Eragon, Chapter 31: Master of the Blade
Eragon waits until the next day, when Brom is in a better mood, to tell him about the vision he had. I can’t say I blame him. And for once, Brom doesn’t yell at him for doing something on his own. He has no idea who the woman might be, however, or how Eragon managed to scry her through a dream, but he doesn’t seem overly concerned about it.
“Did you see her face?” asked Brom intently.
“Not very clearly. The lighting was bad, yet I could tell that she was beautiful.”
Would you stop mentioning how beautiful this woman is? Not only is it bad writing to constantly tell us this character is pretty, it’s also (a) pretty sexist when all you focus on is her appearance, and (b) irrelevant to the conversation. Brom’s looking for identifying characteristics, and “beautiful” is far too vague to help him pinpoint the woman’s identity.
“Perhaps to understand this we should search every prison and dungeon until we find the woman,” bantered Eragon. He actually thought it would be a good idea. Brom laughed and rode on.
Every time Paolini uses “bantered” as a speech tag, I die a little inside. I also can’t tell whether or not the narration is making fun of Eragon here. He can’t really believe it would be feasible to search every prison or dungeon even if they weren’t wanted men, can he?
Brom’s strict training filled nearly every hour as the days slowly blended into weeks. Because of his splint, Eragon was forced to use his left hand whenever they sparred. Before long he could duel as well with his left hand as he had with his right.
Just like learning to read, becoming ambidextrous is apparently a piece of cake in this world. I’m sure the fact that he had to use his left hand for everything helped, but it seems like Eragon keeps picking up new skills with unrealistic speed. Not to mention, wouldn’t he still need his other arm for balance? A person’s non-dominant hand isn’t just a dead weight.
They come across Leona Lake, and there’s a couple pages of pointless filler while Eragon and Saphira play in the water for the day. That night Brom and Eragon spar once again, and Eragon wins by disarming Brom.
They stood panting, the red sword tip resting on Brom’s collarbone. Eragon slowly lowered his arm and backed away. It was the first time he had bested Brom without resorting to trickery. Brom picked up his sword and sheathed it. Still breathing hard, he said, “We’re done for today.”
“But we just started,” said Eragon, startled.
Brom shook his head. “I can teach you nothing more of the sword. Of all the fighters I’ve met, only three of them could have defeated me like that, and I doubt any of them could have done it with their left hand.” He smiled ruefully. “I may not be as young as I used to be, but I can tell that you’re a talented and rare swordsman.”
I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m having trouble keeping track of the passage of time in this book, but as far as I can tell Eragon and Brom have been traveling together for a couple of months now – maybe four at the latest, since they left Carvahall in the winter and it’s now spring. Now Paolini is telling me that, in those short months, Eragon has gone from being completely unskilled in the art of swordsmanship to being better than his teacher – and on top of that, we’re asked to accept that Eragon somehow managed to master fighting with his left hand in an even shorter span of time than it took him to learn with his right.
I call bullshit.
As I’m not an expert on, well, anything, I can’t say definitively that it’s impossible for Eragon to master sword fighting in a couple months. I can, however, say that even if it is possible it stretches my suspension of disbelief to the point of snapping. Maybe if Eragon had done nothing but train, all day, every day, it might be believable, but even then I think it would be hard to accept. Unless Brom is a really bad swordsman. That I could believe.
Brom tells Eragon that he will most likely lose a sword fight against elves, the Ra’zac, and other magical creatures. Magic, he says, will work against them, but against stronger enemies he’ll need to have Saphira’s help. This prompts Eragon to ask how to fight with magic – a question I would have expected from him a lot sooner, considering he’s been using magic for several weeks to attack non-magical creatures and presumably expects to run into magic-using enemies at some point in the future (especially if he’s going to go up against Galbatorix). Brom goes on to describe what he calls a “wizards’ duel” but sounds more like a high-stakes staring contest: essentially, since the split second between uttering a spell and the activation of that spell leaves enough time to utter a counter-spell (assuming that you can think on your feet, that you know the words you need to use and the correct way to use them, that you’re well-versed enough in the ancient language to recall these words at a moment’s notice, and/or that you don’t have a tendency to have words get stuck on the tip of your tongue), the combatants have to break into the other’s mental defenses to know what their opponent is going to do, so they can immediately counter-spell them and kill them.
Brom’s advice on wizards’ duels? Run away. Which sounds like good advice, right up to the point where the other guy casts his spells anyway and kills you while you’re fleeing.
Times Eragon is noted as being special: 2
Brom shook his head. “As far as I know, it’s impossible for anyone to know if they’re being scryed upon. […] This dream of yours is peculiar. Somehow you managed to scry in your sleep something that you’d never seen before – without saying the words of power. Dreams do occasionally touch the spirit realm, but this is different.” (pg 240)
Brom shook his head. “I can teach you nothing more of the sword. Of all the fighters I’ve met, only three of them could have defeated me like that, and I doubt any of them could have done it with their left hand.” He smiled ruefully. “I may not be as young as I used to be, but I can tell that you’re a talented and rare swordsman.” (pg. 244)
Leona Lake looked like a thin sheet of silver beaten over the land. The water was so calm and smooth it did not even seem to be liquid. Aside from a bright strip of moonlight reflecting off the surface, it was indistinguishable from the ground. (pg. 241) Wait, so it’s a sheet of silver, but it’s indistinguishable from the ground? What?
Suddenly confident, Eragon swung Zar’roc faster than ever, weaving a web of steel around Brom’s sword. (pg. 243)