Saturday, August 15, 2015

Eragon Chapter 16

So this chapter opens pretty well, with a summary of the weather and the stuff Eragon and Brom did before leaving the area.

Eragon carefully tied Zar’roc onto her back, too, as he did not want the extra weight. Besides, in his hands the sword would be no better than a club.

A club can be very useful in a fight, ya know.

So when they get back to the farm, Eragon looks at the wrecked buildings and vows that he's gonna come back someday.... which I doubt he will, or not for long. How often do you read an epic fantasy where the naive farmboy returns to the home farm and spends any period there? I can only think of ONE.

Throwing back his shoulders, he faced south and the strange, barbaric lands that lay there.

... which would be more dramatic if he was going to those strange, barbaric lands. It's like saying, "he faced north and the towering, red-painted FIRE EXIT."

The Ra’zac’s footprints were faint on the eroding snow, but Eragon was unconcerned. It was unlikely that they had forsaken the road, which was the easiest way out of the valley, for the wilderness. Once outside the valley, however, the road divided in several places. It would be difficult to ascertain which branch the Ra’zac had taken.

  1. What makes you think that they're even walking?! These creatures aren't even human.
  2. They could have butterfly wings for all we know!
  3. For that matter.... Galby commands these guys, and Galby has dragons. He could have them riding on dragons!
  4. So... if there's no way of telling which way they went, who cares how they got out of the VALLEY?

And so they're still walking, which causes Eragon's half-healed legs to bleed. Apparently Brom doesn't care about this, because he's in a lovely mood. And to distract us from the tedium of walking, Paolini decides to give us an infodump on dragons.

“So what exactly can dragons do? You said that you knew something of their abilities.”

"Since obviously you're NOT a dragonrider even though you have mysterious origins, know loads about them and can even make a saddle for a dragon... no, you're not a dragonrider! No way! That just DOESN'T make sense."

“Unfortunately, it’s a pitiful amount compared to what I would like to know. Your question is one people have been trying to answer for centuries, so understand that what I tell you is by its very nature incomplete. Dragons have always been mysterious, though maybe not on purpose."

GAH! We get it, they're living dei ex machina who can get you out of any plot problem by suddenly manifesting a speshul new power. Which will never be explained because... BECAUSE.

Brom explained how dragons mate

... the same way as other creatures?

“You see,” he said, “when a dragon lays an egg, the infant inside is ready to hatch."

So why is it in an egg at all? There's no biological reason!

"But it waits, sometimes for years, for the right circumstances.When dragons lived in the wild, those circumstances were usually dictated by the availability of food."

... HOW?! Did unhatched dragons keep tabs on the grocery receipts? How could they possibly know if there was lots of food or no food?!

"However, once they formed an alliance with the elves, a certain number of their eggs, usually no more than one or two, were given to the Riders each year. These eggs, or rather the infants inside, wouldn’t hatch until the person destined to be its Rider came into their presence—though how they sensed that isn’t known. People used to line up to touch the eggs, hoping that one of them might be picked.”


That is NOT how any eggs work, and they WOULDN'T work unless dragons magically don't need food. An egg is like a placenta in humans: it not only contains the embryo, but it FEEDS the embryo. There is only a finite amount of FOOD in an egg, and once it's gone, IT'S GONE. If a baby creature stays in the egg beyond its means... IT DIES. They don't just go into stasis for years and years!

So in case this isn't head-smacking enough, it's being drilled into our skulls that out of EVERYBODY who has come near Saphira's egg in a HUNDRED YEARS, not ONE SINGLE PERSON was worthy of being a Rider other than Eragon. Because he's... the Designated Hero! No actual virtues or abilities required!

Brom continued his lecture. He explained what and when dragons ate.

  1. Meat. What else?
  2. Whenever they want to.
  3. Because they're dragons.

A fully grown sedentary dragon could go for months without food, but in mating season they had to eat every week.

I guess dragons have really wild sex lives. Otherwise I'd think that the females would eat more AFTER mating, and the males wouldn't experience much of a difference.

Some plants could heal their sicknesses, while others would make them ill.

... like most animals.

There were various ways to care for their claws and clean their scales.

Don't bother telling us about them.

He explained the techniques to use when attacking from a dragon and what to do if you were fighting one, whether on foot, horseback, or with another dragon.

Well, since they breathe fire... I think that the only one with any relevance is the last one. The only real way to deal with a dragon when you're on horseback or on foot, unless you're St. George or Farmer Giles of Ham, is to run away as fast as you can.

Their bellies were armored; their armpits were not.

"I have always understood," said Bilbo in a frightened squeak, "that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the-er-chest; but doubtless one so fortified has thought of that."
The dragon stopped short in his boasting. "Your information is antiquated," he snapped. "I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No blade can pierce me."

Ah, JRR. Your dragons made so much more sense than these.

“Who was the Rider that owned Zar’roc?”
“A mighty warrior,” said Brom, “who was much feared in his time and held great power.”
“What was his name?”

Anakin Skywalker? Yeah, that was my first guess.

And my guess isn't exactly sabotaged by Brom, who refuses to tell Eragon who owned it because "certain knowledge would only prove dangerous and distracting for you right now. There isn’t any reason for me to trouble you with such things until you have the time and the power to deal with them. I only wish to protect you from those who would use you for evil.” Yeah, it's pretty obvious that it belonged to an evil relative of Eragon's, and Brom is keeping this knowledge from him for... the same reason Obi-Wan did the same with Luke.

Actually when you get to Brisingr, this whole plot thread stops making sense altogether.

Eragon gets sick and tired of Brom keeping secrets and giving him half-answers that don't mean anything, and for once I agree with him: "You know what? I think you just enjoy speaking in riddles. I’ve half a mind to leave you so I don’t have to be bothered with them. If you’re going to say something, then say it instead of dancing around with vague phrases!” Apparently Brom wasn't listening, because his response is “Peace. All will be told in time." Brom, that kind of vague crap is exactly what Eragon was complaining about. Especially since you didn't even say YOU would tell him anything.

So they start camping, and Saphira comes down to talk about how slow they are. She and Eragon chitchat about how they may not be going fast enough to catch the Ra'zac, while Brom whittles fake wooden swords.

And I’m afraid they may suspect we’re following them. Why else would they have destroyed the farm in such a spectacular manner, unless they wished to provoke you into chasing them?

Because Terry Goodkind did it in Wizard's First Rule? Otherwise, I don't know why, because "destroy the farm to get Eragon to chase them" doesn't make sense. Why not kill Garrow, hide in the house, and wait for the dumb kid to come home?

Suddenly Brom throws one of the stick-swords across the fire and tells Eragon to defend himself.

Brom wanted to fight him? What chance did the old man stand? If he wants to play this game, so be it, but if he thinks to beat me, he’s in for a surprise.

Yeah, you know now that Brom is going to kick his ass even though he's a decrepit old Neanderthal.

So of course... Brom kicks his ass. In fact, he not only repeatedly whacks Eragon with his sword-stick, but he actually hits his head so hard that he KNOCKS ERAGON OUT and causes his head to bleed. He then very sensitively wakes up the inexperienced teenager by pouring ice water on his head.

“You didn’t have to do that,” said Eragon angrily, pushing himself up. He felt dizzy and unsteady.
Brom arched an eyebrow. “Oh? A real enemy wouldn’t soften his blows, and neither will I. Should I pander to your . . . incompetence so you’ll feel better? I don’t think so.”

It's official: Brom is a huge asshole. For several reasons.

  1. No, he didn't need to do that.
  2. May I remind you that not only are Eragon's legs badly injured, but he's JUST RECOVERING from a fever that effectively put him in a coma for three days, the massive shock of a relative's death (which was Brom's fault to begin with), blood loss, and spending ALL DAY walking? I'm amazed this little twit can even stand up.
  3. Incompetence is not the same fucking thing as IGNORANCE. Eragon would be incompetent if he were a knight's squire and still got his ass kicked that easily.
  4. But he's NOT. He's a FARM BOY who's spent absolutely zero time before this handling a sword. That's like saying that a first-grader is "incompetent" at creating computer software!
  5. Starting slow with training is not making your trainee "feel better." It has nothing to do with feelings, and everything to do with LETTING THEM LEARN.
  6. By the same logic, you shouldn't let babies crawl - you should FORCE them to stand up, and if they fall down and hurt themselves, then you should just let them hit the floor because otherwise you're pandering to their incompetence.
  7. So Brom thinks the best way to learn how to use a sword is to have someone savagely beat you over and over with a stick until you bleed and pass out, and then do it over and over. Yes, I see how this would teach you how to use a sword.

Eragon refuses to do any more and starts to walk away, and Brom responds by hitting him in the back with his stick. Brom gives him a few verbal tips, but continues beating him up because... apparently actual teaching methods are too namby-pamby for Brom.

When they finished, Eragon flopped on his blankets and groaned. He hurt everywhere—Brom had not been gentle with his stick.

Seriously, I told ya it would get way way worse!

What’s wrong with you? he demanded irritably.
Nothing, she replied. It’s funny to see a hatchling like you beaten by the old one. She made the sound again, and Eragon turned red as he realized that she was laughing.

Haha, it's funny to see a weakened, injured boy getting the shit beaten out of him. It's fun! Funny how that whole intimate psychic bond thing doesn't give Saphira any compassion or empathy for her CHOSEN RIDER.

Bruises covered his arms, and he was almost too sore to move. Brom looked up from the mush he was serving and grinned. “How do you feel?”

Can anyone seriously look at these sentences and not immediately assume think "morning after"?

They get to Therinsford before noon, and Brom continues being smug and annoying.

The village was larger than Carvahall, but it had been constructed haphazardly, the houses aligned in no particular order.

So apparently not only does Eragon live in a village of modern mountain McVillas, but it's a planned community mapped out in the most attractive manner possible!

So both Brom and Eragon contemplate how ugly the town is, which probably means we're going to encounter unattractive, transparently nasty people living in said town.

As they approached it, a greasy man stepped from behind a bush and barred their way. His shirt was too short, and his dirty stomach spilled over a rope belt. Behind his cracked lips, his teeth looked like crumbling tombstones. “You c’n stop right there. This’s my bridge. Gotta pay t’ get over.”

I knew it. Come on, a bridge troll? That was the best Paolini could manage? He couldn't even manage this guy?

So Brom pays the guy, much to Eragon's indignation.

“Then why pay him?”
“Because you can’t argue with all of the fools in the world. It’s easier to let them have their way, then trick them when they’re not paying attention.” Brom opened his hand, and a pile of coins glinted in the light.

... and if he does catch you, then you... teach him sword-fighting! IE beat the crap out of him. Seriously, I don't see why it helps to suddenly become a pickpocket instead of shoving the dude and walking away quickly.

“You cut his purse!” said Eragon incredulously.

Thanks Ergy, we noticed that.

So suddenly the random yucky guy suddenly realizes that a large number of heavy metal coins have vanished... yeah, it took him a few minutes to figure this.

“I’d say our friend has just discovered his loss. If you see any watchmen, tell me.”

Here are the options:

  1. Muscle past the guy who is illegally fleecing random pedestrians.
  2. Find someplace else to cross.
  3. Pay him off and then illegally take all his money.

So tell me, why is it best to take the option that can get your ass arrested and the greasy dude given all his money back?

Brom asks a random kid where they can buy horses, and conveniently there's a barn that sells them within sight. Inside are a lot of horses and riding stuff.

A man with muscular arms stood at the end, brushing a white stallion.

.... and that's the only characteristic he has? Muscular arms?

This guy's name is Haberth, and the horse's is Snowfire which isn't anything like Shadowfax. Brom pretty obviously is gonna buy Snowfire.

There was a polite pause as he waited for their names in return. When they were not forthcoming, he asked, “Can I help you?”

Is there a reason they aren't using fake names? It seems MORE suspicious to not introduce yourself when someone introduces HIMSELF, not less.

And it's even more confusing because they use fake names in a few more chapters.

Brom nodded. “We need two horses and a full set of tack for both. The horses have to be fast and tough; we’ll be doing a lot of traveling.”

And if you believe kippurbird's brilliant analysis, he purchased zombie horses.

So random horse-selling guy whose name I've already forgotten starts getting the saddles and other stuff, and then brings out a bay and a roan. Brom is okay with the bay, but doesn't want the roan.

“There are some good legs on him.”

Those are nothing! Just check out Eragon's!

And yes, he wants to buy Snowfire. Horse-Selling Dude doesn't want to sell the horse because he's hoping to breed him, but for some reason he doesn't just say, "Not for sale!" Instead, he offers to sell him for two hundred crowns, which is an insane price that Brom is happily willing to pay... even though there's apparently nothing notable about this horse except that it's... WHITE. I'm serious, there is nothing special about this horse, but Brom is willing to pay megacrowns for it!

In fact, the BAY horse turns out to be slightly more interesting than the white one. Eragon pets the horse and ends up having a Telepathic Dragonrider moment in which he can read its mind and assure it that he's a friend. How does he do this? WHO KNOWS? Apparently having a Sue Bond with one creature means you can do it with all animals!

No, there's no explanation for why having a superspeshul Sue Bond allows you to talk with horses. It just... is.

Horse-Selling Dude is sad because like I said, he doesn't wanna sell the horse. So we get this awkward encounter:

A sigh, then, “He is yours, though I go against my heart.”
“I will treat him as if he had been sired by Gildintor, the greatest steed of legend,” said Brom.
“Your words gladden me,” answered Haberth, bowing his head slightly.

  1. Is this guy really a rural horse-breeder? Because he doesn't sound like it. Nothing he says sounds remotely rural, uneducated or... at all different from Brom!
  2. I don't know why we're getting so much drama about this guy parting from his horse... since we are NEVER going to see him again, and the horse has nothing special about it.
  3. Why did you sell the horse if you didn't want to? If I came over and said, "Nice shirt, what would it cost?" are you actually required to give me a price instead of saying "Screw you"?
  4. "Of legend" - whose legend? What culture's legend? WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS?!
  5. And wow, I wonder if Gildintor resembles Felaróf .

“Farewell, then. For the sake of Snowfire, I hope that misfortune does not befall you.”

WHY does everybody have such a crush on this horse?!

So Brom makes Eragon take the horses to the edge of the town, and Eragon sits there looking at a mountain. But not just any mountain - it's clearly an EVIL mountain. Of Evil. Its dark, ominous look made Eragon’s scalp tingle.

Brom arrives and says that the Ra'zac stopped by the same town to get horses. I don't know why they didn't just bring horses to Carvahall and then ride away on those without having to stop at an occupied town, but otherwise Brom and Eragon couldn't have figured out where the hell they were.

And since it's Tuesday, it's time for another Random Sue Moment.

Eragon patted the horses. “When we were in the barn, I touched the bay’s mind by accident. I didn’t know it was possible to do that.”
Brom frowned. “It’s unusual for one as young as you to have the ability. Most Riders had to train for years before they were strong enough to contact anything other than their dragon.”

Oh for Gandalf's sake! WHAT IS UP WITH THIS SHIT?

So Eragon is Dr. Dolittle now. But it's a superspeshul power that REGULAR riders had to TRAIN for YEARS to have, and he just magically generates it out of his ass after hanging out with a dragon for a MONTH. No effort! He just grows it magically from his Sue Zone! Pass me the booze, cuz I need it!

His face was thoughtful as he inspected Snowfire.

"It's almost as devastatingly attractive as Eragon is!"

Eragon gazed doubtfully at the bay. It was so much smaller than Saphira that for an absurd moment he wondered if it could bear his weight.

Dude, you rode the dragon three times and one of those times was involuntary. Your POV shouldn't be getting warped yet!

And how large IS Saphira? She's only a couple months old and wasn't able to carry two people, so she can't be THAT large.

“Is this going to do the same thing to my legs as riding Saphira?” he asked.

... last time I checked, horses don't have scales!

“How do they feel now?”
“Not too bad, but I think any hard riding will open them up again.”
“We’ll take it easy,” promised Brom.

How very touching that Brom cares about Eragon's injured legs. And funny how he didn't give a shit about those legs when they were bleeding yesterday, or when he was beating the shit out of their owner. Is Brom supposed to be bipolar?

Before long the countryside began to change as cultivated fields yielded to wilder land.

Before LONG? They were riding out of a small CITY. Those cultivated fields MUST be tiny.

Brambles and tangled weeds lined the road, along with huge rosebushes that clung to their clothes. Tall rocks slanted out of the ground—gray witnesses to their presence. There was an unfriendly feel in the air, an animosity that resisted intruders.

Because when I think "unfriendliness" and "animosity," I think ROSEBUSHES. Seriously, this actually would have been a very well-written description if he'd left out the rosebushes and put in... thornbushes or something.

And above them is.... EVIL MOUNTAIN: its craggy precipices deeply furrowed with snowy canyons. The black rock of the mountain absorbed light like a sponge and dimmed the surrounding area. I don't know how that's even possible! I mean, rock does not absorb light. It just DOESN'T. This statement might have been fine if Paolini said that it SEEMED LIKE the rock absorbed light and dimmed the area, but... he DOESN'T. So it makes no sense.

Between Utgard and the line of mountains that formed the east side of Palancar Valley was a deep cleft. It was the only practical way out of the valley. The road led toward it.

... and why have the people of this area not opened up some other roads as well? What if there's a landslide or something?

And then Brom and Eragon pass by a decrepit tower standing on the mountain that is looking out over the valley. Of course, Eragon asks what it is.

Brom did not look up, but said sadly and with bitterness, “An outpost of the Riders—one that has lasted since their founding."

And I'm sure it is NOTHING like a roid-abusing version of Amon Sul/Weathertop.

And he also reveals that this is the place that Vrael came to hide from Galby, and "through treachery" (no, we don't hear whose - it could be his dog's treachery for all we know) Galby found out and came there, kicked him in the nads, took over the entire empire, blah blah blah.

"When Vrael fell, this area was tainted."

... literally or figuratively?

"Edoc’sil, ‘Unconquerable,’ was the name of this bastion, for the mountain is so steep none may reach the top unless they can fly. After Vrael’s death the commoners called it Utgard, but it has another name, Ristvak’baen—the ‘Place of Sorrow.’ It was known as such to the last Riders before they were killed by the king.”

It's only been a century! You don't just spontaneously change the centuries-old names of mountains overnight and just FORGET that there was another name, especially since said name-change has apparently spread far and wide!

And it makes even less sense because "Utgard" is not a mountain name! It's better suited for a fortress! I know there WAS a fortress there, but the implication is that the "commoners" just forgot the mountain's significance and named it something else. And why is Brom calling the ordinary people "commoners"? It sounds kinda snotty, honestly.

Eragon sits there being awed by the outpost for a few minutes, and then they just ride away.

They get to the breach... which seems like a weird name for a rift in a mountain range. "Pass" would be smoother. Eragon is dying to see what is on the other side, and at the end of the day, they mounted a rise and saw over the trees. WHAT TREES?

So he sees a.... I'm not sure what he's seeing. Either it's a giant steppe full of dead grass, or it's a desert. Brom says that it will take them two-three days to a FORTNIGHT to cross this, and for some reason he mentions that the southern plains are "less arid and more heavily populated." It's worth noting that I don't know if this comment is significant because I have NO idea where they're going! Are they even still following the Ra'zac?

So while they're getting ready to make camp, Brom announces that Eragon should name his horse. Apparently only white horses have names, and all other horses are just blank slates.

“Well, I don’t have anything as noble as Snowfire, but maybe this will do.” He placed his hand on the bay and said, “I name you Cadoc. It was my grandfather’s name, so bear it well.”

... wha? Cadoc is a great name! It's an ancient Welsh name that was the name of a saint and a Cornish prince, so what's wrong with it?

And how is it LESS NOBLE than Snowfire? Snowfire sounds like something a little girl would name her toy unicorn.

And even if Cadoc DIDN'T have real-world significance... it's still a real name! The character even says that it's his grandfather's name, so to my mind that makes it more noble than (ugh) "Snowfire."

Saphira shows up to whine about how boring the plains are, and Brom forces Eragon to do his vaguely homoerotic stick training again.

For some reason, Eragon does it instead of telling Brom to go stick his wooden sword where the sun don't shine. And there the chapter ends.

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