Eragon, Chapter 11: The Doom of Innocence
Usually I try to refrain from commenting on the chapter titles, but how melodramatic is this one? (Not to mention spoilery – even if you didn’t already know the basic plot of Star Wars, the title leaves very little room for doubt as to what happens.) “Doom” is already a pretty melodramatic word anyway; sticking it up in the title pretty much makes it impossible to take your writing seriously.
When Eragon opened his eyes in the morning, he thought the sky had fallen. An unbroken plane of blue stretched over his head and slanted to the ground. Still half asleep, he reached out tentatively and felt a thin membrane under his fingers. It took him a long minute to realize what he was staring at.
I actually like this passage. I like the imagery of Saphira’s wing looking like a piece of sky; I like Eragon’s disorientation at waking up under strange circumstances. Occasionally Paolini hits instead of missing, and I would say this is one of those times. The rest of the paragraph, however…
He bent his neck slightly and glared at the scaly haunch his head rested on. Slowly he pushed his legs out from his fetal curl, scabs cracking. The pain had subsided some from yesterday, but he shrank from the thought of walking. Burning hunger reminded him of his missed meals. He summoned the energy to move and pounded weakly on Saphira’s side. “Hey! Wake up!” he yelled.
Wow, rude much? I understand that Eragon is still angry about what happened yesterday, and still feeling the pain from that impromptu flight; that still doesn’t make it okay to start hitting and yelling at Saphira. Notice how he doesn’t even try to wake her up through any other methods, or even see if she’s already awake – he just goes straight to physical violence. Nice one, Eragon.
After taking some time to wake up, Eragon recognizes where he is: the clearing where he found the egg. He thinks that Saphira must have figured out the location from his memories. Then he decides it’s time to head back and confronts Saphira.
Saphira was waiting patiently for him. Will you take me home? he asked her. She cocked her head. I know you don’t want to, but you must. Both of us carry an obligation to Garrow. He has cared for me and, through me, you. Would you ignore that debt?
No, she really doesn’t owe Garrow anything. She doesn’t know him. She has never accepted anything from him. Your debts are not automatically her debts, especially not in relation to your family.
What will be said of us in years to come if we don’t return – that we hid like cowards while my uncle was in danger? I can hear it now, the story of the Rider and his craven dragon! If there will be a fight, let’s face it and not shy away. You are a dragon! Even a Shade would run from you! Yet you crouch in the mountains like a frightened rabbit.
Eragon meant to anger her, and he succeeded.
This is supposed to be your partner, Eragon. You are supposed to be equals working together as a team. You have a psychic connection which leaves you privy to Saphira’s emotions; you know how scared she is right now. And instead of trying to allay her fears and convince her to go back because Garrow is important to you, you use guilt trips and taunts to manipulate her into doing what you want.
You are a fucking horrible person, Eragon.
Frankly, if the dragon – the flying, scaly beast that could easily bite or claw a man to death – is afraid of the Strangers In Black (SIB for short), that should be a clue that these guys are Bad News. I, personally, wouldn’t be going back to the farm without first seeking help. Of course, that would mean exposing yourself to the villagers; more importantly, it wouldn’t be the “heroic” thing to do, because in this book being the hero means rushing headlong into danger without stopping to think for five seconds about your plan of action. It would also mean acknowledging the fact that the feelings and opinions of others matter just as much as your own, and we can’t have that. It’s just not manly. It’s not what heroes do.
Of course Saphira gets angry enough to grudgingly agree to go back, but not before telling Eragon that he’s being an idiot.
A growl rippled in her throat as her head jabbed within a few inches of his face. She bared her fangs and glared at him, smoke trailing from her nostrils. He hoped that he had not gone too far. Blood will meet blood. I will fight. Our wyrds – our fates – bind us, but try me not. I will take you because of debt owed, but into foolishness we fly.
Yeah, you tell him Saphira! You may turn into just as much of an asshole as Eragon later on, but I’m going to enjoy what I can from you.
By the time they reach the farm, it’s too late; there’s a column of smoke rising from the buildings, and it’s obvious that the SIB have already been here.
The house had been blasted apart. Timbers and boards that had been walls and roof were strewn across a wide area. The wood was pulverized, as if a giant hammer had smashed it. Sooty shingles lay everywhere. A few twisted metal plates were all that remained of the stove. The snow was perforated with smashed white crockery and chunks of bricks from the chimney. Thick, oily smoke billowed from the barn, which burned fiercely. The farm animals were gone, either killed or frightened away.
It appears that the SIB were here fairly recently, which makes me wonder why they waited to come after Eragon. They saw him in town; they knew who they wanted. It can’t be more than a couple hours’ walk from town to the farm, less if they’ve got mounts. One would think that they would want to attack the farm under the cover of darkness, but it’s early afternoon when Eragon gets home. Did it take them until this morning to find out where he lives?
“Uncle!” Eragon ran to the wreckage, hunting through the destroyed rooms for Garrow. “Uncle!” Eragon cried again. Saphira walked around the house and came to his side.
Sorrow breeds here, she said.
“This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t run away with me!”
You wouldn’t be alive if we had stayed.
“Look at this!” he screamed. “We could’ve warned Garrow! It’s your fault he didn’t get away!”
Again, Paolini surprises me with this scene. I’ve remarked before on how a lot of his scenes seem to be gleaned from common cliches in pop culture, and this has the potential to be just as overdone… but it works. It’s a very human reaction, especially in the face of Saphira’s instinct to get as far away as possible.
He stumbled to the path that led to the road and bent down to examine the snow. Several tracks were before him, but his vision was blurry and he could barely see. Am I going blind? he wondered. With a shaking hand, he touched his cheeks and found them wet.
I wonder if Eragon is somehow related to Bella Swan. There’s no other way to explain how he could possibly confuse crying with going blind.
Saphira points out that there are only two sets of prints leading to and from the house, meaning that Garrow must still be here. They search the house, and Eragon eventually finds his uncle in the kitchen. Together he and Saphira manage to pull Garrow out from under the rubble.
Eragon dragged Garrow out of the destroyed house and eased him to the ground. Dismayed, he touched his uncle gently. His skin was gray, lifeless, and dry, as if a fever had burned off any sweat. His lip was split, and there was a long scrape on his cheekbone, but that was not the worst. Deep, ragged burns covered most of his body. They were chalky white and oozed clear liquid. A cloying, sickening smell hung over him – the odor of rotting fruit. His breath came in short jerks, each one sounding like a death rattle.
Murderers, hissed Saphira.
Garrow’s still alive, so Eragon rushes to create a sort of platform to lay him on, which Saphira will then carry beneath her while she’s flying. She almost isn’t able to take off because of the extra weight, but she manages to get into the air and almost makes it to town before she has to land. Eragon decides to drag Garrow the rest of the way.
He gritted his teeth and began to drag Garrow down the road. He first few steps sent an explosion of agony through him. “I can’t do this!” he howled at the sky, then took a few more steps. His mouth locked into a snarl. He stared at the ground between his feet as he forced himself to hold a steady pace. It was a fight against his unruly body – a fight he refused to lose.
Strangely, Eragon didn’t seem to have any trouble with his injuries back at the farm. His legs were mentioned on the return flight as bleeding from the friction, even with the addition of padding, but once he touched ground Eragon was running around, tossing rubble about, and dragging Garrow around. I’ll admit, it’s possible that adrenaline could explain this, and this would be the point where the adrenaline wears off. It just doesn’t sit right with me.
With desperation he wondered if Carvahall still existed or if the strangers had burnt it down, too.
That’s a good question. Considering the villagers’ reluctance to tell the SIB anything about Eragon, Carvahall could be seen as harboring him. That would probably be more than enough justification for these guys to raze the village to the ground.
Our chapter ends with a wild-eyed Brom grabbing Eragon, right before the kid faints. That makes the four chapters out of eleven, so far, ending on Eragon either falling asleep or losing consciousness. There’s got to be another way to end a chapter.