Chapter 21: Dust and Ashes
I skipped most of the last chapter, but it seems like Roran and his merry men got into Aroughs.
I’m so, so sick of these Roran chapters. At least before they were alternating, so I could look forward to an Eragon chapter (…hahaha, now there’s a thought). I always disliked Roran, his entire character, his stupid pointless subplots and especially how much of my time he wastes. He’s a needless complication. A totally unbelievable one at that.
Maybe it’s for the best that Paolini never gave Eragon any character (arcs) because Roran’s frankly do nothing but piss me off. He’s like Eragon 2.0, with less plot relevance, less excuse for his bullshit and more angst. Stupid angst.
At least Eragon has some kind of excuse for being so good at surviving. Roran’s just “lucky.”
I’m so sick of him. So sick. Sicksicksick…
Okay, deep breaths. (No, seriously, Roran is the character I hate the most. By far. His pointlessness, his angst, the sheer amount of complications he brings. I’m used to the main character being overpowered and winning through some sort of convenient magic plot trinket. What I can’t accept is a character winning through bullshit tactics. Because they’re “daring” and “lucky.” Especially lucky.)
Roran and the Varden have breached Aroughs. It’s dawn, no one is around.
Hazy rays of newborn light streaked horizontally across the city, gilding the tops of the towers, the battlements, the cupolas, and the slanted roofs. The streets and alleyways were cloaked in shadows the color of tarnished silver, and the water in its stone-lined channel was dark and dismal and laced with streaks of blood. High above gleamed a lone wandering star, a furtive spark in the brightening blue mantle, where the sun’s growing radiance had obscured all of the other nighttime jewels.
Here is one of the far rarer bits of description. I still insist the improvement is immense.
Roran leads the Varden onward, while being a total peasant and complaining about the city conditions. They eventually run into two milkmen. Roran threatens them into silence and has them put to sleep.
The magician quickly recited a phrase in the ancient language, ending with a word that sounded to Roran something like slytha.
Okay, you know, I haven’t brought this up until now, but if I remember the first book correctly, most spells were done with just a word or two. Like “brisingr” or “weiss heil.” So why are all the spells in this book so long and complicated? Was it something that happened in Eldest?
Also, don’t start with this “sounded something like” nonsense. Either omit what is being said in the foreign language, or reproduce it properly. The only reason to do “it sounds kinda like” is if it’s going to be a plot point that the character misheard.
The Varden continues onward and runs into some soldiers. Roran uses “the flat blade of his hammer.”
Hammers have blades?!
They kill all of the soldiers, but not before one manages shout a warning. Giving up on sneaking, the Varden charge. Surprisingly, they don’t get attacked or anything. Instead, they get close and then stop to hide in an alley.
What was the point of all that?
Before moving on, we need to address a vocab issue. Honestly, I was rather confused about where things were taking place and just what was going on for most of this chapter. I guess my medieval castle fanboy level is too low.
(I had to look these two up when they kept reoccurring.)
- Portcullis: the barred gate you see in movies. It’s like a gate, but only made out of bars. They are raised up and are probably the thing that crashes down just as the heroes try to escape.
- Sally port: a secure side door to a castle. Specifically, they were used by troops to “sally” – run out, make short harassing attacks on sieging enemies and then run back, without having to open the main gate.
Roran takes six guys and they sneak off alone. The rest are supposed to run if Roran’s party is discovered. They break into the guardhouse and manage to surprise and ambush the guards.
Roran tells their corpses not to trust strangers.
No, think about it. These guys are finishing off their graveyard shift inside a sieged city that has not apparently been breached yet. There is some mention of people hurrying around the area, obviously doing work.
And somehow, it’s weird that the guards had a single moment of hesitation against a guy pretending to be a messenger. One moment of hesitation.
People can’t be perpetually on guard against everyone they come across. In a city, you’re likely to be working with many, many people who are essentially strangers. If you distrust every single one to the point of being willing to attack them instantly, there’s no way society will be able to function.
Shut the hell up, Roran.
The fighting had polluted the room with a collection of horrific odors, which seemed to press against Roran like a thick, heavy blanket made of the most unpleasant substance he could imagine.
…Some guys got stabbed. It wasn’t anything exciting. Shouldn’t you be used to the smell of blood, Roran?
A soldier comes to investigate the noise and manages to escape and sound the alarm.
Roran decides to just leave him and instead focus on turning the wheel and opening the gate. It’s surprisingly difficult.
The rest of Roran’s men join him, but then 150 soldiers come out to meet them, along with a spellcaster. Carn prepares to face off against the magician, but he’s not sure of his chances.
“Roran transferred his hammer to his left hand, then placed his right on Carn’s shoulder.” This is totally pointless. Just put your left hand on his shoulder, Roran. (Hold his already, you big baby, and give it a comforting squeeze.)
Carn and the enemy magician meet at a fountain and do what Eragon was told magicians do in a duel – try to penetrate each other.
Roran tries to help Carn by having the archers shoot at the enemy magician. He also feels the need to threaten them about hitting Carn by accident. They’re twenty feet apart. You know, if your archers miss by 20 feet, they really shouldn’t be archers.
The enemy magician stops the arrows. Roran worries about wasting time (I’m glad he realizes that having a battle in the middle of a covert infiltration mission is just dumb) and finally tries to use his actual troops without waiting for the magic duel to end.
They don’t attack, but instead try to move to a more advantageous position. This distracts the enemy magician enough to move the magic duel into the actual spellcasting stage.
Roran and his men get caught up in the magic explosions too. He loses a tooth… and then just shoves it back into his gum. I don’t think dentistry works like that.
The force of the explosion managed to make several of his men’s swords stab each other.
Carn’s dead, his corpse all burned and twisted. The enemy magician is shirtless. (What.) Buuuut there is apparently some kind of delayed effect going on because he gradually becomes mummified, all the water in his body being drawn out. And then he falls apart into dust.
The Varden come to and pull themselves together (for some reason, the guards don’t do the same, despite being assumedly in the same general state). (The narration more or less attributes it to Roran being such a great leader.)
However, a few lone soldiers do attack.
Roran actually fumbles a block (using a hammer to block a sword is stupid in the first place).
Anyway, most of the Varden troops proceed to the palace, which is not a defensible castle, but an actual palace. There isn’t too much resistance, since most of the troops are at the wall. They chase after some serving women.
Roran tries to get them to tell him where Lord Halstead is. The oldest refuses.
“Aroughs has fallen, and you and everyone else in this city are at my mercy. Nothing you can do will change that. Tell me where Halstead is, and we’ll let you and your companions go. You can’t save him from his doom, but you can save yourselves.”
Says Roran. Kind of a big assumption, that Aroughs will fall.
“I don’t know about Galbatorix or the Empire, sir, but Halstead has always been kind enough to us serving folk, and I’ll not see him strung up by the likes of you. Filthy, ungrateful muck , that’s what you are.”
Says the serving woman. Apparently, Halstead, like Lady Lorana of Feinster, is not a bad master at all.
Roran threatens her, then the other two women (one of them 17). Nice, Roran, real classy.
The woman lies, telling them what is obviously a false location. Roran, to his credit (…), catches on. He instead turns on the youngest girl. He physically intimidates her and threatens to knock out her teeth with his hammer.
The girl (Thara) panics and blurts out that her lord and his daughter should be at his quarters and were planning to take a tunnel to the docks. She says there is a ship waiting for them there.
After the girl tells them where to go, he has the women released.
Everyone is fleeing in terror.
Then, Roran is shot in the back.
It hurts so much he can’t think straight. He’s lucky (aaaarrrrrrgggghh) to have survived. It can’t be pulled out because it’s barbed, but Brigman offers to cut it out, if Roran trusts him.
Fifty men set off to find Halstead, while the rest stay behind to help with Roran’s operation.
There are some pretty unsettling details about them making a fire, using it to heat (and sterilize) a dagger, giving him a gag, holding down each of his limbs…
And then Roran passes out.
I’m so glad it’s over. Except it’s not, and we still have to finish up Aroughs. Who thought this was somehow a necessary subplot for this book? It’s going to accomplish exactly nothing.
It’s not like Paolini can write a good rebellion story, either. Or a good war story. Frankly, I think this book would ultimately benefit from having the “Varden goes to war” bits off-screen. Rebellion is hard to write. It was the weakest part of Code Geass too.