some familiar and some strange.

In the days that followed, Eragon made himself a comfortable birdsnest-like hut that was a very crude imitation of his treehouse in Ellesmera. He sang a hollow into the trunk, in which he placed the Eldunarí. He closed it with spells of illusion and several magic traps. Every day he called one of his friends, who were all happy and surprized to see him. Nasuada turned out difficult to contact, for she was a busy woman, travelling through the country to see to its restoration. She seemed more tired than ever, but never did she lose her majestic look. Their conversation went much as expected, exchanging stories and pleasantries, but at the end of their talk she asked about Murtagh, and if he had seen him. Surprised, he told her that he hadn't, and that he did not expect to either. When he asked why she wanted to know she only dodged the question. Eragon found this both disturbing and incredibly funny.

He had to remember, he was not to interfere.

Eragon saved Arya for last, knowing that she would have the greatest impact on him. And she did. As soon as she stepped into view he no longer had any words. It took him a while to remember his manners and greet her in the elven way, to which she responded politely. Different from his other friends, she did not seem especially happy to see him. She told him she was, but he could see worry in her eyes. She was probably worried about the same things that had worried him at the start. He told her he had yet to find a place to roost as leader of the order, and that he got at least a bit side-tracked, but that he would figure it out in the end. Arya did not seem impressed and remained formal for the duration of their talk. Before long, she told him she had other things to do as queen of the elves.

His unsatisfactory talk with Arya downed him for days. He wanted to leave. He needed to do something, or he would go mad. He practiced swordplay and magic and mindbreaking, but it did not quiet his restlessness. Saphira took him flying, but after all those weeks in the sky it just failed to be exiting.

Bah! She snorted. You have been moping like a scorned hatchling long enough. I will show you exiting, whether you are ready or not!

After which she tumbled through the most convoluted of manoeuvres. She took enormous risks, missing the ground or a tree by only a few feet. She dove over sharp rocks and taunted the giants. Many a time Eragon feared the air-acrobatics would fail, and they would crash and die.

Saphira! That was dangerous! He called, exasperated. She chuckled.

Still bored? Saphira asked innocently. He gaped at her, then grinned and shook his head.

No. He said.

Good. Because that is not nearly all I can do.

Over the course of two weeks, their stunts grew more and more dangerous. Eragon would jump off Saphira, who would catch him at lower and lower altitudes. She never failed. In the end it was Glaedr who had to put a stop to their antics. At that moment, Eragon had been dangling from Saphira's tail, only just above the reaching arms of the giants.

Saphira! Eragon! Are you not ashamed, to put your lives at risk so recklessly, while so much depends on you? We have tolerated your stunts for the sake of your mental health, but no more! Have you forgotten your duty? What will you do if one of you dies here? What would WE do if both of you die here? This hollow is no place for beings such as us, barely protected against any wizard with moderate skill. Will you do your duty, or must we find some other dragon rider to hold our hearts?

Solemnly, the dragon and her rider apologised and admitted that what they had been doing was silly and put at risk all they had fought for. With a sigh, Eragon decided that he would rather leave if there was no fun to be had. He began to have growing admiration for the elves. How did they do it? They lived in their forest for years and years without growing bored at all.

He would need to find a hobby.

The idea seemed so absurd, he started chuckling uncontrollably. Maybe travelling wasn't so bad after all.

He was on his way back to his tree-hut when he sensed some commotion down on the ground. Horses. Horses and people! He looked in awe as a small column of mounted soldiers moved past. They had a few carts with them. At a short bark of a command they dismounted and started unloading the carts. Up above them, Eragon looked on, frozen in shock, how the soldiers set up some sort of formation behind the trees. It was obviously a trap, but for who or what, he did not know.

Not wanting to disturb their business, he hid himself with a clever spell that would make people dismiss his shape. Once, a blond officer seemed to look at him, but his piercing eyes moved on without acknowledging him. Just to be sure, he moved a few trees to the right.

Some of the humans had these interesting devices that allowed them to climb the trees with ease. He knew it wasn't magic, because he didn't feel the disturbance in the air it would have created. He started imagining himself, swinging from these little ropes through trees and towers, landing on Saphira's back... He shook himself and watched as the men entered a tense silence. He contemplated reaching out with his mind, but he didn't know if there were any magicians among them, and again, he did not want to disturb.

Long minutes went by, until Eragon finally heard both the rattling of horseshoes and the thunderous boom of a titan's footsteps.

Are they... luring that titan in their trap? He thought enthusiastically, his heart beating like a maniac.

*I am using feet here, because that is what is used in the books. I know, I hate it too. 40 ft = 12,192 m

To Ddragon21: I am probably not giving Eragon a dragon form, because I think he is plenty strong without it. Plus, this is Shingeki no Kyojin after all...

To thestaradder: Thank you! Hope you stick around^^