Eragon Chapter 21

So we’re at another tiny miserable village which Brom and Eragon are marching into in hopes of finding… I dunno, people. And since Saphira was completely useless last time, this time she’s hanging around nearby.

… there better be something interesting coming out, or I might explode.

Brom gripped his sword with his good hand, eyes flashing everywhere.

“Brom, are you looking up that girl’s skirt?”
“… no, of course not.”

So they amble down the road, while Eragon talks in his head to his big blue dragon. You know, this doesn’t seem like a wise idea when you’re trying to spot traps and ambushes. It might distract you from noticing something important until it’s too late. I mean, you don’t expect a guy in the army to be playing Mario Kart while heading into combat.

 
He looked at the ground and was reassured to see the fresh footprints of children. But where are they?

They’re in the Magical Candy Forest overseen by the Twee Fairy’s army of Marshmallow Henchmen.

 
Brom stiffened as they entered the center of Daret and found it empty. Wind blew through the desolate town, and dust devils swirled sporadically.

And a tumbleweed blew past an old man having a siesta with a sombrero over his head. Then a man with a black hat appeared at the end of the street and said there was only room for one of them in this here town. Yeah, we get it.

So Brom decides… not to check if there’s anyone still alive. Yeah, if there’s anyone here, they MUST be fucked because… nobody’s outside their houses. Because if there’s no one in the streets, the entire town must be deserted. Yeah. Brom is kind of an asshole… but then, we knew that already, didn’t we?

But OH EPIC PLOT TWIST!

 
They advanced only a few strides before wagons toppled out from behind the houses and blocked their way.

… because there’s nothing better you can do with wagons than use them as a convenient way of blocking the road. And letting them crash onto the road surely wouldn’t ruin them.

So then some guy with a bow and sword comes leaping out and says: “Halt! Put your weapons down. You’re surrounded by sixty archers. They’ll shoot if you move.” 

“Now hand over all your comic books, hard candies, and funny-shaped bits of plastic that you don’t throw away because they might be important but probably aren’t.”

 
As if on cue, a row of men stood up on the roofs of the surrounding houses.

… a row of sixty men?! How large ARE these roofs?!

Eragon tells Saphira not to come over because the archers will shoot her down, but apparently he doesn’t think she’ll actually obey. This raises two questions:

  1. Uh, was Saphira even coming over in the first place? Was a line cut here?
  2. Saphira has already demonstrated that in a crisis, she is utterly useless. Why expect her to come to the rescue now?
  3. Can arrows even kill a dragon? I guess they can because Galby’s dragon was killed by one…. but what is the point of having those speshul scales if arrows can punch right through them?

 
He prepared to use magic. I’ll have to stop the arrows before they hit me or Brom.

Yeah, the only time he’s ever used magic, he thought it was like shouting “Shit!” or “Damn!” But now he thinks he can STOP SIXTY ARROWS in mid-air with his Majik Powahz.

So Brom comes up with a rather vague excuse about why they’re there, which the guy pretty clearly doesn’t believe, and he wants them to get the hell out of there.

“You’re armed pretty heavily.”
“So are you,” said Brom. “These are dangerous times.”

“I mean, I got mugged by three pissed-off housewives on the way here.”

 
“True.” The man looked at them carefully. “I don’t think you mean us ill, but we’ve had too many encounters with Urgals and bandits for me to trust you only on your word.”

… so what, they don’t let ANYONE in the town unless they have a signed note?! Wow,they just took xenophobia to a new high. Is this like the high fantasy version of the small town where everybody is creepy and they talk about how they don’t like out-of-towners a lot?

So the villagers agree to bring them what they want as long as they pay immediately and leave even sooner. So while someone is off getting stuff for Brom, Brom makes small-talk.

 
“The name’s Trevor,” said the man standing in front of them. “Normally I’d shake your hand, but under the circumstances, I think I’ll keep my distance. Tell me, where are you from?”

“I’m totally not one of the Dragonriders! I’ve never even seen one!”
“I wasn’t suggesting that.”
“Good, because I’m not one.”

“North,” said Brom, “but we haven’t lived in any place long enough to call it home.”

“Just fifteen years. Totally not long enough to call it home.”

So Trevor… seriously, a fantasy guy named TREVOR?… asks if they have news from other towns, and mentions that all the towns around there are being attacked by Urgals. I think we’re supposed to thin this is more Evil done by the Evil King, but I don’t get WHY. Why would he attack and kill villages of people who pay taxes, farm crops, and produce soldiers?! Oooooh, he’s evil and evil people do random evil thing without motivation!

 
“I wish it wasn’t our lot to bring you these tidings. Nearly a fortnight ago we passed through Yazuac and found it pillaged. The villagers had been slaughtered and piled together. We would have tried to give them a decent burial, but two Urgals attacked us.”

You lying asshole! You were running away like a couple of scared kittens when the Urgals found you! I don’t blame anyone for trying to run away, but since Brom is otherwise being truthful about this incident, it just makes him look an a-hole who is trying to look virtuous. Just fucking admit that you ran like a killer rabbit was after you!

“There were signs that a band of Urgals had ravaged the town,” stated Brom. “I think the ones we encountered were deserters.”
“How large was the company?”

HE JUST SAID that there were “signs” and that he thinks they only encountered deserters! Is this guy Trevor hard of hearing?!

Brom says that the people should evacuate… uh, where to? This is a medieval society, and since the entire COUNTRYSIDE is in danger, there’s no place they can really go for a long time. But it’s a moot point because the people there are too stubborn and stupid to EVER leave their homes.

 
“This is their home—as well as mine, though I have only been here a couple years—and they place its worth above their own lives.”

“This is what is known as survival of the fittest. This village will die, and smarter people will live. Darwinism!”

Trevor even mentions that the townspeople are overconfident in their abilities, and “we will all wake up one morning with our throats slashed.” Uh, okay. If your throat has been slashed, you probably aren’t going to wake up anytime soon.

We’re told that Trevor has been chosen to defend the village because he spent years in the king’s army. And… well, that is the last we’ll ever see of this guy. I’m serious: this guy and his village vanish without a trace after this, and we NEVER hear anything more about them. I don’t even know why Paolini included this scene, because it’s TOTALLY POINTLESS.

Also… Trevor? Srsly, you’re calling this guy “Trevor” in a story with characters named “Eragon,” “Brom,” and “Galbatorix”?

Brom gets his big stack of goods and… uh, are they paying for this? Anyway, Trevor also asks Brom to take word of this to the Empire. I’m not sure why there isn’t ANY form of communication except an old coot and a boy. I mean, doesn’t this generic medieval society have ANY travelers, merchants or messengers?

 
“If word of this hasn’t reached the king by now, it’s cause for worry. And if it has, but he has chosen to do nothing, that too is cause for worry.”

“And if the king becomes a cartoon villain who does evil things for the sake of being evil even if they undermine his rule, that is ALSO a cause for worry.”

 
“We will carry your message. May your swords stay sharp,” said Brom.

“And may your pudding be chocolate.”

So Eragon and Brom leave the village of Total Ineffectuality, after a scene that did absolutely nothing except assure us that some people in the area are NOT horribly dead.

 
Eragon sent his thoughts to Saphira. We’re on our way back. Everything turned out all right. Her only response was simmering anger.

… WHY? Is she that angry that she didn’t get to swoop in and kill things?

“With all these Urgals around, it seems that the Empire itself is under attack, yet no troops or soldiers have been sent out. It’s as if the king doesn’t care to defend his domain.”
“It is strange,” agreed Eragon.

Okay, its a pretty obvious point that YES HELLO THE URGALS ARE OBVIOUSLY WORKING FOR THE EVIL KING. Anyone with the brains of a Bella Swan could figure that out. It’s so obvious that there’s no suspense at all – in cliche stories, evil people always work for evil people. Evil in poorly-written fiction is like magnetized metal – it attracts like until you have a big heap of Evilness.

But this approach has a slight problem: you end up with Evil Characters doing Evil Things that don’t benefit them at all. I mean, I could buy that maybe the king would destroy a village or two if they were planning to rebel, just to make an example of them. But this guy is apparently wiping out towns completely at random, which can only lead to economic devastation. The more productive subjects you have, the better your kingdom is.

I mean, if you kill the farmers, serfs and other “little people,” there is no FOOD. No taxes. Which equals limited food for everyone, no way to feed or pay your army, etc. He’s shooting himself in the foot! Have your villain be a mustache-twirler, but at least make him act logically!

And now, it’s time for Lessons In Magic And Dragonriding 101, taught by Brom aka “I’m so not an ex-dragonrider!”

 
“Did you use any of your powers while we were in Daret?”
“There was no reason to.”
“Wrong,” corrected Brom.

“You could have gotten us sale prices on those items!”
“But we got them for free.”
“SILENCE! Or I will whack you with my giant stick again!”

No, actually he’s telling Eragon that he could have used his magic to sense what Trevor planned to do. Of course, if Trevor REALLY wanted to kill them, he would have done so BEFORE they could read his mind. It’s sort of a moot point.

 
“You could have discovered Trevor’s purpose in the same way that you communicate with Cadoc or Saphira. The minds of men are not so different from a dragon’s or horse’s.”

Notice how Saphira is being put on the same intellectual level as the horse, even though she can speak and is self-aware.

“It’s a simple thing to do, but it’s a power you must use sparingly and with great caution. A person’s mind is his last sanctuary. You must never violate it unless circumstances force you to. The Riders had very strict rules regarding this. If they were broken without due cause, the punishment was severe.”

It’s a sad, sad day when a Christopher Paolini book shows more ethical and moral judgement than a Christian fantasy on the subject of MIND-RAPE.

So Brom talks about how he can communicate with any creature he wants, and spend all day listening to their thoughts. Yes, this is a horrifying glimpse of the endless ant filler in Eldest. Be afraid.

 
“But if I can get into someone’s head, doesn’t that mean that others can do the same to me? How do I know if someone’s prying in my mind? Is there a way to stop that?”

Sure, just name-drop Wulder and you can magically block people…. unless THEY call on Wulder, in which case you’re screwed. Uh, wait, wrong series with dragons.

 
How do I know if Brom can tell what I’m thinking right now?

“And does he know about that dream I had involving Roran, a goat, a giant vat of butterscotch and several octopi?”

So Brom tells Eragon about how to block mind-rape. “Because of your magical power, you’ll always know if someone is in your mind.” Yes, because invading a person’s mind is only noticeable if you have magic power. Why does this sound a lot like something a Jedi would say?

“Once you do, blocking them is a simple matter of concentrating on one thing to the exclusion of all else. For instance, if you only think about a brick wall, that’s all the enemy will find in your mind.”

“So if I think about Roran wearing nothing but a thong, that’s what my enemy will see?”
“Uh, yes. I’m not sure why you want to.”
“… no reason.”

 
“If you’re distracted by even the slightest thing, your wall will waver and your opponent will slip in through the weakness.”

For instance…

Then again, would you ever find anything worthwhile in a golden retriever’s head?

 
“There is only one thing for it: practice, practice, and yet more practice.”

“You will go to the Dagobah system…”

 
“Picture something in your mind and hold it there to the exclusion of all else for as long as you can. It is a very advanced ability; only a handful ever master it,” said Brom.

Anyone else expecting Eragon to become the bestest ever at this?

Also, Brom depicted this as an easy-peasy thing about two minutes ago, and now it’s suddenly this elite skill that only a few people ever master. Is continuity THAT hard to manage?!

If I can get into someone’s mind, can I change how he thinks? Every time I learn something new about magic, I grow more wary of it.

… and somewhere out there, Anita Blake starts cackling and planning how to get a dragon.

So they finally get to Saphira, and for no real reason she’s acting like a massive bitch and is incredibly pissed off at Eragon. In fact, when Eragon first tries to talk to her, she physically assaults him and pins him to the ground. Brom, being totally useless, just sits there watching with his giant tub of popcorn.

 
What’s wrong?
You, 
she growled. You are the problem.

“You never take me to dinner anymore! We never go out, we never talk! I don’t even know why I polish my scales for you!”

 
You! Every time you leave my sight you get into trouble. You’re like a new hatchling, sticking your nose into everything. And what happens when you stick it into something that bites back? How will you survive then? I cannot help you when I’m miles away. I’ve stayed hidden so that no one would see me, but no longer! Not when it may cost you your life.

  1. It’s kind of ridiculous that a dragon who is only a few months old and only NOW seeing the world is lecturing Eragon about how he’s like a new hatchling.
  2. Also, why is this Eragon’s fault? Brom is the one who keeps taking them to these damn towns; Eragon is just following HIM.
  3. Yeah, I bet a giant carnivorous flying lizard will keep everyone from freaking out and shooting at anything that moves. It just makes sense!
  4. And since Saphira has NEVER seen anything but the woods before, it seems kind of arrogant of her to assume she knows how to handle danger better than Eragon.
  5. Also… hello? This whole TRIP is about Eragon wanting revenge against a deadly enemy. Danger is kind of part of a revenge quest!

In fact, Eragon points out that this is stupid, and Saphira throws another hissy fit.

 
Do you really believe that? she asked.

… why wouldn’t he?

 
Tomorrow you will ride me—not that pitiful deer-animal you call a horse—or else I will carry you in my claws. Are you a Dragon Rider or not? Don’t you care for me?

  1. Ah, now we get to the REAL reason she wants to come along on their trips: she’s jealous of Superhorse and pissed off because Eragon isn’t giving her the attention she deserves.
  2. Also, don’t put “Tomorrow you will ride me” and “don’t you care for me?” in the same line. It just sounds dirty.
  3. Aaaaaand take another drink for an unintentionally sexual-sounding comment!

  4. Actually, I’m not that far off. Saphira sounds like a sexually frustrated housewife demanding that Eragon fuck her here. “Are you a man or not? Don’t you care for me?”
  5. And holding him down with her claws doesn’t make it sound any less so.

And now it turns out that Eragon is scared of riding Saphira because last time he did, she scraped all the skin off his legs. Well, there was also the fact that she KIDNAPPED HIM and his uncle died as a result.

Brom agrees with Saphira, and comments that Eragon needs to learn how to ride her. Meanwhile, Saphira is trying to squish Eragon nto strawberry jam.

 
“But what if you’re attacked or there’s an accident? I won’t be able to get there in time and—”
Saphira pressed harder on his chest, stopping his words. Exactly my point, little one.

So her point is that she wants Brom to die because Eragon couldn’t get there fast enough? Pretty cold.

But for some reason, this doesn’t worry Brom.

 
Eragon looked back at Saphira and said, Okay, I’ll do it. But let me up.
Give me your word.


“Banana.”
“I meant promise!”

Eragon finally promises, and Saphira finally gets off and flies away. That was a weird scene.

Then they make camp, and Eragon has become such an amazing swordsman that he smashes both of their twigs during their practice. I call bullshit – yes, physical strength is important, but that isn’t enough for you to skip right to whacking around with a SWORD. You know, those sharp versions of butter knives.

Also… it’s been a week! Like, literally it’s only been a week since Eragon got his ass kicked with a piece of wood, and now he’s a good enough swordsman that Brom graduates him to a REAL sword.

 
“We’re done with these; throw yours in as well. You have learned well, but we’ve gone as far as we can with branches. There is nothing more you can gain from them. It is time for you to use the blade.”

“Now that I’m done beating you with a stick, it’s time for you to get beaten with a giant sharp piece of metal! I can’t wait until you get good enough that I can beat you with a flaming whip!”

But actually, they use magic to keep the swords from slicing them in half. Wait, I thought Brom didn’t have any magic to spare, so how come he’s able to do THIS?

For a moment nothing happened, then he uttered, “Gëuloth du knífr!” and a small red spark jumped between his fingers.

“Awww, dammit, I just made static electricity again. Wait, I’ll fix it.”

 
Brom held his hand out, palm up, and slashed it with the sword. Eragon jumped forward but was too slow to stop him. He was astonished when Brom raised his unharmed hand with a smile.

Have I mentioned lately that Brom is a bit of a douche?

So Brom helps Eragon create a block for his own sword, and then tells him, “These swords won’t cut us, but they can still break bones. I would prefer to avoid that, so don’t flail around like you normally do. A blow to the neck could prove fatal.” Then WHY are you graduating him to real swords if Eragon ISN’T good enough to use them, and apparently doesn’t have the skill to avoid KILLING someone without magic.

See, people? This is why you can’t teach a person how to become a master swordsman in a week. By hitting them with a stick.

Unable to move Zar’roc fast enough, he received a sharp rap on his knee.

“Oh, that feels so good, Eragon! I missed beating you bloody every single night!”

 
They both had large welts when they stopped, Eragon more so than Brom. He marveled that Zar’roc had not been scratched or dented by the vigorous pounding it had received.

“Oh good, my penis substitute isn’t at all damaged by the vigorous pounding!”

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