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"I believe the time has come for you to ride your dragon for the first time." Oromis had said to Brom that morning when he awoke one morning approximately three months after Saphira had hatched. Brom excitedly grabbed the saddle he had made for Saphira and ran over to the aquamarine dragon who was curled up on the floor in the main study of Oromis's quarters. During the past three months, Oromis had taught Brom how to read and write and had also instructed him in the basics of riding a dragon. Brom had longed for the day that Saphira would finally grow large enough to ride, and now that day had come. From the time Saphira had hatched for him, Brom had been exploring the bond he shared with her. She was the first real friend he ever had and she always knew how to cheer him up when he was lonely.

Saphira awoke, opening her aqua blue eyes and lifting her head to face her Rider. When she saw the saddle in his hands, the dragoness smiled warmly.

It is finally time then…

Saphira stood up allowed Brom to fit the saddle to her back. She had grown rapidly and was now approximately the size of a Clydesdale horse. She felt the leather straps of the saddle tighten around her body as Brom fastened it securely in place. The aquamarine dragon looked down at her Rider and smiled warmly at him. She was every bit as excited about this flight as he was. Ever since she hatched, she longed to soar through the skies with her Rider.

Are you ready, little one? She asked, kneeling down so that Brom could climb onto her back. The young boy eagerly climbed onto his dragon's back and fastened the leg straps around his ankles to hold himself in place.

Oromis stood beside Saphira and looked up at Brom. "There will be no lessons today. I want you to spend the day with Saphira. Spending time with your dragon is every bit as important as studying. "

"Yes, Ebrithil." Brom smiled, griping the saddle tightly.

He had been so busy with his lessons as of late that he had not had must time to spend with his dragon. But that was all about to change.

Saphira padded from Oromis's quarters and stood before the opening in the wall, staring up at the pale morning sky.

She spread her wings and said, Hold on tight, Brom.

The blue dragon launched herself into the air with incredible speed, rapidly climbing above the clouds as Brom held on for dear life. Saphira could feel her Rider's joy and excitement and it made her own heart soar as the wind rushed over her wings. For a dragon, there was nothing like the joy of flying. Flying represented freedom and liberty. Saphira leveled off, soaring just above the clouds while Brom cheered with glee. She flapped her wings, increasing her speed.

Brom looked down at the island of Vroengard far below, a feeling of awe overtaking him.

It is amazing isn't it? Saphira asked, turning her head and grinning at Brom.

Her Rider smiled back and rubbed the side of her neck. "Can you go faster, Saphira?"

The dragoness snorted, sending a black puff of smoke from her nose. Of course I can!

With that, she abruptly nosed over and folded her wings back, diving toward the ground and quickly picking up speed. Brom leaned forward in the saddle and gripped tightly onto the hand holds. Saphira pulled out of her dive and then climbed into the sky in a vertical climb until she was above the clouds again. Then she somersaulted over backwards, diving straight down again in a graceful maneuver. As Saphira dived, she spotted a red dragon flying down below. It was Morzan's dragon, Ragnarök with Morzan riding on his back.

Saphira grinned slyly and banked hard to the right, using her tail as a rudder as she maneuvered directly toward the ruby red dragon.

"Saphira, what are you doing?" Brom asked nervously.

Saphira did not answer, but instead just continued diving toward Ragnarök. The red dragon never saw her coming. Saphira glided down underneath him and then bulled up, shooting upward right in front of him, letting out a joyous roar. Ragnarök was caught off guard and quickly banked to the left while Morzan let out a startled gasp. They both watched as Saphira leveled off and performed a graceful corkscrew maneuver in the air.

"What did you do that for?" asked Brom as Saphira returned to level flight once more.

For fun! She replied.

Ragnarök snorted as he continued to watch Saphira. That female is such a show off! he growled to his Rider.

Morzan watched as Saphira flew away and then asked, "Is she always like that?"

Yes! She is always showing off and trying to impress Glaedr! Perhaps she thinks if she impresses him enough, they will put her on the council with her mother!

"Well why don't we go and give her a piece of your mind?" Morzan said with a mischievous smirk.

I think I will. Ragnarök growled.

He banked sharply and flew after Saphira, catching up to her with a few wingbeats. As the red dragon flew alongside the aquamarine dragoness, he growled, Why don't you grow up, hatchling? Do you have nothing better to do than play foolish games?

Oh get a sense of humor! Saphira growled back, turning away and descending toward the ground.

She was still young and playful and a bit immature. Saphira would outgrow this as time went on but for now she was still rambunctious and carefree. Saphira hated being bored and since Glaedr would not play with her and Brom was always busy with his studies, she had no one to play with. However, today was different. Saphira had her Rider with her and she was enjoying every second of it. She touched down softly in a grassy meadow and knelt down so that Brom could climb down off her back.

"That was amazing!" Brom chimed happily as he climbed down from his dragon's back.

Saphira nodded her head. Well I am glad to see that you enjoyed your first ride.

Saphira lied down and curled up in the tall grass, resting her head on her forefeet and curling her tail around herself. Brom sat down beside her and leaned against her side. Saphira covered Brom with a wing and closed her eyes. They must have drifted off to sleep because the next thing Saphira knew, she opened her eyes and noticed that the sun hung low in the western sky. She was just about to awaken Brom when she heard a twig snap to her left. Saphira immediately snapped her head to the left, bearing her razor sharp serrated teeth and letting out a low rumbling growl from deep within her chest. She relaxed when she saw that it was only Morzan.

"Peace, it is only me!" Morzan said, walking up to Brom.

Ragnarök landed nearby and joined them.

"Morzan? What bring you here?" Brom asked.

"You are just the person I was looking for, Brom." Morzan said with a smile. "What do you say we go and have some fun tonight?"

"I suppose so." Brom said.

Brom, you know that Oromis is expecting us to return home shortly. Saphira reminded her Rider.

"Oh do not be a spoilsport, Saphi. You know what they say. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Morzan said with a grin.

Saphira snorted indignantly. She hated the nickname that Morzan had been calling her lately.

Come, Brom. We are going home. I'll not have you gallivanting off at night alone!

"But Saphira…" Brom protested.

Get on my back, Brom! Saphira ordered firmly, kneeling down for him to climb up.

"I am sorry, Morzan." Brom whispered, climbing onto his dragon's back.

If you are wise, Morzan, you will accompany us back home. Saphira warned.

Morzan mounted his dragon and Ragnarök turned to face the sea to the east.

"Alright, I suppose you aren't coming then. Let us be off, Ragnarök! If we hurry we can be back here by morning!"

Where exactly do you think you are going, Morzan? Demanded Saphira. You know students are forbidden to leave Vroengard, especially at night!

"We are going treasure hunting in The Spine!" Morzan exclaimed. He held up an old scroll. "I found this old map in the library that claims there is treasure buried in some old ruins deep within the mountain range!"

That is foolish! Saphira exclaimed in disbelief that anyone would actually consider undertaking such a crazy quest.

Ragnarök just snorted and took off, heading to the east.

They are heading into The Spine! Saphira exclaimed to Brom.

Ever since the incident with Galbatorix, students were forbidden from entering The Spine unescorted. There had been a recent spike in hostile urgal activity in the area and traveling at night was especially dangerous.

"Should we inform Ebrithil Oromis?" Brom asked, watching with a worried expression as Morzan flew away.

Saphira looked back toward Dorú Areaba and then at Morzan once more.

Brom, I cannot allow them to venture off alone! Glaedr warned me of the dangers that lurk in those mountains! Run back home and inform Oromis of what is going on. I am going after them before they get themselves killed!

Brom nodded, quickly climbing down from the saddle. "Please be careful, Saphira." He said worriedly.

Saphira nodded, then spread her wings and launched herself into the sky, flying in the same easterly direction that Morzan and Ragnarök had flown off in. They had flown into the clouds and Saphira had lost sight of them. She flew along at a brisk pace trying to catch up to them but there was already no sign of the ruby dragon or his foolish Rider.

Idiots! Saphira growled to herself. How could anyone be so stupid?

Before she knew it, the aquamarine dragoness was flying over the mountain range. Tall jagged peaks stretched up and down the coastline as far as they eye could see. Saphira looked down and spotted two urgals on horseback. The dragoness did not draw attention to herself and kept on flying. She felt a twinge of fear in her heart as she gazed at the rugged peaks that lay ahead. Saphira was small, too young to breath fire, and had not yet even begun her combat training. This was a fool's errand. By now the sun had gone down and Saphira had to rely on her keen eyesight and the pale light of the moon to navigate. The air in the mountains was cold and clammy which only seemed to add to the eerie atmosphere that seemed to hang over these mountains. Glaedr had told both Saphira and Ragnarök the story of young Galbatorix who had undertaken

Morzan stood in a forest clearing, studying the old map he had swiped from the library. "Hmm, those old ruins should be around here somewhere. Think of all the gold that is hidden in there!"

Morzan, perhaps we should study that map someplace a bit more protected. Ragnarök inquired, looking all around.

"You worry too much." Morzan replied, not taking his eyes off the map.

No sooner had the words left his mouth, the sound of horse hooves filled the air and no less than ten urgals, all armed with an assortment of weapons, appeared out of the woods. Their leader, a large kull, wielded a battle axe. He sized Morzan up and let out a deep chuckle.

"You are foolish Dragon Rider!" the large kull spoke in a deep voice. "You die for coming to our land!"

"This is not your land!" Morzan shouted defiantly, drawing the training sword that Oromis had given him.

The kull let out a battle cry and his urgal warriors all charged Morzan at once. Ragnarök was quick to defend his Rider. The red dragon cut down one kull with his talons and snatched p a smaller urgal in his jaws. He was about to pounce on one of the urgals but before he had a chance, a heavy web of chainmail dropped from a rocky ledge above him. Two urgals that he had not previously seen had dropped a net on top of the dragon. Ragnarök struggled to tear through the net but there was no time. While Morzan successfully struck down one of the urgals who attacked him with a sword, the lead kull had flanked around behind him.

Just as the kull was about to split Morzan's skull with his axe, Saphira dropped from the sky, tackling the monstrous horned giant, knocking him to the ground. Saphira sank her teeth into the kill's head, biting into his skull with her powerful jaws.

Behind you! Ragnarök cried.

Saphira turned her head and saw an urgal armed with a spear charging her from behind. She was quick, swinging her tail under the urgal's feet and tripping him up as he ran. Another urgal dashed toward Saphira but she was too fast, slashing into the hideous creature with her claws. Ragnarök finally tore free from the net and tackled another kull, tearing its head clean off.

Morzan dueled with a sword wielding urgal, dodging a series of vicious attacks.

He slashed the urgal across the chest and shouted, "Is that the best you have?"

Almost as if by karma, an arrow whizzed through the air and struck Morzan with at the base of his arm. The young Rider let out an agonized scream as blood from the wound stained his brown robes. Dazed and confused, Morzan was no longer able to fight. One of the remaining urgals tried to take advantage of this, charging at Morzan with a sword but Saphira leaped onto the urgal, knocking him to the ground.

Turning to Ragnarök, Saphira ordered, Grab Morzan and let's get out of here!

Ragnarök did not waste any time scooping his wounded Rider up in his forepaws. The red dragon immediately took off into the sky and Saphira quickly followed.

Ragnarök surveyed Morzan's injury. The arrow had severed an artery in his arm and Morzan was quickly bleeding to death.

What are we going to do, Saphira? We will never make it to Vroengard in time! the ruby red dragon cried desperately.

As much as Saphira wanted to say, I told you so, this was not the time.

Glaedr told me of a Dragon Rider outpost in the Palancar Valley! That's not far from here! We should be able to make it if we hurry! Saphira replied, leading the way.

Flying with great speed, it took only a few minutes for the two dragons to reach the outpost built on the side of a mountain but for Morzan, who was bleeding rapidly, it seemed to take forever.

Saphira flew in through the dragon entrance to the outpost and landed inside, quickly moving aside for Ragnarök to land. An male elf Rider turned and faced the two dragons as they landed.

"What in blazes?" he exclaimed as he saw the two dragons covered in black urgal blood and the badly wounded Morzan.

We were ambushed by urgals! Morzan needs help! Saphira exclaimed.

Without a word, the elf picked Morzan up and carried him over to a nearby table. Ragnarök watched nervously and fearfully as the elf pulled out the arrow, causing Morzan to scream in agony. The elf then proceeded to heal the wound, working diligently and expertly. Once the elf was finished, he turned to the two dragons.

"He will survive." The elven Rider said. "Now, tell me. What are you three doing in these mountains? Were you not warned of the dangers? I will see to it that you are all reprimanded for this!"

It was my fault, sir. Ragnarök explained. Morzan and I ventured into the mountains alone. Saphira warned us that it was too dangerous but we did not listen. Had she not followed us, we would both probably be dead now. Saphira saved our lives.

"I shall leave it up to your teachers to decide how to deal with you. In the mean time, you are to remain here and not to leave this outpost." the elven Rider ordered.

The elf instructed his dragon, a large brown male, "Go to Vroengard and inform the council of this incident"

The brown dragon took off into the night sky.

Saphira lied down on the floor and proceeded to licked the black urgal blood from her talons. She turned to Ragnarök and snorted. I certainly hope for your sake that I am not reprimanded for saving you! You almost got your Rider killed by agreeing to go on this stupid little adventure!

Ragnarök just hung his head in shame. He knew that Saphira was right but he was just too proud to admit he was wrong.

Saphira laid her head down, closing her eyes. She was not tired. There was just too much on her mind but Saphira knew that she had better get some rest while she still could. Glaedr would most likely be furious with all of them for disobeying direct orders. No matter what happened, it was not going to be pretty.

To be continued…

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