Eragon: Chapter 34

Eragon, Chapter 34: Worshippers of Helgrind

I’m starting to think I should keep track of how many times a chapter either begins with Eragon waking up or ends with him going to sleep/losing consciousness. Maybe when I reach the end I’ll flip through and tally up the results.

Eragon was alone in the room when he woke. Scrawled onto the wall with a charcoal stick was a note that read:

Eragon,

I will be gone until late tonight. Coins for food are under the mattress. Explore the city, enjoy yourself, but stay unnoticed!

Brom

P.S. Avoid the palace. Don’t go anywhere without your bow! Keep it strung.

1. Wouldn’t it have been better to tell Eragon all this before he went to bed? The room is probably not locked (unless both of them have keys, and that seems unlikely to me), which means anyone who comes in will know exactly where to find their money.

2. Wouldn’t Eragon actually draw more attention to himself if he keeps his bow strung in the city? He might as well walk around with an unsheathed sword in his hand.

3. I’m no expert on bows, but I thought you weren’t supposed to keep them constantly strung? I don’t know if a full day of being strung ruins it, or if you’re supposed to unstring it at the end of the day instead of leaving it around fully loaded, so to speak, when you’re not using it.

4. The phrase “with a charcoal stick” could be reduced to “in charcoal” and not only retain the same meaning but make more sense in context. Eragon didn’t see Brom writing the message, but he’s capable of telling what medium was used to write it. /nitpicking

Eragon wiped the wall clean, then retrieved the money from under the bed. He slipped the bow across his back, thinking, I wish I didn’t have to go armed all the time.

Eragon’s never shown any distaste for carrying weapons before, and he doesn’t in the future, either. He should be used to going armed, considering how often he goes hunting in the mountains. Carrying that bow should be quite natural to him by now. Wishing he didn’t have to go armed in the city would be understandable, but he doesn’t seem to make that distinction here. Again, this could be an interesting piece of character development if it ever came up again – but Eragon goes on to have no problem wielding either bow or sword in the future.

With nothing to do for the day but sight-see, Eragon wanders about Dras-Leona for a while and eventually stumbles upon a slave auction. He starts to build up magic to free the slave (how does nobody notice his raised arm and shimmery hand?) when he realizes that even if he’s freed, the slave won’t make it out of the city and he’ll only make things worse. On the one had, points to Eragon for realizing that he needs to think things through and specifically mentioning that not doing so was where he screwed up with the Urgals. On the other hand, he should probably also realize that magically freeing slaves will draw attention to himself – exactly what Brom told him not to do.

It was several blocks before the weeping was inaudible. I’d like to see a thief try to cut my purse right now, he thought grimly, almost wishing it would happen. Frustrated, he punched a nearby wall, bruising his knuckles.

This isn’t a good sign.

Being angry to the point of wanting to commit violence is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it helps to fantasize about hurting a person who’s hurt you, especially if you can’t actually do anything about them in real life. But lashing out at innocent bystanders, and wanting an excuse to do so, is definitely not okay. You can’t punch a random person on the street because your boss screamed at you for a minor mistake; that excuse wouldn’t hold water in court. And demonstrating your rage by punching the wall so you won’t (or because you can’t) punch somebody else is a pretty common indication of anger issues.

That’s the sort of thing I could stop by fighting the Empire, he realized. With Saphira by my side I could free those slaves. I’ve been graced with special powers; it would be selfish of me not to use them for the benefit of others. If I don’t, I might as well not be a Rider at all.

This is essentially a wordier version of “with great power comes great responsibility.” A nice sentiment, but is it one that he’ll hold to? So far I’m not impressed with his track record.

I don’t know what to think about the inclusion of slavery in this book. It’s pretty incidental, only appearing here and further on when Eragon and his party are attacked by slavers, and I get the feeling it’s only included as shorthand for “the empire (and therefore Galbatorix) is EEEEEEEEEEEEVIL”. For all his talk about using his powers for good, Eragon doesn’t exactly start an anti-slavery campaign anytime soon.

When he finally stops contemplating this brand-new-and-not-at-all-borrowed-from-Spiderman revelation, Eragon finds himself in front of the cathedral dedicated to Helgrind and its blood-drinking, human-sacrificing religion. It clearly gives him the creeps, and yet he goes in to investigate. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d be walking very fast in the opposite direction. The description of the cathedral itself isn’t too bad, though there are some sentences that are ridiculously vague. What do “[s]tained glass windows depicting scenes of anger, hate, and remorse” actually look like?

Behind the altar, the pipes of a wind organ pierced the ceiling and opened themselves to the elements. The instrument would play its music only when a gale rocked Dras-Leona.

If you can’t stop yourself from describing things that your POV character has no business knowing, then you shouldn’t be writing from a third-person limited perspective. Eragon can’t know any of this. He shouldn’t even know what a wind organ is, let alone how it works.

Out of respect, Eragon knelt before the altar and bowed his head.

Respect to what? There is no one there to demand you respect anything, and you don’t believe in the religion itself, so what are you respecting?

He did not pray but paid homage to the cathedral itself. The sorrows of the lives it had witnessed, as well as the unpleasantness of the elaborate pageantry that played out between its walls, emanated from the stones. It was a forbidding place, bare and cold. In that chilling touch, though, came a glimpse of eternity and perhaps the powers that lay there.

Why are you honoring the cathedral? It was built for the express purpose of worshiping and sacrificing people to Helgrind.  Why not pray to your own gods for the people who lost their lives here? Oh, wait, I forgot that Eragon’s gods are nebulous constructs that only get mentioned when he needs to rail against them. I guess the mountain’s a more permanent deity.

When Eragon turns to leave, he’s surprised to find the Ra’zac standing in the doorway – even though he knows they live in Helgrind, and therefore probably have some connection to the Helgrind-worshiping religion.

Rage welled up in Eragon. He had chased the Ra’zac for so many weeks that the pain of their murderous deed had dulled within him.

Okay, I don’t claim to be an expert of any kind on grief and loss, but wouldn’t this whole vengeance quest actually keep the pain fresh? I guess it gave him something else to focus on, but finding and killing the Ra’zac is directly linked to the fact that they murdered Garrow. Wouldn’t pouring all his energy into that goal make him more aware of Garrow’s death?

Eragon shoots at the Ra’zac, who dodge his arrows and charge at him, followed by soldiers filing in from outside. He manages to escape, then meets up with Brom back at the inn. There’s a half-assed chase scene, complete with a rush through a closing gate that, yet again, provides no real resistance or consequences for our heroes. Eragon hops up on Saphira’s back at Brom’s urging, and they keep flying until strong winds force them to land and go by horse. The winds turn into a storm, and soon the party has to stop and camp for the night.

“We can’t go back to Dras-Leona, can we?” asked Eragon.

Why on earth would you want to go back?

He [Eragon] hesitated and squinted. His eyes had caught a flicker of movement, a small patch of color that stood out from the surrounding nightscape. He stepped toward the edge of their camp, trying to see it better.

“What is it?” asked Brom as he unrolled his blankets.

Eragon stared into the darkness, then turned back. “I don’t know. I thought I saw something. It must have been a bird.” Pain erupted in the back of his head, and Saphira roared. Then Eragon toppled to the ground, unconscious.

A bird. At night. In the middle of a storm.

You deserve to be knocked unconscious.

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