Loriena scowled at the old milk cow in front of her. Benna was being unusually obstinate and uncooperative that morning and Loriena was out of patience. The stupid animal had kicked the milk bucket over for the third time in what seemed like an intentional act of ruining her already miserable existence while her impoverished family tried to eke out a living on the tiny farm. Benna mooed loudly, shifting from one hoof to the other; her udders aching with the need to be milked but agitated by some unseen pest.
“Benna, so help me, if you don’t stop your bawling and fussing, I’m just going to let your udders explode!” growled Loriena, setting down the milking stool for the tenth time. Benna finally settled down long enough for Loriena to fill the pail with the milk. Relieved, she stood up, shoved away the milk stool and bent to lift the pail when Benna mooed loudly again and kicked it over, dumping all the milk onto the barn floor.
“ARGH!!” Loriena shrieked, frustrated beyond belief. Her father was going to be sore-vexed with her for this. She reached down through the straw to fling the first rock she could find at the stupid cow and raised her arm to let fly but the rock in her hand suddenly went white hot. She dropped it with scream and jumped back. It fell onto the mud-packed floor and rolled a few feet away but the green glow coming from it was unmistakable in the early morning light.
Was she seeing things? She crept forward; hardly daring to breath, not caring that she was dragging her skirts through the spilt milk and mud. She crouched down to study the rock closer. The glow was starting to fade now. She touched it tentatively; afraid of burning herself again. The rock was now simply warm but still pulsing with a beautiful green light. She cradled it in her palms, studying it; a strange feeling building in the pit of her stomach. Suddenly a tiny crack appeared, then another, then another until it began to resemble an exotic egg that had broken. A tiny puff of smoke issued from the biggest crack and Loriena gasped in mixed terror and delight.
“Loriena!” snapped the voice of foster father, Jarrod. “What goes on here? Where’s the milk?” He got his answer when saw the large puddle spreading slowly across the barn floor. “Ye gods, girl, what has gotten into you?” he demanded, striding up to her to yank her up by the arm. Instead his attention was diverted to the green glowing oval rock which Loriena was also staring at in astonishment. The cracks had grown so large that now she could see the creature wriggling inside; fighting to free itself. Jarrod froze in his tracks.
He had been warned long ago when he had first agreed to foster Loriena that this day might come, he just had never really truly believed it would! He watched in horrified fascination as the creature finally freed itself from its egg casing and looked straight into the eyes of Loriena, imprinting itself upon her. Loriena stared right back, transfixed as if in a spell.
“Loriena,” said, Jarrod, his voice hoarse with the realization of what was about to happen. “We must get thee away, quickly! Today! Before you are discovered and word spreads about your beastie there.” He grasped her arm and carefully put the tiny dragon into a leather satchel where it squeaked in protest.
“Huh, What?” she replied, too mesmerized to respond. Unable to think of anything else except the sight of the beautiful, tiny green dragon that had looked right into her soul. She half-ran, half-stumbled along as Jarrod hauled her back into their farmhouse, talking out loud to himself the entire time.
“…she’ll need at least a month’s supply of food and water and a safe place to hide until it’s full grown. The caves of Kirtan should serve well and there is a spring nearby…” he muttered, flinging supplies onto the shaky wooden table.
“What are you doing? Where are we going?” Loriena pleaded, suddenly coming out of her stupor. Jarrod was making plans for her life without so much as her say-so!
“You must remain in hiding until it’s full grown and it can protect you!” he repeated, his eyes round with fear. “The Urgal’s have kept watch on this place for years. If they find out you have a hatchling, they will come after all of us!”
“Hatchling? Urgals?” repeated Loriena, nonplussed. “What are you talking about and what is that creature you put in your satchel?”
“No time to explain!” hissed Jarrod, stuffing cured meats, dried fruits, and wayfarer’s bread into a leather backpack at frantic speed. He added to this a warm woolen cloak, a flint rock and some kindling all the while muttering a constant stream of oaths. When he had everything packed, he pushed her out the door again and led her behind the farmhouse and into the thick woods of Kirtan which bordered the property. The pace he set was almost impossible for Loriena to keep up with; some unspeakable terror was driving him and she had no choice but to go where he led her. They marched the rest of day and took no rest until late afternoon when they reached the mouth of a large cave that was half-hidden by heavy forest and brush.
“Here you must stay, Loriena.” Jarrod commanded her, flinging the leather satchel and what looked like a strange saddle into the mouth of the cave.
“You’re abandoning me here?” Loriena began to cry, her eyes filling tears. “What have I done wrong? I’m sorry about the milk!”
Her tears seemed to bring Jarrod back to the present. He regarded her with pity and cupped her cheek in his hand. “Have you never wondered why you didn’t look like either of us?” he asked, gazing at the beautiful child he had fostered for the past 14 years. Loriena shook her head. She had never seen what she looked like, except in a wavering reflection of a brook or pool of water. “You were brought to us as an infant, for safe-keeping.” He said, trying to explain as best he could in a short space of time.
It was getting dark and he did not want to be caught in the forest at night. “We have taken care of you as if you were our own, Loriena, but you are elf-kind!” He took her hand and placed her fingers at the top of her ears which were elegantly curved into points. She gasped, having never paid attention to them before. She stared back at Jarrod whose brown eyes were now filling with tears. “It is no longer safe for you to be on our farm with that hatchling. Word will get out and they’ll come looking for you. I will come back as soon as I can and bring you fresh supplies but you must stay hidden here until it is full grown.”
“Until what is full grown?!” Loriena demanded with a scream, bringing him up short. The whole day had started off like a nightmare. First the cow and the spilt milk, then the rock that had burned her hand, then the tiny green glowing creature and now Jarrod prattling on like a crazed lunatic with every intention of dumping her in this god-forsaken cave.
“YOUR DRAGON.” He growled, pointing to the creature wriggling out of the satchel. Loriena eyes followed to where he pointed and found the creature staring up at her with an intensity she found both compelling and frightening. She was utterly transfixed, unable to tear her eyes away from it. It’s skin was a sparkly emerald green and it’s pale green eyes piercing.
Loriena! Said a tiny voice in her head. She gasped and the tiny dragon blinked at her.
“I must go now!” Jarrod said, backing away. “I’ll come back in a week to see how you’re getting on. Stay hidden and learn well!”
Loriena barely noticed him leave, still caught in the spell of the little creature. She squatted down and held out her cupped hands. It crawled forward and with a flick of its tiny tongue, settled itself into her hands. She straightened and carried it into the cave.
Fire, said the voice inside her head. Obediently she knelt down, arranged the kindling Jarrod had carried with them and set it ablaze with the flint rocks.
Hungry, came the next thought after the fire was crackling merrily away. Loriena searched inside one of the satchels and found a strip of cured meat. She tore it up into tiny pieces and put it before the tiny dragon which snatched it up and gulped it down without chewing.
The days and nights passed swiftly, so intent was Loriena on bonding with the dragon which grew at an exponential rate. When the day came that Jarrod returned with fresh supplies, he was obviously taken aback at how swiftly it had grown and was terrified at its sheer size.
“Father, come closer, Emerelda won’t hurt you,” Loriena said, patting the neck of the dragon which now towered a full man’s height above them. It was a magnificent beast and only a third full grown. It was going to be a nightmare when it reached full maturity! Jarrod balked at the idea of coming any closer but the dragon merely stared at him with benign eyes. He laid down the satchel of fresh supplies and rubbed his beard, suddenly realizing that he had not brought enough food. The beastie alone could eat every morsel and still not be sated; leaving Loriena with nothing.
“Emerelda, eh?” he said with a grin in Loriena’s direction. “It suits her well.” He looked at the meager supplies he had brought. “I don’t think there’s enough for the two of you…”
Saddle! Hunt! came the words into Loriena’s head. She went into the cave and came back out carrying the odd saddle Jarrod had left a week ago. “Is this for my dragon?” she asked, laying it at Jarrod’s feet.
He nodded, looking over the fine leather and stitching. “It will protect you from the scales.” He answered, hefting it up. He put it into her arms. “She will allow only you to put it on her.” He said, backing away. As if on cue, Emerelda went onto her belly and allowed Loriena to lay it upon her. Speaking mind-to-mind, the dragon instructed her on how to fasten it securely then lay down again so Loriena could mount.
Hunt now! No sooner had the words appeared in her mind that the dragon took off for the first time, flapping its’ great wings like a giant bird of prey. Loriena held on for dear life, barely able to open her eyes because of the streaming wind. The landscape of the forest suddenly lay far below them and clouds swiftly passed underneath as they sped through the air. It was freezing up so high but the dragon’s warmth enveloped her and kept her comfortable as they glided. Loriena could suddenly see from Emerelda’s viewpoint and with her eagle-like eyes, she spotted a large buck grazing in a meadow.
Suddenly a shadow covered them, blotting out the light of the son. A mighty roar issued from what only could have been another dragon. The noise was deafening.
With streaming eyes, Loriena watched in amazement as a blue dragon swooped down to the same level as she and Emerelda. On its’ proud back was another rider just like her, only it was a young man with a large sword and his dragon was wearing armor!
Eragon and Saphira wants us to land in that glade below, said the voice of Emerelda in her head. Without further hesitation, the two dragons folded their wings and wheeled down in spirals until they both reached the meadow. The young man leapt off the saddle of his dragon and strode over to her.
“Saphira heard the heartbeat of your dragon a week ago; we have been watching and waiting for you.” He said, removing his helmet.
“Why would you be waiting for me?” asked Loriena, her head spinning with the sudden cataclysmic changes in her world. She had gone from lowly farm-girl to looked-for elf and dragon-rider in the space of a single week.
“You have been kept in hiding until the day you could join us in the war against Galbatorix.”
“War?” squeaked Loriena. At the mention of the word, both dragons lifted their long necks high into the sky and roared, sending plumes of fire rising high…
The door to Tessa’s room flew open with a bang causing her to suddenly sit up in bed in alarm.
“Tessa, time to get up!” her mother’s voice rang out as she marched down the hall. Tessa looked around her room, temporarily bewildered. The meadow, dragons and Eragon was gone. Reality hit hard and it was a huge disappointment. It felt too real to have been just a dream! She had often day-dreamed about being in such a story after reading the book, Eragon but she had never had a dream of such detail before. With a resigned sigh, she swung her feet out of bed and attempted to stand up but instead fell over, tripping on a small round object.
She looked down and felt her heart nearly stop. With shaking hands she squatted down and picked up the large, round egg-like rock which began glowing and glittering in her hands as if it were lit from within with green fire.
“Uh oh!” she said.