Eragon: Chapters 28 & 29

Eragon, Chapter 28: Thieves in the Castle

He slung his bow and quiver on his back, but left Zar’roc in the room; the sword would only slow him, and he was averse to using it. If he had to disable someone, he could use magic or an arrow.

Apparently Eragon is hoping that he doesn’t get into any close-quarters combat; I doubt his magic is so good that he can rely on it completely, and arrows aren’t going to be any help if an enemy gets close enough to hit him. A sword would also make him look more intimidating, which might help keep him from being attacked. Just a thought.

Brom, Eragon, and Jeod bribe a guard to let them into the castle where the records are kept, and Brom unlocks the door to the records room with magic. I’m surprised Eragon isn’t hanging on the man’s every word in the hopes of learning more magic; here it just says that he doesn’t recognize the word Brom uses to unlock the door, but he expresses absolutely no interest in learning what that word is.

The men set to work skimming through the scrolls for any mention of Seithr oil, with Eragon joining them instead of taking up a position at the door. This is patently ridiculous – even if he’s picked up reading quicker than usual, Eragon would be reading at such a slow pace that he’d only hinder their efforts at gathering information. Better to have him standing guard, listening for anyone approaching, than to have him laboring over a single scroll while the others go through several.

Eragon feels a prickling on the back of his neck and looks up to see a a boy with shaggy hair on the windowsill. The boy turns out to be Solembum, and he tells Eragon that there are guards looking for them, then jumps out the window. Eragon pipes up that guards are coming and Brom’s response is to keep reading until the very last minute, which means they get out into the hall just in time for the guards to run into them. Brom freaks out a bit because the door’s not locked behind them, but then he locks it magically and the guards only give them trouble until they realize the door is locked. Yet again, we have meaningless filler thrown in to create the illusion of tension or drama.

Really, huge chunks of the middle of this book could be taken out and have very little effect on the story. There is no point to scenes like this, where our heroes meet with minimal resistance and obtain their goals with little to no consequences (whether those consequences are being attacked, running away, being wanted by the police/government, being captured, losing something important, whatever). Eragon almost gets left outside the walls overnight! … but he returns at the last minute and has no trouble getting back in. The party is discovered by guards and the door’s not locked! … but Brom locks the door right just in time and the guards assume that they’re not doing anything and just tell them to get out. None of this makes the book any more interesting – it just makes me want to move on to a story where something actually happens.

They get back to Jeod’s house and discuss their findings. In the last five years Seithr oil has been shipped to every major city, and there’s no way to tell whether it was going to jewelers or being used as demon-acid. With a little deductive reasoning, Brom and Jeod eliminate cities that are unlikely due to location or population and decide that Dras-Leona is likely the Ra’zac’s home base – a fact they immediately verify by checking the records to see that huge amounts of oil are shipped there annually. It seems like that would be the first thing you’d notice, but hey, what do I know? At any rate, Dras-Leona is Brom and Eragon’s next stop.

Oh hey, look, another chapter that ends with Eragon going to bed. Joy.

Chapter 29: A Costly Mistake

Come morning, Brom and Eragon say their goodbyes to Jeod and his poor, poor wife:

With grave looks, the two men clasped hands. “I’ll miss you, old man,” said Jeod.

“And you I,” said Brom thickly. He bowed his white head and then turned to Helen. “Thank you for your hospitality; it was most gracious.” Her face reddened. Eragon thought she was going to slap him. Brom continued, unperturbed, “You have a good husband; take care of him. There are few men as brave and as determined as he is. But even he cannot weather difficult times without support from those he loves.” He bowed again and said gently, “Only a suggestion, dear lady.”

Eragon watched as indignation and hurt crossed Helen’s face. Her eyes flashed as she shut the door brusquely.

I do not understand why Helen is angry about Brom’s thanks. I mean, I understand that she’s in a precarious financial position, she’s had to play hostess to guests she didn’t want, and she’s being condescended to by an old man she doesn’t know who doesn’t have any business lecturing her about the state of her marriage, and all that would piss me right off, but I honestly don’t get how “Thanks for your hospitality” makes her want to slap him.

This comes up again several chapters later, where Eragon plays this weird game where he and two other characters “insult” each other by being increasingly polite, and I do not get it. I don’t know if Helen assumes that Brom is being passive-aggressive or what. He certainly doesn’t come off that way; he just sounds like he’s trying to be nice because he essentially intruded on her home. At any rate, Helen doesn’t show up between her first appearance and now, so we have no way to gauge her behavior or personality. She’s simply a stereotype, a cookie-cutter “frigid bitch” whose only purpose is to… hell, I don’t even know if she has a purpose. All she’s done is dislike Brom and Eragon on sight.

Then, as if to make up for trying to be a decent human being, Brom goes and lectures her about supporting her husband like he knows anything about the situation. And to top it all off, Helen is hurt and indignant, which I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to read as evidence that Brom struck a nerve with his little speech. Because there’s no way she’d be hurt that her husband aired out their dirty laundry to an old friend who will clearly be biased in his favor, or indignant that this stranger has the gall to lecture her about something which is clearly not his business.

Brom and Eragon leave the city, and Eragon manages to wait until afternoon to start questioning Brom. Seems he’s finally catching on that Brom knows a lot of awfully convenient stuff about dragons and the Ra’zac, and he’s pretty sure Brom has something to do with Saphira’s egg. So he demands that Brom tell him what’s going on, and for once Brom doesn’t put up much of a fight. He just says that he can’t tell Eragon everything, “because I won’t give away secrets that aren’t mine.”

According to Brom, the Varden and the empire are fighting over Eragon, because each group wants control over the next generation of Riders.

Eragon tried to absorb Brom’s statements. It seemed incomprehensible that so many people would be interested in him and Saphira. No one besides Brom had thought he was that important.

Nobody thought you were important when you were just a farm boy. Now that you’ve hatched a freaking dragon, everybody is going to interested in you – especially since the only other Rider is a mad despot. Is Eragon supposed to be humble here? It’s not working. He just seems dense.

Objections quickly formed in his mind. “But all the Riders were killed except for the Forsworn, who joined Galbatorix. As far as I know, even those are now dead. And you told me in Carvahall that no one knows if there are still dragons in Alagaësia.”

“I lied about the dragons,” said Brom flatly.

Dude, what don’t you lie about?

“Even though the Riders are gone, there are still three dragon eggs left – all of them in Galbatorix’s possession. Actually there are only two now, since Saphira hatched. The king salvaged the three during his last great battle with the Riders.”

Galbatorix is trying to find people the eggs will hatch for, while the Varden tries to either steal the eggs or kill his Rider candidates. It’s all very exciting, I’m sure – so why don’t we ever see any of this going on firsthand?

Brom goes on to say that he teamed up with Jeod and the Varden to steal the dragon eggs from Galbatorix, but the plan went awry because the person they hired to steal the eggs only managed to grab one of them and then disappeared. He tracked the thief down, then had to fight Morzan, one of the Forsworn, and killed him. Then he took the egg to the Varden, agreed to train the new Rider when the egg hatched, and went to hide in Carvahall until the Varden summoned him. He doesn’t seem to be very good at hiding, however, since the Ra’zac were in Carvahall looking for him and didn’t even know about Eragon until Sloan told them about the egg. He never even bothered changing his name (though he sure was worried about using his name in Teirm)!

Brom also isn’t going to bring Eragon to the Varden right away. I’ll admit, his reasoning is sound:

“The Varden are dangerous people. If we go to them, you will be entangled in their politics and machinations. Their leaders may send you on missions just to make a point, even though you might not be strong enough for them. I want you to be well prepared before you go anywhere near the Varden. At least while we pursue the Ra’zac, I don’t have to worry about someone poisoning your water.”

And I have to admire the fact that Brom is leaving it up to Eragon whether he joins the Varden or not. It would be so easy for him to drag Eragon to them and make some excuse about it being necessary to finish Eragon’s training.

As the conversation wraps up, Eragon asks if Brom knew his mother:

“Did you ever meet my mother?” he blurted.

Brom looked grave. “Yes, I did.”

“What was she like?”

The old man sighed. “She was full of dignity and pride, like Garrow. Ultimately it was her downfall, but it was one of her greatest gifts nevertheless. . . . She always helped the poor and the less fortunate, no matter what her situation.”

“You knew her well?” asked Eragon, startled.

“Well enough to miss her when she was gone.”

On the one hand, I can see why Eragon would ask this now; he’s recently been reminded of his mom’s disappearance thanks to Angela, and Brom has just told him that he’s been in Carvahall for a long time. On the other hand, surely this is a question that Eragon would have already asked of anyone likely to have known his mother. Why didn’t he ask Brom before? He remembers the day his mom came back to Carvahall every year – why wouldn’t he spend that day trying to piece together the villagers’ descriptions of her? Again, Selena only exists here to make Eragon sad that he doesn’t have a mother.

He doesn’t even ask anything else. If I found out that someone knew the parent I’d never met, I’d have a million questions for them! What she looked like, what she liked to do, what she liked to eat, whether or not I looked like her, what her life was like, and that’s not even getting into the heavy questions like why she left or if she loved me. I would want to know everything. Eragon has only a vague curiosity about his mom – which I guess is a good thing, since Brom only gives him a vague answer in response.

I mean, seriously, how does Eragon not latch onto the phrase “it was her downfall”? Brom has just said that he knows what happened to Eragon’s mom! How can he just sit there and think “Oh gee, I guess Brom’s not the silly old man I thought he was”?! YOU ARE SUCH A DAMN MORON.

SO. Anyway. They move on (because who has time to ask questions about their missing mother when there’s a plot to pad out?) and make camp for the day. Eragon finds a stream and notices a strange footprint on the opposite side. He jumps across to get a closer look, slips, and breaks his wrist. When he gets up he recognizes the footprint and tells Saphira there are Urgals around, commanding her to protect Brom. Then he runs back to camp and almost gets whacked by Saphira’s tail. Brom packs up the camp and they run, but it’s not long before the Urgals are hot on their tail. They split up, leaving Brom and the horses on the ground while Eragon and Saphira fly overhead, but it’s not long before the Urgals catch up with Brom, and Eragon gets the bright idea to land right in front of the oncoming horde to give Brom a chance to escape:

As the Urgals pounded up the trail, he shouted, “Now!” Saphira abruptly folded her wings and dropped straight down from above the trees, landing on the trail in a spray of dirt and rocks.

The Urgals shouted with alarm and yanked on their horses’ reins. The animals went stiff-legged and collided into each other, but the Urgals quickly untangled themselves to face Saphira with bared weapons. Hate crossed their faces as they glared at her. There were twelve of them, all ugly, jeering brutes. Eragon wondered why they did not flee. He had thought that the sight of Saphira would frighten them away. Why are they waiting? Are they going to attack us or not?

He was shocked when the largest Urgal advanced and spat, “Our master wishes to speak with you, human!” The monster spoke in deep, rolling gutturals.

It’s a trap, warned Saphira before Eragon could say anything. Don’t listen to him.

At least let’s find out what he has to say, he reasoned, curious, but extremely wary. “Who is your master?” he asked.

Uhhh… why would you want know what he has to say? The last Urgals you met slaughtered an entire village and tried to kill you! They’re like the freaking boogeyman in this world! The narrative, which is from your POV by the way, just called this guy a monster! Why on earth would you want to stop and listen to this creature?

Anyway, he doesn’t have anything interesting to say, just that Eragon doesn’t deserve to know his master’s name, but his master has demanded that Eragon be brought to him alive. Eragon refuses to go and throws the Urgals into the air with magic, which drains all of his energy and leaves him open to be attacked by the one Urgal that wasn’t knocked out. Lucky for him, Saphira bites the Urgal in two and takes off. Eragon is conscious long enough to notice that she lands and talks to Brom for a bit, but he ends this chapter, just like so many others before, by falling asleep. Because Christopher Paolini has no idea how to end chapters.

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