Eragon, Chapter 54: Mandrake Root and Newt’s Tongue
So I neglected to mention in the last post that there’s a staircase called “Vol Turin, The Endless Staircase.” It is constantly referred to like this. I didn’t think the stairs needed a special name, but I guess that shows how much I know.
You will all be shocked and amazed at this: the chapter begins with Eragon waking up. I know, right? This never happens. He lays in bed for a bit, thinking about Murtagh, Arya, and how he doesn’t need to be afraid anymore, before noticing Solembum sitting at the cave entrance. Hooray, the snarky kitty is back! But then that means… oh no…
Solembum leads Eragon on a merry chase around Tronjheim, which ends on one of the unused floors.
He entered an earthy two-room suite, lavishly decorated with carved wood and clinging plants. The air was warm, fresh, and humid. Bright lanterns hung on the walls and from the low ceiling. Piles of intriguing items cluttered the floor, obscuring the corners. A large four-poster bed, curtained by even more plants, was in the far room.
In the center of the main room, on a plush leather chair, sat the fortuneteller and witch, Angela. She smiled brightly.
“What are you doing here?” blurted Eragon.
How are you surprised by this when you just spent the last page chasing Solembum around? I mean, you know he hangs around Angela (she mentioned there were other people he’s talked to, so they’ve been together for a while), so wouldn’t it be a given that if he shows up, she’s somewhere nearby? Did this not occur to you while you were following the one werecat you know?
Also, way to vague up the description there, Paolini. “Piles of intriguing items,” really? Not gonna give us an example or anything? Thanks.
“So!” exclaimed Angela, leaning forward. “You are a Rider. I suspected as much, but I didn’t know for certain until yesterday. I’m sure Solembum knew, but he never told me. I should have figured it out the moment you mentioned Brom. Saphira . . . I like the name – fitting for a dragon.”
“Brom’s dead,” said Eragon abruptly. “The Ra’zac killed him.”
Segue? What’s a segue? I’m just gonna drop in shocking comments whenever anything remotely related comes up.
Angela was taken aback. She twirled a lock of her dense curls. “I’m sorry. I truly am,” she said softly.
Eragon smiled bitterly. “But not surprised, are you? You foretold his death, after all.”
“I didn’t know whose death it would be,” she said, shaking her head. “But no . . . I’m not surprised. I met Brom once or twice. He didn’t care for my ‘frivolous’ attitude toward magic. It irritated him.”
If Angela and Brom have met before, then why didn’t they recognize each other back in Teirm? They had an entire conversation about frogs and toads (which showcased some of Angela’s “frivolous” attitude) before she gave them directions, and neither of them thought the other was familiar at all? Ajihad can recognize Murtagh, who he’s never met, because his voice sounds like that of a man who died twenty years ago, but Angela and Brom can speak to each other and not realize they’ve met before? Fuck it, why am I expecting consistency from this book? It just gets worse as the series progresses anyway.
Hey, at least someone else is irritated by this character, even if he is a dead jerk.
Eragon frowned. “In Teirm you laughed at his fate and said that it was something of a joke. Why?”
Angela’s face tightened momentarily. “In retrospect, it was in rather bad taste” —
— “but I didn’t know what would befall him. How do I put this? . . . Brom was cursed in a way. It was his wyrd to fail at all of his tasks except one, although through no fault of his own. He was chosen as a Rider, but his dragon was killed. He loved a woman, but it was his affection that was her undoing. And he was chosen, I assumed, to guard and train you, but in the end he failed at that as well. The only thing he succeeded at was killing Morzan, and a better deed he couldn’t have done.”
I’m pretty sure this bit about Brom being cursed is supposed to make us more sympathetic to him. But it doesn’t work, because it’s just thrown in there as an afterthought and tries to say that nothing is Brom’s fault because fate. His dragon dies? Fate. A woman dies because he loved her? Fate. He dies trying to train a new Rider in increasingly abusive ways? Fate, motherfucker. Nothing is his fault; it’s just fate screwing him over. Doesn’t matter that he refused to give Eragon important information unless absolutely necessary – and sometimes not even then – or that brought about a woman’s downfall because he loved her: it’s all fate. Nothing he could do to change it.
Actually, I’m not sure how his dragon dying is a sign of him failing. Did he fail at being a Rider because he couldn’t protect his dragon? Did he get her killed, in which case it would definitely be his fault? Was he supposed to sacrifice himself to keep her alive? What constitutes as failure when it comes to being a Rider? If a Rider was killed, would you say the dragon failed at being a dragon?
“Brom never mentioned a woman to me,” retorted Eragon.
Why on earth would he? Not only did he make it very clear that he didn’t want to talk about his past unless absolutely necessary, but it was none of your business in the first place.
Well, actually, no, that’s not entirely true. Because, as we’ll find out in Brisingr, that woman Brom was in love with? Was Eragon’s mom. And Brom is his father. Which means that it really is Eragon’s business, and Brom is not only a terrible person but a terrible father as well, but at this point the reader’s not supposed to know that. (Shoot, I’m not sure Paolini knew that when he wrote this. It’s hard to tell how much plotting went into this series, because there’s a lot of events that seem like they were pulled out of nowhere and make very little sense plot-wise.) All we know right now is that Brom only talked about his past when he couldn’t avoid it, and this woman was clearly tangential to the lessons he was trying to impart on Eragon. So it’s pretty arrogant of Eragon to assume that just because Brom didn’t mention once being in love, that Angela must be lying about it. Brom was never one to confide in Eragon.
Angela shrugs this off and changes the subject, revealing that she knew about the egg, and she joined up with the Varden shortly after Eragon was in Teirm. Eragon tells her all about what happened since the last time they met. When he mentions the Shade, she gets upset, and explains that Shades are sorcerers who have been possessed by evil spirits. They’re super hard to kill, and only two people have ever survived doing so. That would have been nice to know earlier, especially since Eragon apparently knows all this. Would have made Durza a lot scarier, that’s for sure.
Apparently she’s also hiding in a faraway corner of Tronjheim because all the magic users in the Varden are pestering her to join their little magic group. She also didn’t have to submit to the Twins’ mind-probing, because of reasons?
A cold gleam leapt into Angela’s eye. “The Twins wouldn’t dare probe me, for fear of what I might do to them. Oh, they’d love to, but they know the effort would leave them broken and gibbering nonsense. I’ve been coming here long before the Varden began examining people’s minds . . . and they’re not about to start on me now.”
Yyyyyeah, this just kind of emphasizes that the Twins are clearly abusing their roles as the mind-reading gatekeepers. They can get away with subjecting Eragon and who knows else to violent, painful probing under the guise of protecting the Varden, but Angela scares them so bad they just let her prance in and out at her leisure? They’re obviously using unnecessary force on people who, for whatever reason, can’t fight back or get the authorities on their side, and they let Angela come and go as she pleases, regardless of the risk inherent in doing so, because she’s not only able but willing to fight back and make them regret it.
And, of course, no one sees a problem with this. And everyone will be super shocked when these two turn out to be working for the Empire later.
“Well! This has been an enlightening talk, but I’m afraid you have to go now. My brew of mandrake root and newt’s tongue is about to boil, and it needs attending.”
This is why I hate the named chapters in this book. Because at this point Paolini was so lazy he didn’t even bother coming up with an appropriate title – he just grabbed a random line from the chapter that had nothing to do with anything.
The chapter ends with Solembum taking Eragon back to the dragonhold. I can’t remember, did Paolini learn how to write a decent chapter ending in the next couple books, or does he still leave out a decent hook so the reader will want to know what happens next? I mean, I’m not asking for an epic cliffhanger or anything like that, I just want something more interesting than, “and then Eragon went back to his room.”