Chapter Sixty-Five: The Heart of the Fray
So, to recap the story so far, Roran and his merry men have implemented the superb suicidal-rush strategy, climbed a 300 foot ladder and fought some soldiers. Also, the wall is beginning to fall. The 300-foot wall. Don’t bother committing this bit to memory. Paolini hasn’t.
We rejoin our hero on the crumbling wall of the city…
“Along with the warriors of his battalion, Roran fought his way down off Urû’baen’s outer wall to the streets below. There they paused to regroup”
Okay. So, Roran just fought his way down a 300-foot wall. About 14 flights of stairs. In not merely one sentence but actually just one clause. And his only reaction to this is ‘pausing to regroup’. That Roran is well ‘ard. In fact, this – like the ascent onto the walls – really only works for me if I ascribe to Roran the invulnerability, strength and manoeuverability of one of the über-zombies from Resident Evil.
“then he shouted, “To the gate!” and pointed with his hammer”
Again with the Resident Evil flashback; anyone remember the ‘Axeman’ zombie? Leather-clad, sack on head, persistently drags around a massive great axe like a security blanket? For some reason, no matter what is on the page, Roran’s dialogue is rendered in my mind’s ear as ‘Gwaaaaargh’.
I’m just going to render this next scene accordingly:
“At first the savage intensity of slaughter and victory blinded Roran to all else. But when the soldiers they met continued to flee, a sense of unease began to gnaw at his stomach, and he began to look around with greater alertness, searching for anything that seemed different from what it ought to be.
Something was wrong. He was sure of it.
“Gwaaargh” he muttered to himself.
“What?” asked Albriech, who was next to him.
“Gwaaaargh” Twisting his head around, Roran shouted to the rest of the battalion, “Gwaaaargh!”
“They soon broke out into the rubble-strewn street that led to what had once been the main gate of the city. Now all that was left was a gaping hole several hundred feet wide at the top, with a pile of broken stones at the bottom. Through the gap streamed the Varden and their allies”
I’d like to point out here that several hundred feet of solid rock, 300 feet in height by oh, let’s say ten feet have to go somewhere. Look up ‘demolished building’ on Google image search (I’d link it, but fear incurring the wrath of the post queuing system); most appear quite hard to off-handedly stream over, especially on horseback.
Roran notes that some of Galby’s soldiers seem to be protected by wards. He assumes they’re Galbatorix’s favourites, as opposed to for example the result of any particular strategy, perhaps because that’s how Eragon hands these things out.
“they charged toward the ranks of men. The soldiers shouted with alarm, and panic spread among them as they scrambled backward, trampling their own kind as they tried to find room to fight.
Howling, Roran fell upon the first row of men. Blood sprayed around him as he swung his hammer and felt metal and bone give way. The soldiers were so tightly packed that they were nearly helpless. He killed four of them before even one managed to swing a sword at him, which he blocked with his shield. He broke and he battered; he ducked and he shoved; he growled and he shouted and he killed and he killed and he killed—until, to his surprise, he swung his hammer and found nothing but empty air before him.”
Roran’s dialogue is for some time limited to howls, which might as well be rendered as ‘Gwaargh’ anyhow.
“The fighting continued for another few minutes, whereupon the only soldiers remaining in the area were dead soldiers.”
Paolini’s editor should have served a cease-and-desist on that line.
And now for Lord Barst: “Barst was not the sort of man to have a belly. He would not let himself go soft, nor would Galbatorix have chosen such a man to defend Urû’baen. The only explanation that made sense, then, was that Barst had an Eldunarí strapped to his body underneath his oddly shaped breastplate.”
I disagree. Evidently Barst is having Eragon’s baby. Most other characters in this series (except, as yet, Arya…) seem to want to volunteer, so why not Barst?
Anyway, turns out that Barst is impervious to magic and owns a levitating horse. There’s also a faintly irritating bit in which elves attempt to trap the legs of Barst’s horse in ‘tendrils of ice’, which makes me wonder precisely who, when looking for a good substance to substitute for rope, would pick a substance as blatantly inappropriate as ice. If you’re looking for a cold Coke, by all means conjure up some ice, but if what you’re after is trapping a horse’s legs then what’s wrong with vines, brushwood, or maybe some of that IMMENSE MOUNTAIN OF RUBBLE sitting right over there that resulted from demolishing several hundred feet of 300-foot-tall city wall?
Then there’s a faintly irritating bit in which Galby’s staff shell their own city with catapults, which I suppose just goes to show that Galby the insane civil architect’s decision to mount the war machines in question on a 360 degree mount, in defiance of all sanity, has been vindicated at last.
Roran uses Eragon’s stock plot advancement device, which is to say he gets hit on the head and loses consciousness. Someone we’re probably supposed to recognise gets killed. Also, Roran loses his hammer, so I suppose that the Stronghammer family are going to be a bit buggered when it’s time to put up those IKEA shelves they’ve been meaning to finish all this time. Roran may need to get down the hardware store. Maybe this time he can pick up a nice cordless Black & Decker instead?