Eragon, Chapter 14: A Rider’s Blade (pg. 96-100)
Now that Brom has acknowledged that he knows Eragon is a Rider, what will he do next? Will he (a) promise to tell Eragon what’s going on once they’re someplace safe, or (b) make vague statements and taunt the boy while they’re standing right outside town? (It’s b. We all know it’s b.)
Eragon, understandably concerned that he’s been discovered, calls to Saphira and attempts to stall Brom until she gets there:
“How did you find out?” he asked in a hollow voice.
Brom stared into the distance and moved his lips soundlessly as if he were talking to someone else. Then he said, “There were clues and hints everywhere; I had only to pay attention. Anyone with the right knowledge could have done the same. Tell me, how is your dragon?”
“She,” said Eragon, “is fine. We weren’t at the farm when the strangers came.”
“Ah, your legs. You were flying?”
I feel like that remark about his legs should be Eragon’s first clue that Brom is more than just a storyteller. From Eragon’s earlier questions, I’d wager that knowledge about dragons isn’t exactly common among the populace, and that having the skin rubbed off your thighs would not immediately bring suspicions of “he must have been riding a dragon!” I don’t know, it just seems like something that one wouldn’t pick up on unless they knew about common flight injuries, and how else would you know that stuff if you weren’t a Rider? It’s possible that Brom may have picked this information up somewhere in the course of his role as a storyteller/historian, so we could give him a pass on this, if not for Eragon’s next thought:
How did Brom figure that out? What if the strangers coerced him into doing this? Maybe they want him to discover where I’m going so they can ambush us. And where is Saphira? He reached out with his mind and found her circling far overhead. Come!
No, I will watch for a time.
Because of the slaughter at Doru Araeba.
Brom leaned against a tree with a slight smile. “I have talked with her, and she has agreed to stay above us until we settle our differences. As you can see, you really don’t have any choice but to answer my questions. Now tell me, where are you going?”
And there’s the second clue. Whatever the likelihood that Brom would be able to guess where Eragon’s injuries came from, it’s much more likely than Brom being able to communicate with Saphira the same way Eragon can. As far as Eragon (and the reader, at this point) knows, only Riders can communicate with dragons via telepathy. And he knows that Riders live a very, very long time. Wouldn’t the most obvious conclusion be that Brom is a Rider, or that he at least has some connection to them?
By the way, we never find out what Saphira is talking about when she mentions “the slaughter at Doru Araeba”. It’s just something mysterious she says to pique the reader’s interest.
Anyway, Brom tells Eragon that he’s coming along, like it or not. They leave Carvahall once it becomes apparent that people are looking for Eragon, and their first stop is the ruined farm. Why? That’s probably the first place Horst will look. They should be heading in the opposite direction, shouldn’t they?
As the wreckage of the farm came into view, Brom’s eyebrows beetled with anger. Eragon was dismayed to see how swiftly nature was reclaiming the farm. Snow and dirt were already piled inside the house, concealing the violence of the strangers’ attack. All that remained of the barn was a rapidly eroding rectangle of soot.
I know it’s semantics at this point, but the phrase “nature reclaiming” usually implies plant growth of some sort, not five days’ worth of weather and the effects of fire.
Brom’s head snapped up as the sound of Saphira’s wings drifted over the trees. […] Saphira’s scales glittered as she wheeled over the farm and landed gracefully.
Brom stepped forward with an expression both solemn and joyous. His eyes were shining, and a tear shone on his cheek before it disappeared into his beard. He stood there for a long while, breathing heavily as he watched Saphira, and she him. Eragon heard him muttering and edged closer to listen.
“So . . . it starts again. But how and where will it end? My sight is veiled; I cannot tell if this be tragedy or farce, for the elements of both are here. . . . However it may be, my station is unchanged, and I . . .”
Whatever else he might have said faded away as Saphira proudly approached them.
I hate it when characters end up spouting exposition from talking to themselves. I know that people often talk to themselves as a way to order thoughts (I do it all the time), but this sounds more like a speech you might get from a spirit medium or soothsayer than an old man talking to himself. It’s pretty clearly meant to tell the reader that Brom isn’t all he seems (as if the last couple pages weren’t enough to clue people in).
Conveniently, Eragon doesn’t question Brom’s reaction to the dragon or his mumbling:
Eragon passed Brom, pretended he had heard nothing, and greeted her. There was something different between them now, as if they knew each other even more intimately, yet were still strangers.
Where is this coming from? Are they supposed to have bonded over the flying and having rescued Garrow? Is this supposed to be a sign that they’ve both (supposedly) grown as characters? Am I the only one who thinks that line sounds kind of like they had a one-night-stand?
Saphira lands and she inspects Brom, curious because he’s only the third human she’s come in contact with. Brom asks her name, and when Eragon tells him he reacts strangely, “[grinding] the butt of his staff into the earth with such force his knuckles turned white”. Eragon assures Brom it was the only name that fit, but otherwise only wonders about it for a couple seconds and then seems to forget about it entirely. He digs around in the ruins of the farmhouse, pulling out his bow, and leads Brom to a clearing in the woods where they can talk uninterrupted. Will Brom come clean about everything, or will he lie his ass off? (Like I even have to ask!) Tune in next time, where we’ll finish up Chapter 14.