Eldest: Chapter 2

Eldest, Chapter 2: The Council of Elders

Alternate title: The Author Has No Idea How Boobs Work

Eragon wakes up and watches Saphira sleep. The sapphire that Arya broke was the floor of the dragonhold they were staying in, so they’ve been relocated to an old guardroom on the bottom level of Tronjheim.

Since she first breathed fire during his fight with Durza – while plunging toward them from the top of Tronjheim – Saphira had been insufferably proud of her new talent. She was constantly releasing little jets of flame, and she took every opportunity to light objects ablaze.

I’d be proud of myself too if I learned how to breathe fire. She sounds like a little kid showing off a new-found talent.

Eragon starts crying as he remembers what happened yesterday.

Tears filled his eyes, spilling over, and he caught one on his hand. […] As he stared at the tear in his hand – a small, glistening dome […]

Tears don’t work that way. Even if you somehow managed to defy physics (that tear is not going to form a perfect little dome when it hits your hand), the human hand is not a flat, non-porous surface. The liquid is just going to spread out and absorb into the skin.

Anyway, Arya came back late last night with one of the Twins’ blood-covered robes and Murtagh’s tunic and gauntlets. She says she found them on the edge of a chasm that stretches down past where any tunnels lead, and assumes that the Urgals stole their armor and threw their bodies over the side. She also says that she tried to scry them and saw only shadows.

In desperation, Eragon decides to scry the missing men himself – using the tear in his palm. Which makes no sense, because it’s such a tiny surface that even if you do see anything, it’s too small for you to make anything out. Why not get a glass of water at least?

Darkness enveloped the liquid, turning it into a small dot of night on his silver palm. Movement flickered through it, like the swish of a bird across a clouded moon . . . then nothing.

How does he see movement if it’s completely dark?

He realizes that he only beat Durza through sheer luck (probably the smartest thought he’s had so far) and comes to the conclusion that he needs to go to the elves to continue his training. Saphira wakes up and they prepare to go eat, but before they can leave Eragon’s back gives out and he’s left writhing in pain on the floor for a few minutes. The pain is bad enough that it affects Saphira as well. As he’s recovering, he remarks that the spasms are getting worse.

On their way to the kitchen, humans and dwarves alike stop and bow to Eragon, calling him “Argetlam” and “Shadeslayer.” Saphira drives off anyone trying to approach while Eragon eats, and they discuss who might take over the Varden. Saphira thinks Ajihad’s dying words could be taken as a blessing for Eragon to take control, but neither of them think it’s a good idea.

A boy interrupts their meal and tells Eragon that he’s been summoned by the Council of Elders. He’s confused by simple questions like “Who are the council?” but he impresses Eragon, who asks his name. Of course. The kid, Jarsha, takes them to the council.

Seated there were Jörmundur and two other men, one tall and one broad; a woman with pinched lips, close-set eyes, and elaborately painted cheeks; and a second woman with an immense pile of gray hair above a matronly face, belied by a dagger hilt peeking out of the vast hills of her bodice.

BOOBS. DO. NOT. WORK. THAT. WAY. And I will tell you exactly why not.

This is an under-bust bodice:

bodice_feluna_3

 

Visually striking, but not much support for the breasts. She’s more likely to be wearing an over-bust bodice:

70f899b29daf2e735957d416f87db1f8

You’re welcome.

Note how the breasts are pushed together to form cleavage. Please also note that, contrary to popular media, cleavage is not a bag of holding. You can’t keep an arsenal in there. Most women might be able to fit a credit card or a small cell phone. It only goes so deep.

Going off my own measurements, the distance from the bottom of my bust line to my chin is about 10 inches. I have no idea what kind of dagger she’s packing, so I’ll have to guess at the length. My browsing of Wikipedia and various sword-selling websites tells me the average blade length would be 7.5-10 inches. For fairness, I’ll stick to the low end of the scale. The hilt would probably be another five inches, bringing the dagger to just over a foot long. Which means that it would be smacking her in the face… if the weight of the hilt didn’t pull the dagger forward, which would not only mean it would fall out easily, but that it would be that much easier for someone to either grab it from her and stab her with it, or just smash it into her sternum. It seems like a really awkward place to keep a weapon – she’s likely to accidentally cut her face as she unsheathes it.

Also, I really hope she’s got that thing in a sheath, or else her chest is going to be sliced to ribbons.

“Thank you for coming, Eragon, even though you have suffered your own loss. This is Umérth,” the tall man; “Falberd,” the broad one; “and Sabrae and Elessari,” the two women.

Ah, yes, all women are interchangeable. It’s not necessary for the narration to differentiate between Sabra and Elessari, even though it did for the men. It’s not like they’re individuals or anything. And Paolini certainly couldn’t have just added their descriptions as they were introduced, which would not only erase this problem entirely but also make the text less redundant.

Eragon asks whether the Twins were part of this group, and Sabrae (the woman wearing too much makeup) says they were too self-serving to have a place on the council.

Eragon could smell her perfume all the way on the other side of the table; it was thick and oily, like a rotting flower. He hid a smile at the thought.

How is that funny? “Haha, you smell” is the kind of insult you hear from second-rate grade school bullies. Is Paolini trying to make a joke about how she’s overly made up and thinks she smells nice? Because she’s ugly? Because she’s old? Are we really supposed to think this kid’s a hero when he makes fun of people for their appearance? What are you, twelve?

Jörmundur tells Eragon he’s getting off topic; they’re really here to discuss who will be the next leader of the Varden. They’ve already decided who they’re going to support, but they want Eragon to “provide the legitimacy required by whoever is to take Ajihad’s place.” How Eragon is supposed to “provide legitimacy” is beyond me; he might be a Rider, but he just joined up, like, a week and a half ago. I don’t understand why they’re so trusting of this kid. They know nothing about him.

They make Eragon promise not to tell anyone outside the room who their choice is, and Saphira remarks that they haven’t made her promise anything, so she can go tell Arya if she wants.

Nasuada is their top pick. Eragon can’t tell why they would want her to lead. To stall so he can figure it out, he asks why Jörmundur doesn’t just take over, since Ajihad called him his right-hand man.

A current of unease ran through the council: Sabrae sat even straighter, hands clasped before her; Umérth and Falberd glanced at each other darkly, while Elessari just smiled, the dagger hilt jiggling on her chest.

I’m convinced the only reason Elessari exists is so Paolini could write about boobs.

Jörmundur deflects by saying Ajihad was only speaking of military matters, and that it would be “foolish and dangerous” for one council member to be raised above the rest, because their power comes from supporting each other. Eragon asks if Nasuada has enough experience, and Elessari says the people will love her and she’ll be “guided” by the council.

Understanding flooded Eragon. They want a puppet!

No shit. You wanna spell things out a little louder? I don’t think the entire audience got it before you did.

The council also wants Eragon to be at Nasuada’s appointment as leader, and for him to swear fealty to the Varden. They make it clear that it’s not really a choice; if he refuses, he’ll be publicly snubbing Nasuada and the Varden.

Eragon clenched Zar’roc’s pommel under the table, yearning to scream that it was unnecessary to force him to support the Varden, that he would have done it anyway. Now, however, he instinctively wanted to rebel, to elude the shackles they were trying to place on him. “Since Riders are so highly thought of, I could decided that my efforts would be best spent guiding the Varden myself.”

The mood in the room hardened. “That would be unwise,” stated Sabrae.

Yes, great idea. Antagonize the people who have no qualms about forcing you to do what they want. That won’t end badly at all.

After some discussion with Saphira, who points out that they can’t piss off the Varden, Eragon agrees to be there for Nasuada’s appointment. The council strongarms him into promising to give his word in fealty at the appointment, then breathes a sigh of relief when he says yes – literally:

All around the table were signs of relaxation – even a poorly concealed sigh from Umérth.

facepalmalice

Eragon is amazed to discover that the council is afraid of little ol’ him. Nothing frightening about an unknown player in the political game with magic and a dragon on his side, nosirree!

 

The narrative wastes time by having Jörmundur summon Jarsha, then send him off again for Nasuada and Arya, then spending a couple paragraphs going on about the “uncomfortable silence” where Eragon ignores everybody else in the room. Nasuada and Arya finally appear.

The boy was dismissed, then Jörmundur helped Nasuada into a seat. Eragon hastened to do the same for Arya, but she ignored the proffered chair and stood at a distance from the table.

It fills my shriveled little heart with glee every time Arya snubs Eragon. Do it again!

“Nasuada, Daughter of Ajihad, the Council of Elders wishes to formally extend its deepest condolences for the loss you, more than anyone else, have suffered. . . .”

“We’d also like to apologize for the excessive capitalized letters. We’ve got an infestation and the pest control guy can never seem to find us.”

In a lower voice, he added, “You have our personal sympathies as well. We all know what it is like to have a family member killed by the Empire.”

That would be a nice sentiment if it was ever supported in the text. We have no evidence that anyone other than Eragon, Roran, Murtagh, and Nasuada have lost family members to the Empire. You wanna show some examples, maybe? Make your mad tyrant king actually look like a tyrant, instead of a little kid throwing a tantrum?

Anyway, Nasuada accepts the offer to be the next leader. Hooray for being a political puppet!

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Eldest: Chapter 1

Eldest, Chapter 1: A Twin Disaster

Eldest opens three days after the climactic battle at the end of Eragon, with our hero stepping over bodies as he and Saphira wander around the battlefield. Like many sequels, the first few chapters are loaded with exposition recapping the event of the previous book. Under normal circumstances, this would be mildly annoying (I have never understood people who start a series in the middle), but here it’s entirely redundant considering there’s a five-page summary of Eragon directly preceding this chapter.

It was three days since the Varden and dwarves had fought the Urgals for possession of Tronjheim […] but the battlefield was still strewn with carnage. The sheer number of bodies had stymied their attempts to bury the dead. In the distance, a mountainous fire glowed sullenly by Farthen Dûr’s wall where the Urgals were being burned. No burial or honored resting place for them.

When Eragon reached Farthen Dûr in the last book, we learned that there were about 4,000 people in the Varden. Let’s say about half of those people were women and children, who were evacuated before the battle began. That’s 2,000 men, plus an unknown number of dwarves. Even accounting for Urgals that were killed during the fighting, how many people would have died to leave such a huge pile of bodies that they’re still not finished cleaning up three days later?

Since waking to find his wound healed by Angela, Eragon had tried three times to assist in the recovery effort. On each occasion he had been racked by terrible pains that seemed to explode from his spine. The healers gave him various potions to drink. Arya and Angela said that he was perfectly sound. Nevertheless, he hurt.

I actually feel quite bad for Eragon here. This is a pretty terrible thing to happen to him, and I can’t even begin to imagine how frustrated he must feel.

People have begun calling Eragon “Shadeslayer” now. He’s still shaken from the fight with Durza, and is wandering the battlefield because he feels compelled to. Predictably (though not in a bad way), he finds death instead of glory.

Before his uncle, Garrow, was slain by the Ra’zac months earlier, the brutality that Eragon had witnessed between the humans, dwarves, and Urgals would have destroyed him. Now it numbed him.

I get that Paolini is trying to make a point about death and there being no glory in war, but what does Garrow have to do with anything? His death was more like a revenge killing. A better comparison would have been Yazuac, where Eragon and Brom found all those slaughtered villagers. And wouldn’t a better conclusion be that life is precious? If it can be so easily wasted, then it’s all the more important to do the most with what little time you have.

He goes on thinking about how life has no meaning, picking up a tooth out of the dirt and playing with it while he walks. Ajihad’s second-in-command, Jörmundur, runs up and tells him that Ajihad wants to meet him by the west gate. Ajihad has been hunting Urgals in the tunnels with Murtagh and the Twins, and hasn’t been around much for the last three days. We also learn that Nasuada disobeyed his orders and stayed behind to join in the battle, fighting along with the archers. Of course Ajihad is furious, because doesn’t trust that his daughter can take care of herself.

Eragon approaches the west gate and joins a group of people that includes Orik and Arya. They’re all waiting for Ajihad and his men to emerge from a tunnel that’s a couple miles away. Why are they waiting so far away? If Ajihad or his men need help, wouldn’t they be better able to lend assistance if no one had to hike for miles?

The white bandage around her upper arm gleamed in the darkness, reflecting a faint highlight onto the bottom of her hair.

Is this bandage made out of the kind of reflective tape used for safety vests? I’m pretty sure a regular cloth bandage is not going to be that shiny.

Eragon felt a strange thrill, as he always did when he saw the elf.

Is that he calls his erection?

Apparently the dwarves are super pissed at Arya for breaking the star sapphire, even though she saved the day by doing so. They’re so angry they’ve just left all the shards lying around for people to climb over, just like your passive-aggressive aunt when someone breaks her favorite vase.

Half an hour passed before motion flickered in the distant tunnel. A group of ten men climbed out onto the ground, then turned and helped up as many dwarves. One of the men – Eragon assumed it was Ajihad – raised a hand, and the warriors assembled behind him in two straight lines. At a signal, the formation marched proudly toward Tronjheim.

This tunnel is two miles away. How can Eragon see all of this? I could buy the explanation that his body and senses are becoming more elf-like, except the very next paragraph negates all this:

Before they went more than five yards, the tunnel behind them swarmed with a flurry of activity as more figures jumped out. Eragon squinted, unable to see clearly from so far away.

See? He can see twenty people, correctly identify which race they are, guess which one is Ajihad, describe their gestures and the way they move… and now he can’t tell what’s going on?

Consistency does not just refer to the texture of cookie dough, Paolini.

Saphira determines that Urgals are attacking, and she and Eragon fly over to try and help. Arya runs after them, somehow keeping pace with Saphira, and she’s followed by Orik and a bunch of men. Eragon can’t do magic from so far away, so he’s forced to watch as the group is cut down. Eventually only Ajihad, Murtagh, and the Twins are left standing. The Urgals converge on them, then swarm back into the tunnel.

The moment Saphira touched down, Eragon vaulted off, then faltered, overcome by grief and anger. I can’t do this. It reminded him to much of when he had returned to the farm to find his uncle Garrow dying. Fighting back his dread with every step, he began to search for survivors.

The site was eerily similar to the battlefield he had inspected earlier, except that here the blood was fresh.

This bit’s actually pretty decent. I like the comparison to the current massacre and the battle scene from earlier. This also would have been a better point to bring up Garrow than his musing about there being no glory in war.

In the middle of all this bloodshed is Ajihad, who is very obviously mortally wounded. He’s surrounded by five Urgals he managed to kill. How do we know he killed them? Are their bodies artfully arranged in a secret code? Does his sword automatically carve “Ajihad was here” across their face? Anyway, Eragon manages to catch him just before he dies.

“Eragon.” The name slipped from Ajihad’s lips – no more than a whisper.

“Yes, I am here.”

“Listen to me, Eragon. . . . I have one last command for you.” Eragon leaned closer to catch the dying man’s words. “You must promise me something: promise that you . . . won’t let the Varden fall into chaos. They are the only hope for resisting the Empire. . . . They must be kept strong. You must promise me.”

“I promise.”

“Then peace be with you, Eragon Shadeslayer. . . .” With his last breath, Ajihad closed his eyes, setting his noble face in repose, and died.

This scene has no emotional impact on me at all. If Ajihad had been developed better as a character, I might care that he’s dead. Instead, I’m just kind of annoyed that the token black guy was killed off – especially in such a cheap way. It’s like he served his purpose in the last book, so Paolini had to kill him off before he started becoming something other than a stock character.

At least he didn’t say that Eragon was the only hope against the Empire.

Arya comments that Ajihad’s death will cause a lot of friction, then says that Eragon needs to avert the incoming power struggle and that she’ll help where she can. Saphira notes that Murtagh and the Twins aren’t among the bodies. She and Eragon conclude that they were taken by the Urgals, who aren’t known to take prisoners. Eragon doesn’t want to go after them, convinced that he’ll get lost in the tunnels and won’t catch up anyway, so Saphira suggests asking Arya to go.

Arya! Eragon hesitated, torn between his desire for action and his loathing to put her in danger.

She’s been in worse danger before and come out alive. If anything, she’s demonstrated that she can take care of herself a hell of a lot better than you.

Arya takes off into the tunnels, while Eragon sits with Ajihad’s body. Orik gets there, followed by Jörmundur and a bunch of the Varden, and Eragon tells them what happened, but not what Ajihad’s last words were. He won’t repeat them for anyone but the “right person”. Jörmundur says Arya shouldn’t have gone after Murtagh and the Twins, but it’s too late to do anything now. They won’t be able to find dwarf guides for at least an hour (seriously? How is it going to take you an hour to find dwarves in a dwarven city?), and everyone “important” has to stay in Tronjheim until they choose the next leader of the Varden. Arya will just have to fend for herself… which she could do anyway, so it’s not like she needs rescuers or anything.

Jörmundur makes a rousing speech about Ajihad dying a warrior’s death (seriously how can they tell he killed all those Urgals? Did he brand them before he died?), then everyone lays his body on their shields and marches him back to Tronjheim.